Noxious Nostalgia

A few weeks ago I was watching some Netflix and someone said a certain word.  It was an innocuous word, one that could be used to describe a “rich chocolate center” or a “vibrant natural-looking hair color” in a commercial.  But it is also the sarcastic nickname that a schoolmate of mine used to call me during that most awkward of times: junior high.  It made me think about that time, and of the boy who had tormented me, who had made me dread going to P.E. even more than I already did.  He was, in a word, a bully.

After that recollection, the memory of that time stuck with me, and I needed to exorcise this demon.  After a quick Google search, I found him.  He’s now a soccer coach not far from the town where we went to school together.  Fully conscious of the irony in this, I sent him an email.  (Redacted to omit some of the more humiliating details.)

    Your “Philosophy” per your soccer club’s website is that you want a “cohesive team”. Does that mean that you will not tolerate bullying? After all, how can a team be “cohesive” if its members have turned upon themselves? If you agree with this assessment that bullying and teamwork do not mix, then you are a hypocrite.

    I remember you so clearly that I went to the trouble to seek you out and send you this message. I recall the way you made me feel with your constant snickering comments. I remember the dread I felt realizing that I was assigned to the same P.E. class as you. After all, I was not athletic; I was a quintessential nerd. And I knew that I would have to endure your relentless mocking every day in a venue where I was already at a disadvantage. You even took my yearbook from someone else, and signed it to me using that terrible nickname you had for me — a perfect coda to that year.  

    If I had the confidence then that I had now, maybe things would have been different. But you saw me for what I was, a weak, self-critical, un-poised young girl; in other words, an easy target. Your bio says that you have two daughters. How would they feel if there was someone following behind them, taunting them, humiliating them, making them dread each day?

    I hope you have experienced a great deal of shame for the person you were then, and heaven help you if you haven’t changed.

To my surprise, I received a reply.  He seemed confused and assured me that I must have the wrong person.  When I clarified the name of the school we had gone to, he realized that I had not made a mistake, and responded with this:

    Hmm.  That’s where I went to school.  Pretty harsh account on the way I treated you.  Sorry if it had a lasting impression, but I don’t remember calling anyone a nickname or bullying anyone during my time there.  I can tell you that if I was that way then,  I’m certainly not that way now.

I really hope he’s right.  And I do feel a little better, though I still have a lingering desire to take some juvenile form of revenge on him, like T.P.-ing his house, egging his car, or filling his gym locker with drugs, child pornography, and a loaded gun used in a homicide and calling in an anonymous tip to the police.

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