Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Words hurt

Students stop by after school. To finish assignments. To take quizzes. To hang out. To talk about problems.

After the dismissal bell yesterday, a couple of kids were floating around my desk--a guy that wanted to talk about some poems he had written and a girl that often stops by to just chat. I call her Hug Girl because, at the start of the year, she insisted on giving and getting hugs to and from just about everyone. She'd chase the boys in her class just to get a hug. She'd corner teachers and demand a hug before heading for home. She's sensitive and sweet, and she wears her heart on her sleeve. Plus, based on what I saw at report card pick-up, she doesn't get much loving support at home. Still, I finally convinced her that all these hugs were somewhat inappropriate, so we've compromised and now high-five each other at the end of most school days.

Anyway, yesterday I had a 3:30 appointment with the dentist, so I hustled the kids out of my room. "I'll read your poems and talk to you about them tomorrow," I told the poet. "Email me and tell me what's on your mind," I told Hug Girl.

The trip to the dentist turned into a three-and-a-half hour marathon and required loads of anesthetic and then Vicodin. When I got home, there was the near no-hitter by the White Sox to watch, then some blogging and whatnot, and I didn't check my email until after midnight. And there it was, Hug Girl's message, titled: "Talking blah."

I quickly fired off a response. It was the kind of message from a student that demanded an immediate response. I'm not sure if my words could help. Today in class, she said she appreciated what I wrote, but I wonder if there's more I could have said. I asked her if it would be OK for me to share her message on my blog. She said OK.

So, if you've got time, read the following. If you are so moved, leave a comment for Hug Girl. I'll share anything you write with her tomorrow ...

Okay, here's what I wanted to talk to you about:

For some reason half the girls in this class do not like me. I'm not saying everyone should like me and all that la la la, but I feel as if they always think of me as someone bad and worthless off the street.

What did I do? Did I do something wrong? Did I offend someone and not even know it?

These are the very few questions that I ask myself when ever I'm near those girls. I know they don't like me. At all. I can feel it. The only thing that I am doing is being myself. Yes, I admit that I am not perfect and that I am not always nice to others when the mood hits me. But at least I'm honest about who I am and what I do.

I usually don't care what others think about me, but this is the kind of tension I have been feeling for as long as I can remember. I don't feel comfortable with this and every time I say something or do something weird, they would act as if I didn't exist.

This is something I do not understand. They would almost do the exact same thing and laugh as if it was the funniest thing in the world. The bad thing is, they don't even realize it. [A classmate] told me it was probably because they were so used to each other, they don't even think twice about any body else.

Why? I mean, if I don't like someone, I make it known. If I do like someone, I show it as well. There is no need to hide anything. It's not necessary to just stand there and look away as if I'm some piece of trash.

The sad part, is that this kind of behavior has been going on around me since second grade, getting worse with each new year.

The only place that I know that I have friends that do not do this is my ballet school. I have known a lot of them for a very long time. When there is someone new in our class, we welcome them with open arms and adopt them like one of our own. If we have a problem with each other, we show it and tell one another. At least that way, there isn't that backstabbing tension in the room and among us.

I honestly don't know what to do. I sure as hell won't change for anyone but I just want to know why is this?

Thanks a lot for taking your time to read this.


Anonymous said...

Hug Girl,
The way I see it, you are not the one with the problem. The girls who you are talking about here have the problem. It seems like you have firm handle on who you really are,that is quite the accomplishment for a high school aged person. It seems like these girls want you to change just for them and as you mentioned, you do not want to change for them. Remember, friends should accept you for you and who you REALLY are and not try to change you. The friends you have at ballet class seem to be "real friends" because they accept you for you. Keep in mind, it is better to have a few GREAT friends than to have many people who you associate with from time to time. Good luck!

harriet said...

Hug Girl,

It sounds to me like the only thing you should be worried about is how not to let those girls get to you. People are not always nice to each other and not always comfortable with or honest with themselves. That kind of tension is awful. I know -- I've been there. But if you know who you are and know what's important, you'll get through it. Concentrate on the friends who are there for you, who don't try to change or judge you. And try to be the kind of friend that you'd want to have yourself. And a few years down the line, you'll probably wonder why you were so worried about it.

magdiego said...

Hug Girl,

I'm not there, so you have to look at what I say through that lens. But from what you've said, I'm willing to take a guess.

You make them nervous. You're outside their box. They don't understand you, or how you act, or your forthrightness. And because there is always some fear of the unknown, you make them uncomfortable - maybe even more uncomfortable than you are.

So you have two choices: you can continue being who you are, but understanding that you will always make them uncomfortable, at least until (or if) they mature some. Or you can try to fit in with them, and be more like them, which will make you not fit in with yourself. I vote for option one.

One other suggestion: Try to take an honest look at yourself and your own behavior, maybe ask a trusted friend about this. They may see things that you don't. There may be small things you can do to make them less uncomfortable. I'm not suggesting you change your personality, but as social beings, we all do things to try to get along in a group - it's a valuable survival skill. You may never be good friends with this group, but at least it might relieve the tension you feel.

RQ said...

Dear Hug Girl,

All of us who are now adults had times in our lives when we weren't liked or accepted by others. (I don't know who said, "About a third of people will like you, about a third won't like you, and about a third won't pay attention one way or the other.")

It is not our job to change other people's opinions about us. It IS, however, the job of each of us to be the best person we can possibly be. You do not have control over others, and part of growing up means that you learn to exercise control over yourself.

Being honest doesn't mean that you tell everyone the uncensored version of what you think of them or how you're feeling at any given time. Exercising decisionmaking skills about what to communicate and how to communicate it is a sign of maturity, not dishonesty.

You write that, at your ballet school, "When there is someone new in our class, we welcome them with open arms and adopt them like one of our own." I'm not saying that you can change your school environment overnight by being that way at school, but I think you may be surprised at how your own behavior and attitudes can influence what you get from others in return.

Anonymous said...

Hug Girl,

One thing you should understand, some people will do anything and almost about everything to try to put you down. It's up to you to keep your head up and not let those kinds of things get to you. I remember, I once knew someone that went through the same thing that you're going through.

At first, I thought that the person was just being emotional. But what I didn't realize was that the person was REALLY going through a hard time. It's a good thing that you expressed yourself through words, because by doing so, you're letting other people know and who knows maybe those who are reading will realize what damage they've made and start to act respectful.

Be strong!

darlene said...

Hey Hug Girl!

I have been there - but it's been a while. It is good that you know who you are and are content with that. I grew up with a strong sense of who I was and believe me I did NOT fit in in my small rural high school. Just didn't have the same interests, ways of thinking, you name it. Even though I was fairly quiet about it, I still was so obviously different, and in a small school it was very obvious when you are disliked.

You will find though, that people are not always comfortable with those that are different or that they do not understand. It is not YOU that is the problem. It is them. In a few years the differences may be less as you all move into the adult world, and they may treat you better, or you may move in even more different directions and be more removed in understanding.

This comes up again and again in life, but just as there are people who are not appreciative of you and that tear you down, there are also other people who you will find you can bring laughter and love and growth to your life. There are many good people in this world, so don't let a few drag you down.

Keep strong in yourself, hold your head high and enjoy the true friends you have found. Best of luck to you! And hugs!

crankygirl said...

Hi Hug Girl--

High School is a very difficult time. For some reason, a lot of girls that age can only feel good about themselves if they are trying to make someone else feel bad and vulnerable. It makes them feel strong.

How people who are not your friends treat you is mostly a reflection on them and not on you. All you can do is ignore them the best you can.

Jess said...

Hey Hug Girl -

Looks like you're getting a lot of good advice here. I just want to say that I know what you're feeling. And I know it's tough. It's really smart and mature of you to take a moment and acknowledge that there's something going on around you that makes you uncomfortable - and it takes a lot of courage and strength to reach out to someone you trust (and the readers of his blog) to try to take steps to change that.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare writes "This above all - to thine own self be true, and it must follow like the night the day thou canst not then be false to any man." I think that makes a lot of sense. It's definitely not the easy choice, but sometimes the hardest choies turn out to be the most rewarding.

Stay strong, girl, and surround yourself with people you trust and respect.

Best of luck and lots of hugs!

Anonymous said...

Hug Girl,

Howdy. Well, people can be stupid sometimes, and sometimes, all the time. i want to apologize for anything that i said or done that might have caused you any pain. But what u should know by now buddy is that whatever i say/do is NOT SERIOUS. Thats just the type of person i am. But yea, i just want to say "yo estoy muy sorryo" on behalf of every cocabug in our class. Oh, and i owe you another hug.... so whenever u see this comment, come claim ur prize. (limited time offer) =D


eatmisery said...

Hug Girl,

The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they can't BE you.

Don't ever let them live rent-free in your head. You're better than them.


appopt said...

Hey all,
Thanks for your comments. Hug Girl read them all at my computer in class today, and she walked away shaking her head. "I can't believe so many people are so nice," she said.
And to Babushka #1: I think you're pretty great, too. We all have faults, but it's pretty big to apologize.