Tag Archives: bullying

Confronting Flaws One Facebook Message at a Time

By: Marie Cantor

In today’s media, we have seen many realistic women enter our screens. Film and television production companies are finally seeing the value of creating three dimensional, complex female characters. Now, the flaws of these female characters are central to their behavior, which is quite different from the past where women were either seen as perfect or as victims. In this new era of media and female representation, we are beginning to accept women for their flaws. Women, just like everyone else, are humans, and are therefore flawed as well.  

On December 19th, 2018, I confronted my middle school bully. And when I say “confront,” I mean I wrote a lengthy message on

Me in elementary. Done for an art project in the 8th grade
Me in elementary. Done for an art project in the 8th grade

Facebook. When I say “bully,” I mean a girl that loudly insulted me in my 8th grade English class. It’s not the most conventional bully story, but nonetheless, it affected me in more ways than just one. 

Let me set the scene for you. I am 13 years old, wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt and low-rise jeans. My English class smells as if every adolescent drowned themselves in expired Axe body spray. When I stood up from my seat, “Susan” shouted an insult at me pertaining to my appearance. Looking back, I can almost justify the remark since I did take fashion advice from the early 2000s, despite the fact that it was 2012.

The class grew quiet. All eyes were on me. I felt like a street performing monkey who had just failed the magic trick. From what I remember, I laughed awkwardly in order to appear as if I were in on the joke.

Even though this might seem insignificant, this moment stuck with me. As the years passed, I grew more curious as to why Susan did this. We were never enemies, friends, or even frenemies. We barely knew each other. Of course, I can now attribute her anger to the awkward years of middle school, or maybe to the fact that she needed an outlet for that anger. But I wanted an answer.

So, I found her on Facebook and decided to send a message. I attempted to write the best message a person could write in this situation—unaccusatory and understanding. I had immediate senders regret, but there was no turning back.

A couple days pass and I get a response:

Hey love, even though I may not remember I still want to apologize. That was very rude of me and I can only imagine how bad my comment made you feel I am very sorry. I hope you know that you were beautiful and talented and all that you do always believe in yourself and strive for your full potential.

That wasn’t the response I had wanted.

To be frank, I expected too much from the situation. I can’t deny that her message was kind, but it was also safe. And safe in the way of disingenuousness. I realized that the message was in response to drama from 8 years prior, and that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t receive as satisfying of an answer as I had hoped for.

I may never get a why from Susan, and that’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t owe me any explanation for something that was trivial middle school angst.

I think what struck me was the overwhelming positive support I received by others on Facebook. No one questioned my morals. There were just blind compliments. The positive reinforcement, however nice it was, felt strange.

It felt strange because I am not a perfect individual. I am flawed. I am not the airbrushed and groomed femme-fatal of cinema’s past. I am not a victim. I, the bullied, was also a bully. I have been confronted by someone who I had bullied 10 years ago. Fortunately, we were able to talk, move past it, and build a strong friendship.

One slogan used by many feminists is “Babes Supporting Babes.” To many people, it is used to support other women. And while I am wholeheartedly for female empowerment, this phrase is support at a surface level. Support should not mean blind reassurance of ourPicture1 beauty and our talent, as Susan had told me. Support is accepting the flaws that are found within us and grabbing them by the throat. We must embrace our flaws through moments of self-conflict and self-reflection–– like the urge to message a bully at 3am. A babe supports another babe by challenging her to overcome the obstacles that society brings.

Women are taken advantage of when they are seen as perfect. Women should be seen as flawed individuals who have to prove themselves just as much as the next person. For decades, the image of the “flawless women” was an excuse to see her as inferior–– “The flawless must be dumb.” I want to be challenged as a whole being, even by my flaws. I find that empowering. We get enough of the superficial from the posters in corny teenage magazines. It’s time for true support.

Hidden Noodles

by Thuy Anh Tran from Lehigh University

  Hidden Café, which was located on the lower level of building B in my high school, was an ideal place for anyone who needed an escape. This café was not recognized by my high school as an official dining hall, but it secretly opened to serve the growing demand for a small get-away. For straight A students, they came here with the hope of escaping from the cacophony in the hallway to figure out how to calculate the atomic mass of an element. For teachers, they desperately wanted to get away from all the troubles that students created. For rebels, this place was perfect for skipping classes.
  The owner of Hidden Café was Bac Huong, a middle-aged woman who was a high school teacher but then discovered that cooking was her passion. She had a small and slim figure; her short curly salt and pepper hair was meticulously hidden behind a ridiculously giant chef’s hat, and she possessed one of the most high-pitched voice you would ever hear, probably because she used to teach in many classes with sixty students. I called her “Bac,” which means aunt in Vietnamese, as my way to show my respect as well as my endearment to her. “If I had not been a teacher, I would have become a Michelin-star chef!” – Bac Huong confidently claimed. This café was opened as a result of many spontaneous moments.
  “What do you want today? Mian tiao?”
  “Yes, but it is miàn tiáo.”
  “I’m no Chinese. Wait five minutes.”
  Bac Huong enjoyed using some Chinese words that she picked up to tease me as I was a student in Chinese-English class. “Miàn tiáo” means noodles in Chinese, but it was not just any kind of noodles. It was noodles with beef jerky, sausage, mayo and ketchup. Weird. The combination of diverse ingredients could magically blend together, and it turned out to be one of the best dishes that I had ever tasted.
  I loved watching Bac Huong making noodles. The main ingredient for this dish was obviously noodles, or Hao Hao noodles, which was only ten cents. The fastest way to cook was to pour hot water into a bowl of raw noodles. Bac Huong never forgot to add some spices, some onions and especially her special sauce (soy sauce). She put a plate on top of the noodles’ bowl so that it would keep the heat inside to cook the noodles. After five minutes, she went to check on the noodles. Then, she cut some boiled sausages that she woke up at 5 a.m. every day to prepare, and added some beef jerky. On top of the noodles, she put some mayo or some ketchup, depending on her mood. This dish had such a special smell that I could immediately recognize before I even arrived at Hidden Café. Within ten minutes, Bac Huong made noodles and eagerly interrogated me about my school life.
  “How’s school?”
  “Do you get a 10 out of 10 on your Chinese quiz?”
  “How did you do on your Math test?”
  The most dreadful question was yet to come.
  “Where are your friends? Call them here.”
  I stayed silent.
  You would not think that such a simple question could hurt you internally. Little did Bac Huong know that she played many roles in my high school life: my “Bac,” my emotional counselor, my teacher and my only friend.
  Who was I in high school? I was a fat kid (yes, I use the F word). I was bullied because my body figure did not comply with the standard measurements for a normal high school girl. Who came up with that anyway?
  That day, a girl in my class who was a close friend of mine suddenly asked me to tell her my body measurements for her “research purpose,” and I was gullible enough to tell her. Classic Mean Girl’s prank.
  The next day I went to class, she greeted me with a special nickname that I would try to forget every now and then: “square” (because my height and my weight looked quite the same). Then, there were “fatty”, “pig”, “rectangle”, “girl without curves”, “fat ugly girl”,… At that moment, my body was heated up with embarrassment. I kept looking down to the floor and closed my eyes so that I could keep my tears and my anger inside.
  I was not ready to face with such a challenge as I never knew there was something called confidence. The feeling that I was missing something inside my soul which needed to be fulfilled haunted me. Later, I discovered that it was validation. There was no class that taught me how to stand up against bullies in high school, which I think it should have had. Therefore, I kept myself safe by creating my own bubble, and never dared to step outside. What choices did I have? Many, but the easiest choice was to hide myself in this little corner of the Hidden.
  How wrong I was.
  The advantage of living in a bubble was that it created a strong shield to protect me from getting hurt, but bubbles could pop at any time.
  When I left for college, I chose not to say good-bye to Bac Huong and the Hidden because I did not want that chapter of my life to end. I would never imagine how difficult it could be to give up eating those delicious noodles.
  Six o’clock. Lower Court. Located in the lower level of the University Center, which reminds me of the Hidden. Lower Court is much more crowded than the Hidden, and students come with the purpose of seeking companions, not hiding. I choose a seat at the corner of the room. I tell myself not to think about Bac Huong’s noodles but it is impossible for me to do so as in college, spaghetti with beef sauce is the closest to what I used to have in the Hidden. Right now, the cooks are busy making spaghetti, but the way they make it is far different from what Bac Huong did. Spaghetti is already cooked from the kitchen before being placed in a large tray. The sauce is separated from the spaghetti, and each person will serve themselves with the amount of sauce that they want. I am struggling to calculate how much sauce I need for one dish of spaghetti, while Bac Huong always knew exactly how much soy sauce I needed for a bowl of noodles. All the cooks are friendly, but no one can speak Chinese to tease me.
  I learned the hard way that leaving was an essential part of growing up. As I grew up from a teenager, I left my favorite teddy bear in the basement. As I grew to become an adult, I left the Hidden and my favorite noodles in Vietnam. Growing up means that we have to leave things behind so that every time we look back, we will say to ourselves: “Oh, how I miss those good old days!”
  I guess I have to grow up now. I have to grow up from Bac Huong’s noodles and start to live my life here at college.
  I realize that I am still in the process of stepping outside my bubble.

This is a repost of a story we received in December.