This is something I wrote when I was 21, after talking with my counselor about a specific year in middle school when I was "shunned" by some girl friends. We discussed how detrimental it was for me and that at age 11, when I was in a crucial stage of development, my eating disorder really began. Perhaps it was only a seed, but that seed learned to grow and I can see that very clearly now as an adult. I had never really allowed myself to be angry and forthright with these girls, so I did so in this letter. Finally, a decade after that year in middle school, I was able to say what I had always felt, and add in some of my adult thoughts as well.
You are not really "dear" to me. Nor are you labeled mere "girls" in my mind. You are "mean girls" who have been detrimental in my development. Why did you do what you did to me? I think I know the so-called real reason, but it still doesn't make your behavior natural or acceptable. You did it really because you were jealous. Because you didn't understand why I had developed physically before you. Because you didn't like that I got lots of positive attention from teachers and boys because I was "pretty". Because, in your little girl minds, you wanted to break me down. You wanted to "show me". You wanted me to feel pain. You wanted me to be un-popular, un-wanted, un-loved, forgotten, shunned, snubbed, and alone.
You were all nice once. You were my friends. But in the name of something I still find difficult to understand, you backed each other up. Ganged up on me. Ignored me. Mocked me. Wrote hateful notes to me because you were all too ashamed or afraid to tell me hurtful words to my face. Why? One thing that hurts a lot is that I know you fully realized you were being mean--and yet you continued. And the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, and soon, a year of my childhood--and a crucial year at that--was gone. Drowned in tears of misery and loneliness.
Ten years have now passed. 11 to 21. And I keep thinking...if only you knew how much what you did to me affected me. If only you knew how "outgoing" changed to "reserved", how "opinionated" became "accommodating", how "present" became "hidden", how "vivacious" became "subdued", how "filled" became "starved". I don't fully blame you. I don't push my issues onto your conscience. But you had something to do with the way I am today. You played a part in molding me. You helped shape me--not by gently caressing me, but by hammering me...banging me down until I was less.
You made me cry. You made me retreat into myself. You made me a prisoner of suffering. And now suffering is so familiar that I cling to it, use it to cope, use it to keep myself in check.
You manipulated me, girls. You followed, girls, instead of being leaders, instead of standing up for what was right. You tormented, girls. You ripped me apart. You broke me down...then pretended it had never happened. But I did not forget...even though I forgave...so quickly...because I was so hungry for friendship again. Ravenous.
I went home one day--pale, wan, lonely--and I sat down on the toilet seat in the bathroom, brought my knees up to my face, and I bawled. Sobbed. "They told me I'm conceited," I cried to my mother, probably the least nasty thing you girls actually said, but something that hurt the most because I had done nothing. "They're jealous," she said. But I was not comforted...because I was still alone. The reason did not matter.
Why, girls, why? Do you remember the things you wrote to me? I think my mother still has those horrid notes in a box somewhere. She took them from me, upset, and called your mothers to inform them what was going on--what you were doing to me. Your mothers did not approve either...but you did not stop. And I was still alone.
In 6th grade Social Studies, Mr. Moyer set the class to work on an assignment, then he asked me out in the hall. "Are you okay?" he asked me, as I twisted a yellow scrunchie on my wrist. "Is everything all right?" I know I named two names--the two that hurt the most because they'd been my best friends since age 5; "_____ and ______ aren't speaking to me," I said, lightening the situation by choosing those words instead of harsher ones. He told me he was worried about me. He told me to come to him if I needed to. But there was nothing he could do. Furthermore, can a man really even understand what girls can do?
Skinny. Sickly. Sad.
The germ named Anorexia grew. It might have stayed small, unknown...but it grew. Then. That's when it started. The beginning of it all. It might not have begun...but it did. Why did you do it to me, girls? Why?
Arielle, age 21.