“You are perfect, to me.” ~ Pink
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” ~ Wayne Dyer
I remember the hell that was middle school.
I remember how vulnerable and flawed and f*cked up I felt. I remember getting my period for the first time when I was twelve. I got strep throat and the flu at the same time and happily stayed home sick for a week. Why?Because to use the restrooms at school to change my pads, I knew I would be mortified and harassed and spit on every single god damn day while I bled. A twisted posse of girls hung out in the bathrooms, waiting for us to arrive alone so they could tease and watch us go to the bathroom from where they sat in the wide window sills above the stalls. Those girls shamed me, over and over.
I never felt safe at that school.
At the time, I was voiceless.
I had no recourse. I suffered through seventh, and then eighth grade.
I never told my mom. I never told a single teacher.
There was nothing that any adult could do to help. Mainly because those girls — whose bright faces still burn in my memory — were really good at appearing guileless and invisible. Their torture happened behind close doors, behind the teacher’s back, behind the school, at the back of the bus. Their relentless unkindness, their enjoyment in causing and bearing witness to the suffering of everyone they came into contact with, made me hate them. They made school an ordeal. I couldn’t wait to escape to the high school on the other side of town.
I know now that I was bullied during those years. But that’s not what they called it then. Back then, they called it childhood. Of course, now I also know that their behavior was learned behavior. You don’t act like a hateful bitch without having a helluva role model giving you cues. You don’t trash another person’s self-esteem if yours is in good shape.
What got me thinking of this is a song, Perfect, that I ran across on YouTube by the recording artist, Pink. In it, she tells the person she’s singing to, “Pretty, pretty please don’t you ever, ever feel you are less than, less than perfect. You are perfect, to me.” The video features actress, Tina Majorino, playing a girl who is different. She’s artistic and sensitive and strange. She doesn’t fit in, and as a result, she is regularly ridiculed, almost to the point of killing herself.
The video has over 54 million hits, so clearly the song has hit a nerve.
We often internalize the negative voices around us. Then, we carry our critics inside the four walls of our own heads. Pink’s song illustrates how pervasive this problem still is. The cruelty and the lack of empathy I see — particularly for LGBT youth and those who do not fit in for other reasons — shakes me to my core. How can it be that in the four decades since I was in school, so little has changed? In fact, it’s worse. It’s worse because the internet is used as a weapon to destroy and humiliate these kids.
Vulnerability is seen as suspect. Victims are blamed. She shouldn’t have gone to that party. She shouldn’t have worn that dress, drank that drink, talked to that boy.
However, personal responsibility runs both ways.
If girls must be careful, prudent, pure; then boys must be conscious and responsible, too. I don’t care if young peoples’ brains haven’t developed into adulthood, yet. If they’ve been parented well they should have an understanding that assaulting someone is wrong. Bullying someone is wrong. Torturing someone online is wrong.
There is no excuse for such cruelty and inhumanity. None.
So, what to do?
We have to change. By the end of the video for Perfect, Majorino’s character is married with a child. As she stands at the doorway of her child’s room, watching her sleep, the words, “You are perfect, to me,” cross her lips. She illustrates how the culture of violence and hatred toward others starts in the home. If it can be eradicated in the home, those children are less likely to resort to emotional or physical violence as they grow up. I may be naive , but I believe in our ability to change.
We have to transform ourselves into a more compassionate, empathetic society. I dream that, as we grow more conscious, domestic violence and rape and cruelty to children and animals will become a thing of the past. We must shed our violent history.
But we also need to own it, make it conscious, and atone for it.
Then, we need to kick it to the curb and move on.
I remember the young girl I was as clearly as if I left her just yesterday. As an adult, I’ve gone back and retrieved her from that place of suffering and smallness. I know I can make of anything of my life I want to make of it. Therefore, I choose to nurture limitless possibility.
I sometimes wonder if life brought those girls I knew 40 years ago a taste of their own medicine. Whether it did or not, they helped me to realize I could survive, that I was strong, that I had a spirit that could not be broken.
And, for that alone, believe it or not, I thank them.
© 2013 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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2 thoughts on “Perfect”
Powerful. Thank you for sharing what was obviously a time of hell in your life. I wish things were better today, and perhaps they are in that people are talking about bullying and bringing it out of the shadows, something that was never done when I was a child. I am afraid though as you said, the Internet has provided a whole new way kids to be hurtful. I am going to share this with both my children 17 year old daughter and 12 year old son. Though I know neither are bullies, it might give them some insight on how they can help stop it when they see someone being bullied. Peace be with us all.
Thank you, my friend. I appreciate your kind words and thoughts on this subject. S