Dear Teen Sarah,
You thought being called “Horse Hair” in second grade was bad, and it made you want to cut off your waist-length hair. The name made you not want to go to school. It hurt. You only felt better by fourth grade when a new girl came to school and threw up on her first day in class because, as horrible as hearing her teased made you feel, at least they weren’t teasing you anymore.
But you’re fifteen now and being called “Horse Hair” would be easy to cope with compared to what’s going on. You’ve known D since grade school. Of course, she’s your best friend. Of course, nothing can come between you. You two have faced name-calling jerks together in the past and took solace that, no matter what, you had each other.
But you’ll feel betrayed.
It starts as a joke, you think. One of the other girls you’re friends with, A, says in the middle of a science class, “Ever notice how D seems to have two shadows?” The other girls in your crew shrug and “Whatever” this girl. But for days, this keeps on.
Shadow follows D everywhere. Even to the bathroom.
Shadow won’t leave D alone. D, don’t you wish Shadow would go away?
Not wanting to feel like you’re missing out on some joke, you and the other girls chime in, “Yeah, we should kick Shadow’s ass.” It feels like solidarity—friends coming together against some foe.
It isn’t. And you will be hurt. You won’t be ready for it.
A keeps up with her Shadow talk, and she paints a twisted picture of Shadow.
Shadow is obsessed with D. Shadow can’t stand it when anybody else talks to D. Shadow has no life.
Shadow sounds sick in the head to you. You’re worried. All of your friends seem worried about the clingy Shadow. The stories from A about what she’s seen come daily now. Some days, Shadow sounds like it’s a boy who’s sexually attracted to D. Sometimes though, it sounds like a girl. You don’t know who it is, but you’re worried for your friend. You talk to D about whether or not she feels like she is being stalked, but she says it’s fine, don’t talk to the school counselor. Please, Sarah.
Then one day, A says, “I saw Shadow has a penis! Shadow was standing by D and had a huge erection! Shadow wants D!” The way she says it … it’s gross, almost gleeful because it seems so perverse.
But A also trips up and says WHEN she saw Shadow by D.
You realize Shadow is you.
You’ve made fun of yourself, unknowingly, but this girl knew. She won’t talk to you or look you in the eyes. She avoids you, but she snickers at you and gives smug little grins. She’s made fun of you to your face this whole time, and you feel like an idiot for being so clueless. You feel betrayed because what if the other girls know? Have they all been laughing at you? Does D think you’re obsessed? Do the others? You aren’t a lesbian like A insinuates, but so what if you were?
You’re mortified and pissed off.
Eventually, you work up the courage to confront A, and when you do, she gets so hysterical that she puts her mother on the phone. You ask the other girls if they knew, and they don’t. A leaves your group of friends because no one will have her anymore. If she hurt you, then she could hurt any one of them. Joke over.
But it isn’t. For years, you will have trust issues with female friends. You will have a hard time making friends once you move away to get married and go to college. It isn’t until you are solidly in your thirties that you are willing to trust women again, but once you do, you have some of the most amazing friendships you will ever know. You will be strong and honest and call people out on their bullying. As an author, you will know the power words can have over other people. Words can harm, but words can heal. You have a voice, and you will use it.
I pledge to take a stand against bullying each and every day. #One Voice
–Sarah Bromley, author of A MURDER OF MAGPIES
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