Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Channeling your inner 12-year-old is too easy to do I guess

It's been two days since I discovered something on Facebook and I can't shake it off. As much as I'd like to think I have grown up and accepted my childhood for what it was, I guess the scars are still fresh.

My childhood was loving and safe (to a degree) but it wasn't normal. It couldn't be normal, not when it came to living with my sister, Jennifer. In a nutshell, Jennifer is developmentally and mentally delayed. She is 43 now but she might as well be seven years old. She lives with my parents. She works. She commutes on the TTC by herself (which is nothing short of a miracle) but that's as far as her independence goes.

She is, which not many people realize, my parents' retirement.

As my parents age, I can see how caring for her is taking its toll. So many people do not understand what my parents have had to deal with and continue to deal with. Jennifer is depressed, suffers from anxiety, can be withdrawn sometimes, is moody, is temperamental, is prone to meltdowns, pulls her hair out, self-harms by picking at her hands until she draws blood, is defiant, stubborn, overly emotional and ... exhausting.

My mom drives an hour and half in weekend traffic to my house just to escape.

Growing up, kids in my school, and in my neighbourhood, avoided or ignored Jennifer and when they did notice her, it was to taunt her. This usually resulted in me beating the shit out of another kid and then running off to hide to avoid punishment.

Kids made fun of me for having a sister with special needs. I know, you sit there and think real hard about how ridiculous that sounds, but it's true.

As an adult, I can handle being judged and criticized. Talk about me all you want. Poke fun. Call me names. I really don't care. I know who my friends are. I know who loves me.

But when you drag my sister or family along for the ride, watch out.

Facebook has this "People You May Know" feature. You've probably noticed it. I never paid attention until a name popped up that piqued my interest. My reaction was, 'I remember her?! Wow. I wonder what she's been up to?" I clicked the name and was brought to her timeline.

Scrolling down, I came across a photo album where she wrote she found some old school photos. She posted them and tagged old classmates of mine she was Facebook friends with. Only one is a mutual friend. I suspect that's where Facebook made the you-may-know-this-person connection.

I came across one that had me in it. I'm by myself and looking at a plastic ring. I can't remember what I was doing. She wrote as the caption for the photo, "Can't remember this bitch's name for the life of me."

Ready to channel their inner 12-year-old selves, former elementary school classmates of mine who I haven't thought of since Grade 8 graduation filled up the comment feed with my name and some other details about where I may have gone to high school but it was one comment in particular that stung. A person wrote, "She had a retarded sister, right? Didn't (name withheld) feed her dog shit? That was fucking hilarious."

This was written by a 40-odd year-old woman with, who, according to her Facebook profile, has three kids who look to be under the age of 10.

Oh yes, MOM OF THE YEAR, it was fucking hysterical. Ask my dad how funny he thought that was.

My dad is on Facebook. My mom is on Facebook. If I could read this comment, so could anyone else with a connection to this idiot.

I messaged both women. I was livid. I was shaking I was so mad. But I was diplomatic. I was cool.

I asked, "Are we not all adults now? As adults, don't we have a responsibility to demonstrate to our children that feeding dog shit disguised as chocolate to a person with special needs is not funny? If I can see that photo you posted of me in your "found these school photos" album (and it's Cindy Vxxxxxxxx by the way - the person holding the plastic ring) my mother can see it. My father can see it and probably my sisters. This is not cool. It's not. You both should be ashamed of yourselves. My sister can't defend herself. Please refrain from discussing my sister further in comments visible to the public. My parents do not deserve this kind of public humiliation. Thank you."

Not even five minutes had passed before my phone vibrated to indicate a Facebook notification. The former classmate who posted the photo had replied. She was apologetic (good). She said she would delete the photo (I told her I don't care that the photo is there). My response was that I was shocked that after the dog shit comment, she couldn't put on her "mom" hat and step in and call that person out for not only writing that but allowing for the comment to stay.

There were seven "I'm sorry" in her reply.

Yeah, I'm sorry, too.


April said...

Unfortunately, some people never grown up (women are really bad for this) and remain asshole teenagers for their entire lives.

This dog shit feeding moment must have been the highlight of their lives if they still remember it, still think it is "fucking hilarious", and still need to talk about it. How very sad their lives must be.

These are the same people that as adults berate the waitress or barista, make servers cry, push people around, put their feet on the seats and then tell you to mind your own business, and stick up for their children when their children do terrible things.

You can't change people CJ. Sure she apologized, but it is pretty sad that she didn't see the issue before you had to point it out.

I am sorry that people suck and I am sorry that you are still living with this hell. My sister was not mentally handicapped and was still tortured, bullied and beaten by classmates. She was chased home, her shoes were thrown up on the roof, her hair was pulled out. She still gets these bullies on Facebook who try to add her and act like nothing happened. It is in the past and should be forgotten, right? Victims don't forget.

C.J. Smith said...

^ That's the part I do not understand. My husband was bullied and when Facebook came round, these same bullies were all about being friends. It's so odd to me.

I'm sorry too, April, that we've had these experiences.

I know this woman is not sorry. She's only sorry she didn't change the privacy setting on her account.

It still bothers me that all these years later, this dog shit incident is talked about and not seen as something to be ashamed of but proud of.

April said...

Part of making amends is accepting responsibility for your actions. Saying "I was wrong and I am sorry". These kinds of people can't do that, they think it is all just water under the bridge because they are not the ones that had to eat the dog shit (or find out their sister did), they didn't have to find a way to get their shoes down off a roof, they weren't afraid to go to school! So to them, it is just the past.

Now if a bully said "What I did to you was wrong. I was young, I was stupid, I was wrong. I am so sorry" it would be different. But they don't, they act like nothing at all ever happened.

Growing up means taking responsibility for your actions and the fall out from those actions. This is why some people are still 12 year olds.

Of course she is only sorry she didn't set her privacy settings better. They are only ever sorry when they get caught.

Adrienne said...

Cindy, it is crazy to me that there are STILL so many daft people who are a part of our world!!! The ignorance of these grown ups (term used loosely) astonishes me!! I have had the privilege of meeting your family and I love them like they were my own!! I would like to believe that the greatest people were bullied because WE posess such amazingness, and boundful knowledge that the boring attempt to extinguish our light!!! They never do!! But they try!! I am sorry they tried to get at you again, but as the norm you rose to meet it and put it in its place!! So I continue to be grateful and proud to call you Family!!! Xo

Valentino Assenza said...

I'm really sorry that happened to you CJ, and I likely would have reacted at the very least like you did, but truth be told you showed way more class. My Sicilian blood may have boiled over in this instance. That is really crappy, and I can undertand how it cuts. Some people, honestly just haven't grown up, they really haven't. There is unfortunately a demographic of people out there that would secretly love to be their highschool age for the rest of their lives, and it's sad, it's so unbelievably sad and pathetic.

I had a shitty homelife growing up as a kid, wasn't a good student, and of course got the piss taken out of me at school being bullied for having a lazy eye which is still noticeable now, but was much more noticeable then than now. It was tough for me because I wanted to be social, I genuinely liked interacting with people, but shit would always go wrong, and in the end especially by the time I hit highschool, my lunches were spent on my own in a stairwell reading a book, and I was very selective about who my friends were, because a lot of people would be unbelievably fake to me.

I hated going to school, was a shitty student, and my home life was also hard. My late elementary school and highschool years were quite possibly the unhappuiest time of my life.

Since this glorious invention of facebook, it's prompted many people that were in my highschool, to send me "friend" requests. In the five years that I was in highschool (remember OAC) these same people either didn't say a damn word to me, or said many shitty words to me, or beat the fuck out of me, and here they come with a friend request. It's taken every fibre of my being to simply decline the request without first saying to them "go fuck yourself" but I decline the request and move on. I hate that I still carry anvils for those people, but I do, because people are indeed self aware, and they know they are causing someone pain. Just like the few good people I met that genuinely got along with me for me, and cared about me.

I haven't gone to a highschool reunion at all. Anything I get in the mail, or through e-mail or wherever is quickly trashed. As if I am going to dress up and show up to an event and fake smile at a bunch of assholes. There were a handful of teachers that were decent, but I felt that the teachers were also part of the problem as they did exactly dick all to prevent anything.

And yeah, shit there may be a few people on here reading this saying that I am bitter, and so be it. I think ht was a really negative thing for me to experience. I was able to take all that rage, and transfuse it into a spoken word poem called "Eugene" which talked about someone who literally beat the shit out of me for my money, and running into him about 25 years later. I've performed it for youth who can identify and relate, as they have gone through the same thing themselves, and shit if it's helped one or two people then I am more than grateful for that.

But yeah, I am hot, I'm hot because what CJ wrote is heartbreaking, and because being mean for the sake of being mean just fucking sucks. Amazing how easily people give into ignorance.

Am sorry you experienced that CJ, sending you and your family good vibes and blessings, and I don't need to tell you, but let's turn the shitty sentiments from that idiot on facebook on it's head and pay someone a kindness pronto!


Valentino Assenza said...

As an aside I am proud of the poem that I wrote, but the poetry anthem for bullying came from my good friend Shane Koyczan called "To This Day."

For anyone that has been bullied or knows someone that is going through bullying, or for anyone that just wants to watch and listen to something inspiring.

please check this out

C.J. Smith said...

I play it from time to time with the volume jacked.
It's like an anthem.

Valentino, I'm riding that rage with you, trust me. I just can't let anger and bitterness consume me because if I do, I wouldn't be able to parent my daughter. I'd want to wrap her up in a bubble and run away with her.

Jenn Jilks said...

Well written, Cindy.
I can only say that in my classrooms, we respected one another. They were integrating kids, and would appoint buddies for them. These kids were fabulous. I had so many special needs kids who were loved and respected. If someone disrespected them, my kids would come and tell me.
One teacher created a special PPT following one of his kids to and from school. We were privileged to have a special teacher, with a small class of special kids, and our kids would go partner and eat with them at lunch, partner them at recess, and be taught how to be respectful. It must be modeled. I am hoping that the next generation of kids is doing better at this.
I know this doesn't help you and your family, but we have learned from it.
Good for you for taking care of it in an amazing way. You are a hero.

C.J. Smith said...

Do you mean for beating the crap out of the kids who harassed her or for simply writing a message to address it to the person who wrote the comment?

Going after the boys and girls that day was not my proudest moment.

Jack C. said...

Wow. Facebook is such an odd phenomenon. It can help lost friends reconnect or it can, as in this case, re-open old wounds.

For the record, I think you handled the situation very well.

I was very sensitive as a kid. I was bright and had a good memory, but I took teasing and taunting very much to heart. I was small for my age and had a mild speech impediment until about Grade 7. There was a small group of kids who made it their life's mission for about three years to make my life miserable on the playground and on the way to and from school. I remember devising new routes home and varying them so as not to run into these boys.

I remember being at the park one day (Grade 6, if memory serves) and finding one of the bullies alone for a change. Without his buddies, he suddenly transformed into a normal human being and said "Hi" to me in a neutral way. I confronted him, holding back tears, and demanded to know why he and his friends insisted on tormenting me all the time. He looked right into my eyes with no hint of emotion. He showed no reaction whatsoever to my obvious hurt and upset. He showed no sign of remorse.

He just gazed at me steadily for a moment, finally shrugged, and said, "I guess because it's pretty fun. He said it as a statement of fact. I said, "Can you stop bothering me? I just want to be left alone from now on." Again, with no sign that he registered my distress, he said evenly, "No. Probably not." I asked why not? He frowned and said, "I told you. It's fun. When you get upset, it's pretty funny." He said all this without malice in his voice. All as though he were explaining to me that one plus one makes two. He was just giving me "the facts" and telling me how it would be. It was like a short ceasefire, but without any promise or hope for a truce. Hostilities would resume tomorrow when his buddies were back.

A few years ago, that psychopath tried adding me on Facebook. I didn't accept the request, but sent him a neutral reply confirming I remembered who he was. I was waiting for some sort of amends or apology. None came. Just a response of the neutral, "So how have you been? What have you been up to?" variety. I declined to continue that discussion.

A friend of mine who has a disability and was bullied as been receiving therapy for the past several years for emotional issues. He identified bullying in middle school as one source of his anger and depression. He decided to contact the chief of his former bullies via FB and let her know how the bullying had felt and what the ripple effects were in his life. It wasn't an angry message (he showed it to me), just a statement of how he had felt and a reminder that words can hurt, even years after the fact. He gave her the opening to make amends and was very gracious in wishing her well.

The woman's response was a tersely worded reply that suggested he was "stalking" her by contacting her on FB, that she was disturbed by his "obsessing over ancient history" and essentially suggesting that he needed to put the past behind him. She wrote: "That was a long time ago, and we've both grown up. You need to move on. Never contact me again." This despite the fact that they had many mutual friends on FB from their school days.

I like to think that woman was responding from shame, but I suspect it had more to do with her refusal to accept responsibility for her past choices. She and many others seem to think there's some sort of moral statute of limitations on bullying and the pain it causes.

C.J. Smith said...

^ This is a very typical response Jack. My bully, Tania, wrote me a similar reply. There must be a club they belong to.

Squiggles said...

I guess I am pretty lucky in that A) I have a very common name which makes it difficult to find me on Facebook and B) so many moves as a child means I will probably never come into contact with the bullies. Though, in a lot of ways, being the "ghost" in high school may have been just as harmful.

I think Cindy, that you treated this situation as a very mature adult and to the best as it could have been dealt with. Take solace in the fact that at least you have grown up. And pray that this contact will help these "people" use this as a teachable moment for their children. It is actually very sad to realise that these "people" have bred.

As well, remember, karma does have a way of coming around. My mom experienced that a few years ago. She ran into the Mean Girl from her high school. Mom didn't stick around, but she noticed that time was not not kind to the Mean Girl, and it showed. Everywhere.

Bicky said...

Sorry you had to go through that. Sometimes people just suck.

Sylv said...

I went to a small, all girls school in the Netherlands, and I was ostracised because I wasn't into the "in" things. I didn't smoke, swear, or talk back to the teachers. The youngest of five, I was an aunt by age 10, and lost my father when I was 12. I had no patience for the "regular" teen drama, preferring to lose myself in a good book. For that, I was called names, teased, physically intimidated and threatened (but thankfully never physically hurt). At age 16 I moved to Canada and have never looked back.

I found out some years ago that there had been a reunion at the school, and I was purposely not invited. That stung for a moment, because yeah, I wanted to show them that I was (am) happy with my life. However, then I realized that this just shows that they have not matured much mentally over the years, and I realized that I have even less in common with them now than I did then.

Anonymous said...

One way to reduce this unecessary stress is simple - quit facebook! I started to find a lot of old classmates on FB and realized I didn't wish to relive my high school years. I also found most of my interactions - even with good friends - mostly a waste of time. If you're a good friend I'll see you when I can and when I do we'll catch up. FB is a monumental waste. I've been FB free for about 2 years now with no regrets. Do it!

Jules said...

CJ that brought tears to me eyes, you handled it perfectly. Though I didn't have the same situation I can relate in a different way. I was also bullied as a child, mostly in jr hs. I went through some traumatic "issues" at around 8 years old that stayed with me, it made me want to hide myself and I was an ugly duckling and very socially akward. The taunting was horrible, still stays with me today and I have a hard time in larege social settings. I also found it very odd that some of these tormenters have also tried adding me as a friend on facebook.
My biggest fear was when my daughter was diagnosed with Aspergers that she would become a target of bullies as well.
I think the women that made those comments are awful people, apologies mean nothing when you can still laugh about something so disgusting years later.

C.J. Smith said...

^ Exactly. The I'm so sorry is extremely hallow.

Anonymous said...

Kudos on how you handled this CJ.

So the woman who made the disgusting comment never replied? Wow, probably too ashamed she got called out.

C.J. Smith said...

^ No. And she blocked me on Facebook.

Kellie said...

It's always interesting how people are always apologetic & contrite when they're confronted with anything that is wrong. If you had not brought it up to her 1)Those comments would still be there 2)She would never have apologized. Maybe it's just me but I find someone apologizing for things AFTER they've been confronted as being insincere. For a 40 year old woman to find amusement is anything or anyone who is less fortunate is pretty pathetic. Just my 2 cents. AND I'm pretty sure that type of behaviour and mentality is ingrained in her and it's being passed on.