I came face to face with my school bully decades later

0
60
I came face to face with my school bully decades later



It clicked – it was Adrian, the boy who had made my school days a misery (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)Walking into the pub with some girlfriends I spotted a group of men leaning against the bar.
One looked vaguely familiar but I couldn’t work out how I knew him. Then with a horrible knot in my stomach it clicked. It was Adrian, the boy who had made my school days a misery.
Now, almost 30 years later, here he was – standing just a few feet away. My mind raced with memories of the vile names he’d shouted at me and the comments about my lanky teenage figure, goofy pre-brace teeth and adolescent skin said for all to hear.
The onslaught had been relentless. I dreaded walking down the corridor between classes for fear of hearing his voice shouting abuse after me. It didn’t stop in the confines of school either.
There was no social media back then so no chance for him to attack me that way, but as we were in the same year group I often found myself at the same social events as him outside school.
One memory that now flooded back was the occasion when Adrian had thrown me, fully clothed, into a lake that a few of us had gathered by one summer’s evening.
I remember trying to laugh along with his gang of mates as I clambered out soaked to the skin, desperately trying to save my tears of humiliation for the sodden bus journey home.
Already uncomfortable with my gawky, spotty, awkward teenage appearance, his comments just confirmed my ugliness to me.
I sat down with my friends and tried to pretend he wasn’t there. But out of the corner of my eye I was aware of a person looking over, then hovering next to us, just inches away. It was him, my former tormentor.
‘It’s Caroline isn’t it? I wanted to come over and apologise. I was a total c*** at school and I’m ashamed of my behaviour,’ he said.
As I stared into the face that was still familiar after all this time, I had to make a split second decision in that moment whether to accept his apology and move on or to tell him where to go.
I chose the first option. I stood up, looked him in the eye and said: ‘Thank you, that means a lot.’
After a brief catch-up on the past three decades we had a hug and I left. It may have been an encounter of just a few minutes but it felt great, liberating almost.
It was important to have an acknowledgement that he knew his behaviour was wrong. People do feel remorse, people can change.
I wasn’t his only target by any means, either. My Jewish and Asian friends had been the subject of racist name-calling.
I remember one of my friends buying Adrian a chocolate bar in a desperate bid to put an end to his shouts of abuse every time he spotted her.
Anyone slightly different had been a target of his venom. His vitriol was spread far and wide across our suburban secondary school, filling me with dread at the mere mention of his name.
Already uncomfortable with my gawky, spotty, awkward teenage appearance, his comments just confirmed my ugliness to me.
Now, all these years later, with a university degree, a move to London, a husband and children, even a tiny bit of modelling under my belt, it still felt like I was that ugly, 13-year-old girl again when I first saw him.
If I could talk to the insecure. teenage me, I would tell her to walk away with her head held high. What she is going through is horrible, but she will be so much stronger for it in the future. Much more resilient and able to deal with what life throws at her.
She’ll be at university soon and won’t give this a second thought.
Adrian was one of the first proper bullies I’d encountered but by no means the last. The strength I gained from dealing with him stood me in good stead for the future.
More: Lifestyle

The world is a different place now. In the 1980s we were just left to get on with it and I don’t think it even occurred to me to tell anyone what was happening to me at school.
At my sons’ school today there are systems in place to ensure bullying is stamped out at the first whiff of trouble. They have assemblies devoted to ‘being kind’ and ‘stop it, I don’t like it’. So I hope my children never have to endure any of the school day dread that I did.
On the rare occasions when potential bullying has flared up – one child trying to isolate another and get everyone else to turn against him – my children have immediately seen the situation for what it is and refused to join in.
In fact my eldest son stood up to his bullying classmate and took the victim under his wing, something I am very proud of.
Time and experience has taught me that bullies aren’t born that way, there is usually something going on in their own lives which pushes them to act like that.
It’s something that I tell my own children now if they encounter bullying. The person must be very sad and miserable and we should feel sorry for them, while also standing up to them.
I don’t know what led Adrian to behave how he did all those years ago. It’s the one regret I have from our unexpected encounter – I should have asked him why. Although I’m not sure he could explain it himself.
Caroline Fitzgerald is a pseudonym
MORE: I help a stranger change their life every week
MORE: Autistic people have voices, reducing us to puppets in a play is a betrayal
MORE: The only STI we should be ashamed of is socially transmitted ignorance

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here