Bullies for you

Legions of middle-aged women still secretly suffer the emotional scars of childhood girl-on-girl torture.

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Published in More Magazine in January 2009

It was 1974. We liked the Carpenters and the Bee Gees, wore flared corduroys and striped turtlenecks. I didn't know this, as we skipped at recess together in Grade 7, but my childhood would soon end.

I can flash back in an instant to that moment 34 years ago when a group of schoolgirls waged psychological warfare on me. There was the queen bee, Eileen, whose tousled blond locks and angelic countenance belied a more sinister personality; her aide-de-camp, Jackie; and several guilty bystanders whose fear for their own emotional safety precluded giving a whit about mine.

As the new girl in their country school in Smithville, Ont., at first I was granted access to this elite pack that moved as one in the school yard. Then one day as I approached them before the morning bell, they literally turned their backs on me in unison, snickering all the while, and refused to speak to me.

It was a carefully planned, synchronized form of girlhood torture, the kind that can be meted out only by tightly knit cliques and best-friend dyads.

Psychologists call it "indirect" or "social" aggression. I called it hell. My body heated up with shame and I was devastated by the exclusion. Some part of my 12-year-old self still hasn't fully recovered.

I am not alone.

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