This morning, I decided to clean out my Facebook friends list. What started off as a list of 199 Facebook friends was whittled down to 186. Do I really have 186 friends in real life? NO. Do any of us? It’s unlikely. But if you actually do have 186 friends in real life, how do you find the time to log onto Facebook? And why would you log onto Facebook? I mean, couldn’t you just occupy your free time with a few of your 186 real life friends? That’s what I’d do, at least.
My friends list consists of people I’ve known for many decades and for just a few months. Best friends, old classmates, former coworkers, and relatives (some of whom I probably would never talk to in real life were it not for the fact that we’re related).
Some rules I’ve had over the years regarding my Facebook friends list:
1. If you are my supervisor or direct employee, NO. Don’t even send me a request. And I’ve never had a problem explaining this to people who have done so – if we work together, as equals, I’m cool with being Facebook friends. But if I’m above or below you, NO. Just NO.
2. If you have ever wronged anyone in my family to the point of emotional distress and/or legal ramifications, don’t be surprised by my next move: You Have Been Unfriended. The fact that you are surprised by this just proves my point that you’re probably an idiot.
3. If I was never friends with you in real life, why would I want to be friends on Facebook with you now?
I broke rule #3 once. This post is pretty much about that.
Back in 6th grade, I had a bully (and, for the sake of this story, I’ll call her Wendy). She was an obvious flirt with the boys and most of the girls in school aspired to be her, all the while allowing her to boss them around and insult them. Until she had molded them into an acceptable class of friends, Wendy seemed to be in control of making people do what she wanted them to do. Then it was like multiple Wendies running around on the playground, choosing the same books for the oral book report, and sitting on the Student Council. Feathered hair and popped-up collared shirts and all.
Wendy was a snob. These days, we’d call a girl like that a bitch.
Anyway, at one point, Wendy set her sights on me for grooming. I’m sure she only wanted to add to her entourage of 6th grade fembots and I was a geek, an easy target (or so she thought). My orthodontic retainer and nerdy-shade-of-pink plastic eyeglasses could not be disguised by my attempt at being cool, certainly not with my home-perm curls and teased bangs (this was the 80s, after all).
It was a rainy day, an indoor recess day. We gathered our lunches to eat at our desks and the teacher left the classroom. At this point, having conserved our pre-teen energy for the morning in a rare form of studying, we went completely nuts. The noise level was off the charts.
Within minutes, Wendy got in front of the classroom and screamed for everyone to be quiet. And yes, they all complied. Then she looked straight at me and went in for the kill. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
I’d been sitting with my friend, who I’ll call Jane. She was just like me, nerdglasses and bad perms and all. I liked her. We lived across the street from each other and played nearly every day after school. Jane and I worked on homework assignments together and I even helped her and her father build a rabbit hutch over the summer for her new bunny. So, yeah, we were friends.
Wendy drew two circles on the chalkboard, one with her name in the center and another with Jane’s name in the center. Then she called on the girls one by one to come up to the front of the classroom and choose a circle. This would determine your popularity for the rest of the school year. This is how you’d be branded, by Wendy, no less, and therefore by the rest of the school.
See, I told you – she was a total bitch.
Finally, it was my turn. I was the last girl to be called upon. Jane, poor Jane, was standing next to her circle all by herself, completely alone on the one side of the chalkboard. When Wendy called my name, I felt hot in the face. I wanted to clock her right in her pretty little feather-haired head. But instead I walked up toward the front of the classroom and stood in front of Wendy for what seemed like minutes but was probably more like five seconds. It was like a stare-down, of the tamed elementary school variety.
Then I went and stood next to Jane.
Wendy vowed to make me pay and told me to meet her at the baseball fields after school. And because she announced this fistfight in front of the whole class, quite a few of my classmates came out to watch a bloodbath go down. Yes, I actually showed up, shaking and wanting to vomit because I was so scared (I’m a lot spunkier than I believed myself to be back then so I was really expecting to just get my ass kicked).
But, guess what? Wendy never showed. She never made an appearance. I’d never been so relieved in my life! I was the classroom rock star for about 2 days, until Wendy convinced all the kids to be on her side again.
Flash forward nearly twenty years later, Wendy was on Facebook (of course, who isn’t!?). And Wendy actually sent me a friend request. And I actually accepted it. Why? Because part of me was curious to learn how her life turned out (she seems very happy with a beautiful family and a successful husband and a big, gorgeous house, which just pisses me off). I wonder how many other 6th grade girls felt pushed around by her but also became her Facebook friend and how many of them still remember that mean and snobbish part of her from childhood, regardless of what she became as an adult? For me, as one of the bullied, what stuck with me the most was how she made me feel – degraded, uncool, and never good enough.
Like I said, I accepted her friend request and became yet another one of the 639 friends she keeps under her little chalkboard circle, albeit on Facebook. For a few years on my Facebook feed, I subjected myself to reading about her commitment to the Catholic Church (seriously?) or her attempts to run marathons after having just given birth a month earlier (because, obviously, she is better than all of us) or looking at her vacation photos of her and her husband at various tropical resorts (of course).
And here I am writing about it. I think part of accepting her friend request a few years ago was probably an attempt of my own to prove to her that I made it through life without her. I didn’t need her to groom me into a Wendy replica, nor did I want her to. Sure, my social skills are lacking in that I get tongue-tied (people flat-out terrify me), but I’d much prefer to be socially awkward than outwardly mean and judgmental.
As a victim of her bullying snobbishness as a kid, I can only sit back and wonder how could Karma have gotten this so wrong. But she’s out of my life now. This morning, I finally unfriended her. I bet she won’t even notice.