Heads up : This entry is all over the place! Bear with me.
It was years ago when someone left a comment on my Tumblr asking, “Why do you always like to announce that you liked something ahead of everyone?”. I always thought it was because I wanted to prove to people (mostly to myself) that I wasn’t hopping on the hype train.
In my thirties, it dawned on me that it was because I was, well … bullied.
No, this isn’t a sap story about being bullied (not that there’s anything wrong with those), it’s not about redemption, or rising above my experiences, this is about living with the trauma it caused me, and how, a part of me still feels angst towards those years.
Coming from a Baptist School in Palawan, you bet I lived a simple life; but I was surrounded with a family who was into Music, Movies, and Fashion. At a young age, I was exposed to so many musicals, films you wouldn’t usually let a 6 year old watch, and Kate Moss. In grade school, you could safely say I knew who I was and what I liked. Back then, I didn’t follow trends, fashion-wise. In fourth grade, I DESIGNED some of my clothes, selected and bought the cloth, and had them sewn. I was that child. I was spoiled and always showered with compliments by my family. They did everything they could to make me feel like I was special and unique. They allowed me to shine, and believed that the little things I was so sure of myself would lead to an even greater purpose when it came to knowing who I truly will be in the future. I wasn’t stuck-up. My Mom made sure of that. She made sure I was always grounded, because whenever I would start acting like a Princess, she’d let me know that I really wasn’t. Not in that sense.
I remember throwing a fit at Mama because I didn’t like the shoes paired with this outfit, lel
One of the dresses I designed, bought the cloth for, and had sewn. A shirt dress! I was in 4th Grade.
I was in 6th grade when it happened. I stepped into the classroom, almost at the end of the school year : Eleven years old, a self-assured, sheltered child, fresh from Puerto Princesa, Palawan. I knew things would be different in Saudi Arabia — Jeddah to be exact.
Boy, was that an understatement.
Back then, Jolina Magdangal was QUEEN OF EVERYTHING. Butterfly Clips, Plastic Chokers, Hair Bullet Clips, you name it – they were on my head. She inspired me to keep being myself, especially when it came to dressing up. I’m a shallow person. I take pride in knowing that I could already tell the clothes I liked and didn’t like in KINDERGARTEN, to a point that I made a very huge gap in my closet between my favourites, and clothes “I would never“.
For some reason, being a girly-girl who was into fashion in sixth grade pissed off some of my classmates, who then got the whole class to, uh, I wouldn’t say hate, but, something close to that. They would ignore me, usually pretend that they wouldn’t hear me when I tried talking to them, purposely whisper things to each other when I look their way, they’d laugh when I say something, not have lunch with me, you know the drill. It’s the usual “cafeteria scene” in coming of age movies before someone sits next to the protagonist and changes their life forever, because, whoa, suddenly they’re not invisible.
That person to me, was Dan Earl, who was gay. He was my only friend, and you know it’s because the class would bully him too. He was my favourite person in the entire planet and is one of the sole reasons I got through that year. I owe so much to him. He gave me the opportunity to have a pretty normal life in Jeddah.
At 13, I was a fan of silver lipstick. Don’t ask me.
I let so many things slide then. People in my batch calling me “Pokpok” (a Tagalog word for “Slut”) for wearing a skirt that was inch above my knee (yes, this was in 6th grade), etc.,etc. But one day, they all locked me inside our floor’s loo, and my begging and crying didn’t do any good. Of course I ended up telling my Mom, who then stormed the class, screaming at everyone, asking them what had her Daughter done wrong to be treated that way, because, even if she’d already spoken to my Class Adviser about the whole bullying situation, your Daughter being locked in the Toilet is the last straw.
We all know that my Mom’s pleas didn’t really stop them. In fact, they gave me a special nickname, “GAYDSOB“, which stood for “Gaya-gaya, Arte, Yabang, Damot, Sumbungera, Over-acting, Bad Breath”… it was a nickname they all wrote on the blackboard in front of me while they were debating the best arrangement of letters, so it’d roll off the tongue.
I honestly didn’t realise until the past month that that nickname really stuck with me. I continuously wanted to prove myself to people, especially the fact that I wasn’t Gaya-Gaya. One of the things I was sure of myself for as long as I remembered, was my ability to stay true to my own taste (no matter how basic it is). I wasn’t imitating anyone. My fashion choices were all I had. That was the thing I was proudest of. I could be inspired by people (a.k.a buy the same clothes Heart does, at least the ones I could afford), but I wouldn’t wear pieces the exact same way they did. I’d always inject my own flavour in them, which would be later validated by Seventeen Philippines, and THE Isha Andaya, nonetheless. They called me “The Trendsetter”, also saying that I had a “natural flair for fashion”.
I mean, c’mon.
Years later, you would see me trying to make a point that I liked something way back, before these cool people started mentioning them on Twitter, because I didn’t want people to think I was imitating anyone.
Petty, right? But this is a constant struggle I have to deal with for as long as I have to. It bothers me to think that people see me as a follower (then again, there’s nothing wrong with being a follower, I hopped into some fandoms years late [Outlander, two years], and I LOVE acknowledging people who are responsible for getting me hooked at something).
I’m writing this entry because I wanted to validate why I am the way I am. This is my late response to that person who left me a comment on my Tumblr years ago. Most likely not valid to anyone, but then again, you weren’t in my shoes. Regardless of how many times stories of bullies are told, no one really gets it — sometimes, even when it happens to them. We all go through these things on our own and process these experiences differently.
Looking back, I knew I was such a confident child, who grew up to be a fake confident Adult, consistently asking “them” for validation because it was “them” who took it away. At the back of my mind, they’re the only ones who could make me feel good about myself, because that power became theirs the moment my bullies broke me.
Of course we have to include my College Bully (who worked on another level). She was manipulative enough to make not only the whole class hate me, but make me believe that she was the only friend I had. She also stole from me (PHP 500 and my Favorite Lipgloss!). Apart from that, you have the usual people in Campus making fun of you for being too skinny, whispering as you walk past them about how you were “Anorexic” or “Bulimic”, people making fun of (what’s new), my Fashion sense. (Side note : I just realized I was too fucking fabulous for my school. They couldn’t fucking deal with the fact that I don’t follow fucking rules. I mean, even GUYS would laugh at me. People are dumb.) Even during my “Modeling Days”, people would purposely talk about me next to them at lunch and mimic my poses in magazines.
I don’t know what kind of a person thinks it’s fine to do that especially to people you don’t even KNOW-KNOW.
When I moved back to Jeddah to start working, the people I surrounded myself with would constantly, CONSTANTLY comment on my body. Whether I lost weight, gained weight, I was never “fine” or “acceptable”. When it came to me, THERE WAS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO SAY. I never felt good around that group. I was just constantly trying to prove myself to them. I gained weight for them. Then they made fun of me. So I lost weight for them. Then they said I should look a certain way. They had the nerve to say that to me when my Husband (MY OWN HUSBAND) NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER MADE ME FEEL LIKE SHIT regardless of how I looked.
I was struggling. It is still a constant struggle that I have to deal with. TO THIS DAY. It’s hard when people’s voices become one of the voices inside your head. Sometimes I get easily offended and overly-sensitive because it’s a defense mechanism. I mean, I’ve dealt with people “being against me” in almost all 32 years of existence. Can you really blame me?
It feels like I’ve been an easy target my whole life.
Okay, so maybe this is a sap story. I’m not asking for pity though — just understanding.
So I will say this : the moment your bully breaks you, they win. Bullies always win in the sense that they change your life forever. They inflict a pain that you would need to learn to live with and you have to fight with every bone in your body to not want to pass that pain around. In a way, they make you who you are too, but sadly, in a harsher way.
Why these things happen to people like us, I don’t know. It’s just how life is. But the reality is, you have to accept the fact that this changes you, and it’s up to you to use it to your advantage, hard as it is.
Your bullies may find their redemption stories, but let me tell you something : the broken only get stronger. You owe it to your Mother, who did not carry you in her womb for 9 months for anyone else to make you not believe in the fact that you are magic. You owe it to your younger, unbroken self to see yourself the way you did back then when you didn’t care what you saw in the mirror, because your family always made sure you felt special, because you are.
Make sure you believe in yourself the same way your Mother believed in you before the world tainted what was never theirs to taint, and yet felt (and will always, always feel) the need to.
It’s been 8 years since my Mother passed, but she will be my pillar until the day I die
Spending all this time by myself gave me the opportunity (and I thank God for this everyday) to really see myself, I’d like to think — the same way I did when I was 9. Little by little I’m owning up to the Woman I am. Sometimes I get too cocky in my head, but you know what? FUCK IT. I FUCKING DESERVE THIS. I’ve let people step all over me long enough.
If you’re going through something like this to this day, here’s your cliché, but true take-away : YOUR BULLIES MAY FIND MANY WAYS BREAK YOU (MANY TIMES OVER), BUT THEY DO NOT DEFINE YOU.
Nothing that small should have that much power over something so great.