I’m sorry, Barbara Satinsky.
In 5th grade I had no reason to be a bully. In addition to being one of the leaders of Harum Scarum, the cliquey girls’ handball club, I had kind parents and good friends.
So why did I take pleasure in playing a cruel trick on Barbara Satinsky?
It was one thing to phone random numbers and say in my best 11-year-old, grown-up impersonation, “This is the electric company. Is your refrigerator running? Well you better go catch it!” and then crumble into giggles for an hour.
But it was quite another thing for my friend Sherry and me to call a bunch of girls from our class and pretend we were Barbara Satinsky. Mimicking Barbara’s voice we took turns saying, “I’m having a pajama party this weekend and I hope you can come.”
Apparently we nailed the when and where because the following Monday morning, Miss Bradley, the principal, summoned us to her office where our stern-faced parents were waiting. It was pretty terrifying, though I’m sure not nearly as ghastly as it had been for Barbara Satinsky when all those kids showed up at her house.
Is bullying part of human nature, or at least in the nature of some children? In the world at large we are every bit as barbaric as the caveman.
What is it that drives some to pick on the vulnerable, the way I did? We have seen bullied teens retaliate by murdering other youngsters, which highlights the degree of pain and suffering bullying inflicts.
I thought my prank was funny; I felt no empathy for Barbara Satinsky; whereas now, empathy overwhelms me to the point that I run to mute the TV if the local news accidentally comes on.
Fifty-five years after my fifth-grade high jinks, it occurs to me to attribute my every kind gesture to atoning for the Barbara Satinsky stunt, the same way doting on my parents after I emerged from my rebellious years could be attributed to my efforts to atone for all the heartache I caused them.
Maybe the whole pj party episode scarred me more than it did Barbara. When my oldest daughter was old enough to form a sentence, I started talking about “including.” We would go to a coffee shop and as soon as I lifted her out of her stroller and settled her into her Sassy Seat, she would say, “Let’s talk about including.”
We must have had 500 conversations about including. I never tired of the subject.
I’m so sorry, Barbara Satinsky.
What are your stories of bullying or being bullied?
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