Alert “06880” reader Mike Pryor — a former Westporter — sent this along. His powerful words speak for themselves.
I moved to Westport in the summer of 1981. I had just turned 11.
I met the kids in the neighborhood, and for the most part they were pretty cool. We rode dirt bikes together, played tennis on my neighbors’ court.
There were some incidents that were traumatic for a kid trying to fit in. Like when in the middle of a tennis match a neighbor kid would show up with his BB gun, and tell me I had 10 seconds to run before he started shooting.
I ran. I felt like such a loser.
So being a bully it wasn’t something I sought out. It wasn’t a role I would have chosen to play. It wasn’t even something I realized I did — until 20 years after it happened.
I bullied. I was a bully.
I made someone else feel bad to make myself feel better.
The person I’m talking about was a sweet girl in my neighborhood, my age. Some idiots made up some horrible, disgusting stories about her. The stories were passed around.
She did nothing to deserve this. Any more than I deserved the BB gun threat. But I took some cheap shots at her expense that got a laugh, helped me gain ground and be accepted.
But I also saw the pain in her face. And it stayed with me.
I traded her feelings for my security. Making fun of her helped me feel like one of the gang. Like I belonged.
She transferred to a different school. I’m not sure if that was a result of the bullying or not. But it didn’t curb it. Her new school’s bus stop was the same as ours. So there were daily opportunities for us to ridicule her, or just get a quick little jab in. All of these, I’m sure now, chipped at her self-esteem. What kid needs to go through that?
Now I am the father of 2 girls. My youngest is the age of the girl I bullied. It twists my gut to think there could be someone out there who would do something like that to my girls.
I understand now what I might not have been able to at that age. I understand now that bullying has an impact far beyond any comprehension I was capable of then. I’m not going to pretend to be a psychologist, but I do know the importance of self-confidence in kids — girls in particular. I know what I did damaged that girl.
This has been sitting with me for some time now. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I can’t make what I did go away. It will not be changed by any passage of time.
I have no reason for it. I have no excuse for it. It doesn’t matter that everyone was doing it. It doesn’t matter that it happened to me too. It matters that I did it. And it matters that I hurt this girl.
She moved away. I moved away. It’s been 30 years. But I wish somehow, some way she can know that I know. I know it was wrong, and I’m truly sorry for it.
And I want her to know that I’m determined to make something positive come out of it. That I’m using that experience to raise my daughters to be better than I was.