Last night my Soul Sister, Dee, was bereft. It seems that all of her friends were invited to a holiday party except for her and her roommate. Now, when I say all, I mean ALL of their friends from their area whom they’ve known for years. And those friends were going folks, because when they started asking Dee if she was going, well, that’s how she found out about the party to which she had not been invited. And she was crushed. Adult bullying is a real thing. Those kids who were bullies when we were school? Some did not improve with age.
Some of you are wondering if Dee is in middle school. I know. But nope. Dee is a grown up woman in her middle age. She’s a full on ADULT with ADULT kids. And this crap is still going on.
Our sister is beautiful, inside and out, kind to the point of doing without herself to give to others, and has a soul that shines like a beacon of warmth and acceptance to others. She plans ways to be kind to others. But one lowlife jerk guy decided to throw a party and be petty and let hate win (again) and deliberately exclude her. None of her actual friends bothered to look at the list of people who were invited that was published on Facebook for God’s ever-loving and ever-forgiving sake (because that divine SHE has SO much more infinite patience for human pettiness and self-absorption than I do) and no one noticed that she and her roomie were missing, and no one did a thing if it was noticed. They just got themselves all festive and went on to the free booze-a-thon without a care in the world for another human being.
And so her heart was broken, and she was at home sobbing, and a few of her friends and I held her in the light last night, and messaged with her and made sure that she felt loved and worthy because she so much is, and not just because she is my soul sister but because she is a decent human and a good person and totally worthy of all things that are good in this world. But we all know the damage was done when the first friend asked her what she was wearing, and she realized that she was not invited when everyone else in her group of friends was going. And we all know that kind of damage is hard to repair despite what the rest of us do and say. Because it hits us in our hearts and souls.
Humans crave connections, and inclusion, and the feeling that we are not alone. Exclusion, rejection, forced aloneness, solitary confinement…they’re among the worst forms of torture.
So, can we talk about bullying for a moment? Because I know it seems like it’s all good and probably over after high school, if not not sooner, so why do we, as adults have to worry about it? It’s not bullying if it’s the PTO mom not allowing that mom who looks haggard to come to her wine and cheese event planning party, right? That’s just what adults wanting to get together. And while it’s become the norm on Reality TV (thanks Simon Cowell and Jeff Burnett, by the way, we were better off before you), and we’ve gone and elected ourselves a Bully-In-Chief who makes everyone from teens to Ms. Universe to captains of industry and presidents of giant unions weep and hide and delete their Twitter accounts and so this bad behavior must be totally okay for the rest of us, right? Well, it’s not. It never was, and it never will be. We like to think that is stuff that goes on in elementary schools and peaks in middle school and that there are programs to “address” it, and so we let it go. But nope. Just no. What our President-Elect does is reprehensible, and I’d bet 80% of us think so, even if we only admit it to ourselves and not to 500 of our closest Facebook friends. Adults who are not the leaders of the free world do it, too. Adults who we think are our friends, colleagues, fellow parents and allies and buddies and confidants do it. And it’s every bit as damaging, if not way, way more, especially at this time of year when even the thickest skinned of us is vulnerable.
I still remember, in sixth grade, sitting in my bedroom on that Friday night, at the end of the school year, sobbing, while every one of my classmates attended a party at Tony Kelly’s house, five doors up the street from mine. I tried to pretend I was okay for my family; it was a different world where “suck it up buttercup” was the norm and parents didn’t get the devastation. I was the only person not invited after we’d gone to school together for years. That was the first time I can recall creating and contemplating a plan to kill myself. I was a suicidal 11 year old; it was 30+ years ago. And I still wish eternal damnation and incurable illness and all manner of evil upon him and his family, and the hurt is still there, years later. No, I don’t dwell on it. But it was one of those thngs that in this life, I will never forget. There is no forgiveness for the humiliation and distress hate-filled behavior like that causes, and there is no forgiveness for the parents who allowed it, either. Think about it. You remember when it happened to you, too, don’t you? That time that someone said or did something that sucked the soul out of you and changed you forever. We all do.
If this is Trump’s America and the Brave New World, then it’s our job, it’s our calling, it’s our freaking DUTY, to point to it and name it and change it when we see it and tell the folks who are doing these things that it is not okay, not in our personal dealings, not in our professional lives and not on a national scale. It wasn’t okay 40 years ago, or 20 years ago or last week, and it’s not okay today. We need to be inclusive. If you need to send a message by inviting 99 of your 100 friends to a party and making that ONE person feel bad, there’s something really, utterly wrong with you, and you should seek help. Glen, I’m talking to you right now. But I’m also talking to all of the other Glen’s around who are doing the same things as they plan their holiday events and New Year’s celebrations. Suck it up. Invite the neighbor who no one likes. Include the people you think are weird. Make an effort to introduce that new couple who cooks the smelly food over to your building’s pot luck. Stop excluding people. If you think it’s okay to tell the host that you are not coming if X, Y and Z are invited, then think hard and decide not to go yourself. Don’t force that host or hostess to exclude others. Put on your grown up underwear and decide to go and “go high” or stay home with some cocktails and Netflix and not make your issues others’ issues.
The damage you do is irreparable. The goodwill you will create by “going high” will build communities and bridges and help us move forward together. And isn’t that the point? To take care of one another? To be in this life and this world together? To be a team and a community and humanity?
Make the right damn choice with these things. It’s the flipping holidays, folks. Can we model the behavior we criticize others for not demonstrating? Can we at least try? Can you look at who’s invited and who isn’t and challenge the host? Can you offer to stay home with the person who’s excluded? Can you stand the hell up for someone else, loud and proud, and know, just know, that you are not alone and that we will all stand with you like a legion of Krakens being released? Just let us know, and we will roar with you for what is right and what is just. I know we can do better than Glen. I know we can if we try.