So, I’ve been thinking about these girls who bullied Phoebe Prince for three months before the fifteen-year-old couldn’t take it anymore and hung herself with a scarf her sister had given her for Christmas. It’s a tragic story, not the least for her poor sister, who found Phoebe’s body hanging in a stairwell.
It’s also tragic, however, for the girls who harassed their classmate so mercilessly that she saw no way out but to kill herself. Because, I’m betting that these girls are more or less normal teenagers – insecure, feeling their oats, and just generally clueless about life. We all know how the song goes, because we surely sang it throughout our teens. Even the happiest of teenagers hummed a few bars.
Come on, talk to me here. How many of you bullied or teased someone? How many were bullied or teased yourself? Probably most of you. Because that’s what teenagers do, right? They get a little bit of power and have no fucking clue what the hell to do with it, so they get drunk on it and abuse it.
Now, hopefully, in most situations, the victim is strong enough to withstand it and the perpetrators think the better of it after a few rounds. That’s the best-case scenario, right? It’s a normal part of growing up.
Well, I’m gonna have to call “Bullshit” on this one. Hell, yes, it’s a normal part of growing up. But that doesn’t mean we just sit around drinking beers with our thumbs up our asses and hope everyone comes through the fire with only mild burns.
Acne is a normal part of growing up, yet we take our kids to dermatologists. Crooked teeth are normal, yet we go to orthodontists. So, sure, bullying is normal, but that doesn’t mean we leave our kids to figure it out for themselves.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: kids have no fucking clue what they are doing. It’s the grown-ups’ job to help them, teach them, guide them. That is equally true for algebra and for social relationships. When a group of girls gets carried away by their own power, they need adults to reign them in. They have no idea how to do it for themselves.
Maybe we all need to spend less time worrying about whether teenagers are having sex and more time teaching them how to handle social situations. Because sex? Also a normal part of growing up.
The bullies were let down by their adults. No one helped them learn to be kinder or more civil. No one set the limits they needed, no one gave them the lessons they needed in the line between acceptable and unacceptable. The adults just stood aside and waited for them to outgrow it.
Unfortunately, Phoebe Prince won’t get a chance to outgrow it.