I got bullied when I was a teenager. Not by a random stranger but by a friend, someone I’d known since infant school. For some reason, she decided in Y11, my GCSE year, that she would make things very difficult for me. I'm not even sure how many people knew, other than my closest friends. I even wonder if she can remember now, nearly thirty years later.
I look back and can remember how awful it was, how it engulfed me in feelings of sadness and how lonely it made me feel. I can’t remember the exact details of what she did though. I remember she liked spreading lies, suggesting I'd said things about others that I hadn’t, accusing me of things I hadn’t done and just being generally unkind behind my back. All behind my back and never to my face. I look back now as an adult and feel sad for her because it was obviously her own insecurities that underpinned all that she was doing.
It’s funny because similar things can happen in adulthood too. Women sticking together, led by someone stronger than them, creating gossip and spreading lies all to make themselves seem somehow superior. Mean girls! Those who are weaker too afraid of confrontation to stand up for the underdog because the reality is, they don’t want to be on the receiving end of the mean girls behaviour and are probably thinking ‘I’ll keep my friends close and my enemies closer’. Or women in positions of responsibility manipulating a situation for their own gain or being unkind to other women because someone in their life has led them to believe that you can’t be kind to others and get ahead. Crazy!
I’ve seen it happen in workplaces or in friendship groups. I’ve seen my friends, military wives, suffer a similar fate when they’ve moved to a new posting and try to make friends. Thinking they have been welcomed in to the community one day only to be ignored or gossiped about the next.
Now, don’t get me wrong, not everyone experiences this and there are of course plenty of lovely people you meet along the way in the crazy military life too. But it's the negative experiences that shape you and make it difficult for you to put yourself out there, to make new friends with each move. When you move frequently, often every year or two, and have to start again each time, why would you open yourself up? What if the people you meet are like the ones who were mean to you, waiting to make things tricky for you? Sometimes it's easier to just keep yourself to yourself. Sad as it is, I know so many who are in this position, cutting themselves off because it’s easier to isolate themselves and be lonely than find themselves making friends who a few weeks later are mean to them.
I will never understand why someone would want to do this. Why, in a world that’s got enough rubbish going on in it, or when you’re living in a community of people who are facing the same issues as you, would you be unkind and make someones life even more difficult than it already is? We would never tolerate our children being unkind to each other so why do we turn a blind eye when its adults? Yet, it happens, and sadly it happens more than we think.
Thankfully, my experience as a teen, despite the upset at the time didn't impact on me too much as an adult. However, I know that there are many, even in the community where I live who are affected by this kind of behaviour and I cant help but think its time for change. What is it going to take for more women to realise that when women stop competing and are kind to each other and work together, amazing things happen?
If you have a story you’d like to share about your experiences of friendship in the military community, good or bad, please do email us firstname.lastname@example.org