Facebook. A picture of a young girl. Eyes twinkling with mischief. A rascal!
Second comment: “Fatty”
For a moment I was almost physically paralysed as I read that comment. Outraged.
But … realisation dawned … the author of the comment was a Facebook friend … the girl herself … now all grown up … years distancing her from the young girl who was looking out at me from the screen.
My outrage subsided. Replaced with anger. Laced with sadness. Thoughts swirling in my mind. Bile catching the back of my throat. Hot tears forming and stinging my eyes.
I couldn’t scroll past. I had no words. My mind was a jumble of thoughts …
What if that was a picture of a completely different young girl …
…would my Facebook friend have penned that same word against her picture? Probably not.
… would she have thought that same word about her? I don’t know.
What if a different young girl … my daughter … her daughter … someone else’s daughter … saw that picture … read that comment below it … compared herself with that young girl … would she see the rascally, mischievous, little girl and allow herself to imagine what fun they could have together … or would she allow that word to take root inside her and begin to define how she saw herself?
I was back to outrage!
I tried to scroll past … but I couldn’t. I was paralysed here … looking at the picture and not able to connect it to the word that jarred in me sitting just lines below.
I penned a response … clumsily … but something to ease that bile in my throat and allow my fingers to scroll on:
“oh my goodness … stop! Don’t go there … for all the young girls we know!”
And Facebook does what Facebook does and attracts other comments and other attention. In the midst of this a glimmer of the why comes out.
This word was a repeat of what my Facebook friend had heard when she was that young girl all those years ago.
She was just repeating what had been cruelly spoken over her.
Only now … here she was, the grown up girl, saying those same cruel words to her younger self.
The bullied becomes a bully … to herself … and those words are all the more powerful because she speaks them over herself … she cannot escape that voice very easily.
So, still, I am outraged!
Outraged … but with a little more understanding … with hotter tears behind my eyes … with anger that those words still carry power because they are still spoken over that young girl who lives inside my grown up friend.
So I revisit my clumsy first comment .. and edit … to a still clumsy comment:
“oh my goodness … stop! Don’t go there … not for all the young girls we know … but for yourself!”
And, yet, I am still drawn back to this conversation with my Facebook friend.
On holiday I read a book … a children’s book … recommended to me by a friend … about a little refugee boy … bullied by the cruel words of other children. And there is a line in that book which has stuck with me:
“Sometimes words hang around longer than people, even when you don’t want them to.”
Isn’t that just so true?
Those children who spoke that “Fatty” word over my Facebook friend are LONG gone … but here we are years later with the word still hanging around … still being repeated … still being reinforced … still landing … still blinding her from the gorgeous, mischievous, cheeky little girl that she actual was!
My Facebook friend isn’t a distant stranger that I have followed through a long chain of someone who knows someone … she is a woman who I know in actual REAL life.
I know her … her sisters … her family … people who love and care for her … people who are for her and want to champion her to be ALL that she can be.
She is a fabulous, gorgeous, woman who I have watched grow up, mature and blossom in lots of different ways. She is an amazing mum, a fun filled wife and a loyal friend to many!
But … she also holds a little girl inside her … her little, younger, self who she calls “Fatty” … and I want to tell that little girl that she can silence the bullies by not repeating their words when she grows up to be the woman that I know she will become.
I want to whisper to that little girl, ‘Always remember that “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” and use your words wisely – they have “the power of life and death” in them.’
I also know that there is a deeper discomfort within me … a reason why I keep coming back to this conversation … a reason why it stings within me … because in hearing her write “Fatty” … my Facebook friend might as well have been shouting it directly at me …
… I recognise the voice … the words may be different … but there are the same echoes of old that I still speak over myself …
So … I need to pull up a chair and have a conversation much closer to home … with the little girl I hold inside of me – to remind her that she is fearfully and wonderfully made and to use her words wisely because they have power!