The Summer She Saved Me

July 11, 2013


The summer between 7th and 8th grade, my group of friends decided that they hated me. That group of girls made Lord of the Flies look like hopscotch.

I spent my entire 7th grade year living in terror, wondering when it was going to be my turn to be “out.” Because I knew it was coming, and coming it did. Summer.

You know what’s weird about bullying? People talk about it all the time. The endless weeks of ass-kicking at recess, the lies they tell their mothers about the bruises and black eyes, because the backlash from the truth terrifies more than any fist. The extended legs that trip them in the crowded, nasty hallway next to the choir room. That kind of bullying? It’s front page news. For good reason. But.

There’s bullying of a different flavor, and that kind of flavor is feminine. Boys duke it out in the field after school and shake hands over bloody noses. Girls destroy each other. They do it in a manner that is indicative of their gender. Death by Exclusion. Girls don’t beat your ass; girls decide you don’t exist. And then proceed accordingly.

One day, you walk to school with a sack lunch, hang your coat on a hook, walk over to the same group of girls you sat with yesterday, and they look right through you. Turn their backs like they never even saw you.

But you know they saw you. Of course they did.

The Summer of Shunning was fuck-all terrible. Especially because those hyenas forgot to ignore me. They’d call and say, “You know what we did today? Remember all of the pictures we took the last day of school? Well, today, we went through them and picture you were in, we burned in Shannon’s backyard.”

It was a summer I’d love to forget.  I wanted the world to swallow me whole.

The world didn’t answer, that bastard.

Instead, the universe brought me an unexpected guest. My sister. The older sister who pushed me down the stairs and snarled and hissed and demanded that I leave her alone when I was a child.  That sister.

That sister somehow understood. Maybe because she has a history of shitting in her own nest but I like to think that she softened. That she knew I had no bearings.

That summer, she was working for Daddy-o (didn’t we both, sir!) and had been issued a company car, which was horrid and awesome at the same time. Horrid: Silver Oldsmobile. Long as an anaconda. Awesome: Daddy owns the damn gas station and has the magic gas card–free gas all summer long.

She deemed the vehicle “The Serpent,” because it was long and thin and had a lazy way of navigating turns. It didn’t so much turn as glide.

It made me laugh, that she called it “The Serpent.”

She even made up her own little ditty to the Beach Boys–we were “Serpin’ USA.” And I laughed so hard I’d thought I’d break and loved her then. I loved her.

We Serped around that summer, radio blasting, angry and taking on the world, Journey screaming from the radio.

We Serped and Serped, slithering around town.

It was the summer my sister saved me.

That’s what I want to remember.


{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon July 11, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I know this story. I know it because I have one. too. I wrote about it here
It’s a two parter. I don’t usually put links in comments (sorry to be spammy) but I think you can relate and I wrote this before we found each other in these internets.
It was eighth grade for me. And my brother saved me, too. I entered high school friendless and had to go select my locker alone while all of the other girls went together to get theirs. While I was standing and struggling to open it, my older brother walked through the freshman hall with all of his hot friends and they all made a big loud deal about me. Suddenly, I was surrounded by new girls, all wanting to be my friend.
It’s so hard to be a adolescent girl. Hard and beautiful, all wrapped together.


TKW July 11, 2013 at 3:17 pm

You know what? FUCK spammy and fuck “supposed” etiquitte. The term “spammy” gets me riled up because if you relate to something and it moves you and you’ve been there, you should link it and not think twice. That’s not spammy–that is an extended hand. Sure, you are sharing your post, but you also are sharing sisterhood and empathy.

ps: keep reminding me of the beautiful in the hard. I think I’m losing my way.


Biz July 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm

For some reason either I was oblivious to it, or it just didn’t happen to me, but I was nice so I got nice back. I was friends with all the groups – the geeks, the athletes, didn’t matter, I liked everyone, and more important I wanted to be liked!

But this post stirred a memory I hadn’t thought of for a while. I should write a post about it! In any event, we had a handicapped kid in the 8th grade, when I was in 7th grade. Mind you, in 7th grade I was as tall as I was going to get (all of 5.3″) but I towered over a of kids at that age.

This boy Jonathan, who had a trachea (sp?!) in his throat because he needed help breathing, was walking down the stairs when this 8th grade boy decided it would be fun to push him down the stairs. As luck would have it, I was walking up the stairs just as I saw this unfold.

I went apeshit. I helped Jonathan up, asked if he was okay, and when I took one look at that bully (still remember is name: John Tamburino) I went apeshit and started beating the crap out of him. No joke – I punched him square in the nose until it started bleeding, and all his so called friends just kind of ran in the other direction.

I think my Dad was called (my Mom worked downtown) and it’s vague after that, but I will tell you no one bothered Jonathan after that! Sadly, he passed away in high school, but I like to think he’s my guardian angel all these many years later. :D


TKW July 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm


Oh, he had a tracheotomy? I am so glad he had you at the end of those stairs, and HELL YA for taking that bully to the mattresses. A girl who goes Apeshit when she sees something wrong is my kind of person.


Biz July 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I forgot to add, that since I have a twin sister, I was born with a best friend – so maybe she and I just stuck together and said FU to everyone else?! :D


TKW July 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm


You have a twin? I am so interested about that–did you always feel that connection or was there a time where you wanted to break free? Sorry. That is pretty invasive and nosy. I just had such a conflicted relationship with my sister. I guess maybe, deep down I need to hear stories. Which is sticky, sticky business. But it sounds like yours will turn out aces.


Katybeth July 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm

One of those girls friended me on Facebook. I’ve never said anything. She chooses to remember those days as wine and roses and for her they were at the expense of so many others. Fast forward to 2013…. she is sad, alone, and with a son who is a bully and a daughter who lives in the Northwest with her two grandchildren that she has never met. Daughter is forever in trouble with the law and drugs. Funny, how things turn out. I can afford to be kind now, and I relish in it :-D. And she did teach me one thing-Never exclude. Hard and fast rule. To know me is to be included for better and sometimes my friends and son would say for worse.
The haters and the bullies brought you and your sister together, that’s the part I would choose to remember….Of-course, I’m also not oppose to spitting every time you say their names, either!


TKW July 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm


An Alpha girl friended you on FB? Hello, mean girl! Whenever I think back to that time (and dammit, I dream about it every other week even though I hate it) I just wished I’d believed in myself more. I just took it.


Jennifer July 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm

This happened to me towards the end of my 8th grade year. Somehow another girl had joined in with our group, and she decided that I needed to go. Friends that I had been with forever slowly started turning their back on me. It was obvious I had no place. I would like to say I’m over it, but even thinking of it now, it still burns. Probably because I still don’t understand why it happened.

I didn’t have a sister to save me. I don’t know how I made it through. Probably grit.


TKW July 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm


Kudos to you and your grit, because those bitches wrecked me, and if you spend one more second trying to figure it out, GOOD LUCK. Those venomous amphibians attack in mysterious and sneaky ways. I was so lucky to have a summer with the Serpent and a three month period where my sister felt empathy. *hugging your 8th grade self. I know.*


D. A. Wolf July 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Yeah, it’s the girls. And… I hate to say it… the women, who are so judgmental and critical in ways that men would never think to be.

I think I blocked it all out. Being a nerd. And being pudgy. And having an obese mother that kids made fun of as well.


I’m glad I blocked it out, and gladder still that whatever my own kids went through, for all the grief they may have given each other at times, they also watched out for each other. Sometimes siblings do that. It’s what we hope for.



Jen July 11, 2013 at 5:02 pm

This hits home for me, only it was the transition from 8th grade to 9th grade, which happened to be the first year of high school. I went from having a tight knit group of friends to no one, sadly to this day I still don’t know why and I still get upset when I think about it. Oddly enough a transfer to a different high school halfway through 9th grade worked out by 10th and 11th grade and I again had some good friends.

To this day I’m apprehensive about having close friends and I’m in my 30’s with two kids. I don’t think thE wounds ever fully heal.


TKW July 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm


I don’t have close friends either. Collatertal Damage.


Jody July 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

Bullshit. I am your close friend, whether you like it or not.


TKW July 20, 2013 at 7:29 am


Which is why you get all of the “Am I crazy or is it just me?” calls.

I was referring to friends in my town. Kinda scarce. Eh, fuckit. :) I have you and Camille and Greg. Worth the drive every time.


Kim Jorgensen Gane July 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Ever. Single. Time. How do you do it?!! Are you SURE you can’t come to BlogHer? I haven’t found a roomie yet. Just sayin’…I’d really love to give you a big ol’ sister hug right about now, or I’d settle for the end of the month. Wish I’d had a sister. Bad.


Alexandra July 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I can’t even talk.

This is so mofo moving, brilliant, to the gut, it makes me want to scream so someone hears me.



TKW July 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm


The highlight of my day is that I made you say mofo. #smallvictorties. xo


Jamie July 11, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I pee my pants a little every time my fb newsfeed says you have a new post…they never disappoint. The part about the Serp tore my guts up because I know how that relationship turned out. Well, not how it turned out, but I’ve read about some of the bad times. I’m rambling but that’s just what your words do to me, girlfriend.


TKW July 12, 2013 at 2:13 pm


I pee my pants every time my newsfeed says that you have a new post. Oh, wait. I pee my pants all the time which is why I earned the childhood nickname of “Leaky.” But truly, I love your writing. You got chops, kid.


Alison July 11, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I feel punched in the gut for you, and I’ve never experienced this kind of effed up bullying. You are THAT good. Seriously, be my mentor?

That said, that sucked. That they chose to make you invisible. How can people hold so much power?

Sister relationships are complicated, aren’t they? I love mine to death, but there was a time when we didn’t talk for a year. That hurt. I hope that your relationship with your sister is now….. clearer? Sweeter? Better?



TKW July 12, 2013 at 7:50 am


I haven’t seen or spoken to her in over 12 years. But thank you for your kind wishes.

I don’t think I’m qualified to mentor a blue-footed booby, but you sure made my day.


TKW July 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm


Just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t calling YOU a blue-footed booby. That would be assholery and mean, and I am mean, but not to you.

I guess I was trying to convey that I tend to not believe in myself. But I am aces at encouraging others. So email me if you want to. You are terrific.


Barbara July 12, 2013 at 3:52 am

Must confess I have no personal experience with bullying. Frankly, I don’t think we did that when I was young, the times were different and the world more concerned with WWII and its aftermath. Nor do I remember any problems in high school, although I went to boarding school, so that may have made the difference.
As far as my kids are concerned, none of them ever came home and complained, but they may have kept it to themselves.
I suspect it’s gotten worse, for reasons I can’t imagine. Or perhaps people are more open about things like this than they used to be.


Amy July 12, 2013 at 5:20 am

Love that your sister is the one who saved you that summer. The only thing worse than being bullied as a kid is having to watch when it goes on with your own daughters. Praying everyday that they remember what it feels like and never give in to the mean girl temptation.


TKW July 12, 2013 at 2:15 pm


The few times it’s happened to my daughters, I LOST it. I really did. Tigers have nothing on me.


Lindsay July 12, 2013 at 5:49 am

New commenter – long time reader.

I lived through this too. And now I’m friends with one of the alphas at another school at work. It’s hard for me to hear her talk about how their school had none of these problems and she just can’t understand why, even if the girls did this to me, I’d have problems with it still. Why I can’t just completely let it go.

It’s because you never get back the piece of you that they’ve taken.

You are young and impressionable and fragile and delicate and they break you apart and toss the pieces to the ground so that you are left trying to fit the puzzle back together. And I’m convinced that there’s at least one piece that never gets put back just quite right; therefore, the entire thing sticks with you forever. Changes who you are.

I dread this with my daughter. Pray it never happens.

Praying for you and your family.


TKW July 12, 2013 at 8:04 am


Thank you for commenting and sharing your experience. I agree that it does change you. You never quite believe in yourself the same way that you used to. But it does let you know what you’re made of. It’s a crummy way to learn it, but you do.


Arnebya July 12, 2013 at 6:27 am

Eighth grade. Middle sister. Saved me. Best advice in the world: She fucks with you again, you kick her dead in the cooch. Why yes, yes I did have the opportunity to use that advice. And it worked. In fact, it worked in 1985 and again in 2001 because sometimes adults need crotch shots from hard boots too.


TKW July 12, 2013 at 8:04 am


I wish you’d have been riding in the Serpent with us.


Tammy July 12, 2013 at 8:56 am

Why are girls so cruel to each other? It would be easier to just get a bloody nose and have it be over with. While middle school was its own living form of hell, I feel so fortunate that I didn’t have to deal with mean girls as well. How wonderful that your sister chose to grow out of her teenage angst at just the time you needed her. What a gift.


Killian July 12, 2013 at 10:08 am

Oooh yeah. I dealt with the shunning, too. Small, Catholic school in NY, 9 girls and 9 boys in my class. I was the outcast, as I’d skipped a grade several years prior and would never -ever- break their ranks and be totally accepted.

Unfortunately, I resorted to letting my fists speak my words when someone messed with me. So not the answer, but I was alone and angry – oh, so angry. And I had no other way to channeling it. I finally found some friends in the “new girls” who showed up in 6th grade, but I never had the right clothes, the right shoes, the right hair, the right anything to be accepted by the “cool” kids.

My kids have all felt the sting of being bullied, although my middle one felt it least. My oldest kid basically said, “Fuck off” to them. My youngest was an emotional wreck that trashed his grades. My middle one just went quieter than she already was and stared with eyes that hissed, “Touch me and I’ll slit your throat.”

It truly amazes me just how cruel kids can be, and how far into denial parents are willing to go about it.


TKW July 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm


A girl that goes quiet and says, “touch me and I’ll slit your throat”–that girl has a Mama that I want to meet.


Killian July 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

The feeling is mutual!

My middle kid is so very much like me in so many ways, and that’s one of them. However, she needs to develop my fuse and my patience and my filter now that she’s becoming an adult. They haven’t quite arrived yet.


TKW July 13, 2013 at 6:42 am


I am still waiting for my filter to arrive.


Ami July 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm

This happened to me in fourth grade. Thirty year later I still grind my teeth when I think of those girls. My Dad saved me. We moved over the summer and he gave me the best advice: Don’t wait for someone to pick you as a friend, you do the picking. So I’d approach other slightly awkward girls who looked lonely and talk to them. It’s amazing how many of us there were in school when I started looking.


Erin July 12, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Ami, there were masses of us… What an awesome lesson to learn so young. Lucky girls who were picked by you.


TKW July 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm


I actually cried a little when I read your comment. What wise and well-thought advice. I sure wish I would have been the awkward teenage girl who crossed your path.


Elaine A. July 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm

There was a girl in my gym class in 7th grade who thought she was hot snot. FTR, I HATED gym class. Anyway, we were changing one day to go do hurdles or some other horrible middle school “sport” and she looked me straight in the eye and said, “You have chubby hands” and all of her friends around me started laughing. I had no retort. I have of course though of a million other things to say to her since then.

I still “know” her through FB and we actually made amends in high school but man, that shit sticks with you.

Glad your sister was there for you. That’s so wonderful.


Killian July 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

Isn’t it amazing how stuff sticks?

In 9th grade, I had my hair cut short. I was mostly thin, but awkward as hell. A guy saw me in the cafeteria and said, “You look like a female Fred Flintstone!” and everyone laughed.

29 years later, and I have NEVER had my hair cut short again. And never will.


TKW July 16, 2013 at 10:49 am


When he was a bit younger, Daddy-o was a dead ringer for Fred Flintstone. It was uncanny. But what happened to you wasn’t funny.

I cut my hair SUPER short the year that Halle Berry and Charlize Theron were rockin’ the short hair. Once it was all cut off, I realized. “Shit. You need a face like Halle Berry or Charlize Theron to pull this off.” I looked like…Mark Hamill.


TKW July 20, 2013 at 7:32 am

Tagged the wrong person, Elaine A.! Apologies!


TKW July 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Elaine A.,

What a gift to make amends. I hope you find the good points, the points when you were young and reckless and just DID.

They’re with me every day, but I know better.


TKW July 23, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Elaine A.,

I kind of love those reckless moments (maybe because I am such a careful girl). When you tell someone to chop your hair down to inches, and you have faith…eh, fuckit. Even if it makes you look like Mark Hamill. At least you know now…


Erin July 12, 2013 at 7:45 pm

The twelve-year-old in me is choked up. You’ve taken me right back to a sweltering Florida August morning, eyes trained on my own feet as I tentatively walked up my group of girl friends before school, clutching my paper-grocery-bag-wrapped books with a death grip. The giggles and mutters I was met with have never left me. Seemingly overnight, a completely false rumor took my friends from me. Days later they decided they were my friends again, as preteen girls do, but my confidence was never the same. Girls can be vicious. I’m glad you had a savior.


TKW July 13, 2013 at 6:46 am


You are never the same. I will never forget the day I arrived at school and the SAME viper (S.N.) had told my entire 6th grade class that I was “gay for Karen.” I was not, in fact, gay for Karen–not that there’s one damn thing wrong about that–but I had two weeks of Hell to pay for that little rumor.


Jane July 13, 2013 at 7:34 am

The summer I was shunned was between 6th and 7th grade. I pulled a “Harriet” (as in Harriet the Spy) and left my journal lying around. Needless to say, the boy with the purple socks* and Sport* and Janie* found it and the shunning began. Luckily, no bullying, but being ignored and treated like an outcast hurt. Deep.

Thank goodness for my 3 sisters. My only friends that dreary summer.

*names have been changed to protect the shunners.


TKW July 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Jane, my very sweet friend,

Ostracism IS bullying. That’s why you felt it. xoxo


Dyanne @ I Want Backsies July 13, 2013 at 11:44 am

Wow, you caught me right between the eyes with that! It was 6th grade for me, and I’ll never forget how hurt and confused I was.

I have a 14 year old daughter, and she experienced “mean girls” as early as kindergarten. She’s made out of different stuff than me and handles it much better than I ever did, but last fall, it nearly got her down when her best friend dumped her for a new best friend.

Love your post, love your writing.


TKW July 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Hi Dyanne! Thank you for commenting and coming by. I go NUTS when my girls have any kind of bullying issues. Even the tiny stuff–I orbit. I just lose my shit.


Rob July 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

You are so lucky to have an older sister, who saved you during a difficult time. It sounds like you have a wonderful family!

I was the oldest. It was really hard on my youngest siblings when my father abandoned our family when no one was home to see him go; and other kids’ parents made their children cut off their friendships with us because of it – making a bad situation worse. I put up a wall. That wall is still there.

Seventh grade through Ninth grade – a nightmare of verbal bullying from boys. I was 16 when I hit menstruation, so I was an underdeveloped and a very short girl, whose mother made me dress in her idea of appropriate clothing – knitted pant suits, etc. She gave me Shirley Temple curls in 7th grade with smock dresses she made herself (1969). Her good intentions made me a laughing stock.

Seventh grade, I also received the girl shunning and bullying. It was horrible. I befriended a bullied girl because I felt sorry for her, and ended up in the guidance office (her parental interference to tattle). I ate lunch by myself every day. I was the target of ugly remarks, declared loudly to get a laugh – plus notes on the locker. I played an Oboe – how cool is that? I was a good student and wouldn’t let others cheat off my tests. I cried every day after school.

I found new friends in the 8th grade through the YMCA Leader Corps (helped with swim lessons and gym classes). Yes, I know it sounds geeky, but at least I had a niche. A lot of that group was popular – good at gymnastics – cheerleaders. I was not, but I was attached. I had a clique. And that makes all the difference during the brutal years before high school (and they were my friends throughout high school, too – they were still cheerleaders). I had a group of friends and a best friend in the group that held me up against the bullying. It eventually came to an end by the 10th grade.

Sisters are the best! You have a good one :)


Kat July 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

Girls are awful. Unfortunately I think we’re all capable of that group mentality where we’re willing to leave someone out in order to fit in to the larger group. Until we become the one who is left out and suddenly we realize how messed up the whole thing is. Or we grow up and realize how messed up it is. They God for sisters. Mine have always been my safety net. Still are.


Sherri July 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Ugh – brought a tear to my eye. I have been new girl, shunned girl, dork girl, in girl, cool girl – the gamut. Those years being ignored or banned from lunch tables or just as you describe – the photo burning (in my case – guess who we invited over instead or guess where we’re all going without you), etc. – were, as you said – fuck-all terrible. Hard to forgive those misguided bitches. Same with my now well-adjusted, popular, happy high school senior – she had a few years of bullies off and on (one I saw at the pool today and felt the familiar rage). Sorry you went through it too – makes my heart ache. Bullies are always there, though – good to get it all out of the way somewhat. My SIL still bullies me – won’t allow me or my kids at family gatherings, tells crazy stories about me, bans me from certain events – terrible. Totally wish I had my own sister :). Yours definitely saved you. Very sweet.


Tiffany July 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I am so glad she stepped up and saved you.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri July 22, 2013 at 10:38 am

I think we all have lived our personal episode of “Mean Girls.” I wrote about mine recently. I discovered a note that wasn’t meant for me and in it, it said, “I hate Rudri. I don’t know why you would be friends with her.” This, of course, was discovered after she just had a slumber party at my house. These are humiliations that are hard to forget and to this day, it shapes how I view friendship. Toxic friend/person – a cue to walk away. Quickly.


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me October 12, 2015 at 1:50 pm

I believe I remember this one…it’s great. xo


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