[Two Pronged] High school 'mean girl' wants to be Facebook friends
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:
I studied in a private school for high school. My parents did not pay for my education because my father was only a taxi driver and my mother a part-time and occasional labandera. (She took the clothes of other people to wash). I was what they called a "scholarship student." The school gave me free tuition, books, etc so that I would have a chance to get better education than what my family would be able to afford. I was very happy to be given the opportunity to study.
Somehow, my classmates found out. They did not know how to deal with it, and did not treat me as naturally as before. Still, they were mostly kind people.
Enter "Irish," who was not. Her family is much wealthier than mine but does not belong to the level of the Ayalas, etc. She made fun of me, and pretty soon, other girls did too, especially those who belonged to her barkada (group).
I was mostly alone. It was difficult to pretend I was happy in that school, but I did not want my parents to feel bad.
After graduation, Irish did not go to the University of the Philippines (UP) as she failed the entrance exam. I did, and now, I am successful in my career. Irish seems to have had the opposite trajectory. From someone who could command how other people treated me, she is now working in an office not really respected by others.
She keeps on trying to add me as a friend on Facebook, but I keep refusing. During our last high school reunion, she came over and even spoke to me directly. I was polite, but I was not comfortable while she was there.
While she did not mention our not being friends on Facebook, one of her friends "jokingly" said that I have become so mayabang (arrogant). When I said that was untrue, she told me that if what I said were true, why did I refuse to be Facebook friends with some of our classmates? The only one I refused was Irish.
She has again tried to add me as a Facebook friend. Just as I was about to press "accept," I stopped. I really want nothing to do with her, not even be her friend on social media. But what happens if someone brings this up in our next reunion? Please help me.
Thank you for your email.
Scholarship children are just one of the minorities that can suffer in school, which is frequently a milieu where conformity can rule supreme. It is excellent news therefore that you survived the experience to the extent of going to UP and then having a successful career.
What is however particularly interesting is that despite the vicissitudes of your high school days, you still attend reunions, thus voluntarily exposing yourself to Irish and her barkada and by extension to the risk of reliving all the grief and misery that they heaped upon you at school. Is the word "masochist" applicable here?
It would be understandable, though not very edifying, if you attended reunions so that you could parade your success in front of your tormentors and show them that you had risen above their petty humiliations, not to mention their achievements.
What in fact seems to be happening is that you are trying to win them over, with the singular exception of Irish, and she is now attempting to force you to "friend" her by suggesting that if you don't you are mayabang.
Perhaps the time has come to stop tiptoeing around and instead to tell her the truth. It has nothing to do with your post-HS success but is all to do with wanting nothing to do with her because she was the ringleader of those who made your school days a nightmare.
While you are at it, why not rethink this whole reunion business? Don't go at all, or go only to see those people who you really want to see. As for "converting" your former enemies and risking a rerun of your high school rejection, is this really what you want to spend your time on at this stage of your life? Frankly, most people with a school experience similar to yours would avoid reunions like the plague and meet up with those friends that had actually survived the whole sorry experience well away from anyone who brought back the bad memories.
Best of luck,
Thank you very much for your letter. Mr Baer has made the pragmatic suggestion that you no longer attend reunions as a no-fuss, none angst-filled way to solve the "Irish" problem. But Mr Baer is not Filipino and does not understand how meaningful such reunions are to us to the extent that most Filipinos I know would think nothing of flying halfway across the world to attend school reunions.
You ask: "What happens if someone brings up [my not friending Irish] in our next reunion?"
In my opinion, the poet and writer Sarah Manguso has the best answer: "Don't confuse users, hangers-on, or idols with friends. If a former friend asks you why you don't have time to see him or her anymore, say your existing responsibilities have made it impossible to socialize as much as you used to."
Irish etc are trying to pull you back into the past because they have nothing better going for themselves right now. But you do, Lisa. Please remember that. Do not deny your past (especially realizing how far you've come since then) but do not be limited by it the way Irish etc are.
Thus, while they may have bullied you before, the only way they can continue to do so is if you let them. Any inferiority you may have felt then is not what you have to feel now. It will be difficult but you can do it.
You already have by reminding yourself that Irish failed the UP entrance exam and has a dead-end career. You, on the other hand, have had the opposite experience.
I am not asking you to remind yourself of this so you can grind her to a pulp, but so that she and her fellow mean girls will be unable to do that to you.
Please write to us again if there is anything else we can do for you.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.