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DMCs: Behind the Bully

As told to Leah Greenburg

From as far back as kindergarten, Chana Frankel (all names have been changed, of course) had always been the most outspoken, opinionated girl in my class. And if I’m going to be entirely honest, a little bit mean too

Thursday, October 13, 2016

dmc

Photo: Shutterstock/p>

You know what they say about bullies, right? They might seem tough, but there’s always a reason they’re acting out in such a manner, and usually it’s because they’re in tremendous pain. I’m not a social worker or psychologist, but I can tell you that it certainly turned out to be true for the girl who was the class bully back when I was in school. 

But let’s backtrack a bit. From as far back as kindergarten, Chana Frankel (all names have been changed, of course) had always been the most outspoken, opinionated girl in my class. And if I’m going to be entirely honest, a little bit mean too. 

Okay. A lot mean. So I feel weird saying that for some reason she was usually nice to me! 

When I think back, I just feel this utter relief that for some reason I can’t explain, Chana actually approved of me most of the time, and when I remember how she treated other girls in the class, particularly Yocheved, I feel like it was a narrow escape.

Photo: Shutterstock

Poor Yocheved. Every bully has a scapegoat, and Yocheved was Chana’s. Chana claimed Yocheved’s habits drove her up the wall; Yocheved had allergies and was constantly blowing her nose and leaving tissues everywhere, and she was also extremely disorganized. Whenever a teacher asked for our homework assignments, Yocheved would be frantically searching through the piles of loose papers in her book bag, used tissues scattering everywhere. It could have been comical, but Chana would be sitting like a queen, loudly commenting things like, “She’s walking around with a garbage bag on her back,” and “Watching her is enough to turn me off from eating my lunch.” 

As I mentioned, really mean comments. And while Yocheved’s face turned redder and her search increasingly more frantic, the rest of us would avoid her eyes — because who wanted to associate with someone like that? And more importantly, if we did, what would Chana say? Would we be next? 

Chana even went so far as to take Yocheved’s belongings and hide them around the classroom or school, making Yocheved feel like she was losing her mind. Shabbos was more of the same; we had Bnos groups and Chana continued to act horribly to Yocheved there too. Eventually Yocheved stopped attending. 

One Shabbos, I remember my Bnos group was sitting in the ladies section in shul schmoozing before Minchah. Suddenly I became aware of a scratching sound. I turned to look — and there was Chana, sitting beside me scratching something into the wooden pew with her key. My mouth dropped open. It was Shabbos! She’d etched a nasty sentence beginning with “Yocheved is…” 

I exchanged horrified glances with our friend Devory (whom Chana also approved of). There was no point in urging her to stop. She wouldn’t have. And no one else had seen what she had done.

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