DEAR KELLY: I’m in high school and there are three girls whom I have never liked, and they have never liked me. This goes back to middle school. They have always hated me even though I never really knew why. Two weeks ago, they started a rumor that I like to do certain sexual things with guys. It was so ridiculous that I didn’t think anyone would believe it. But people are believing them, and the rumor is spreading.
Recently my friend from middle school, who doesn’t go to our high school, texted me that she heard the rumors at her school. When I confronted the three girls, they simply said that they were not rumors and tried to turn it on me. They said if it wasn’t true, I wouldn’t be freaking out so much. One of them subtweeted something like, “Don’t deny it. You know its true.” I replied, “She talks trash and she is trash.” The texting war started from there. They were texting me so many mean things that my friends and I gave it right back to them. Things were pretty ugly. Later that night, someone called my parents and told them that I was bullying those girls and that I was starting trouble. When I got home, my parents asked to see my phone and read my texts between me and the girls. I showed my parents the tweets (didn’t want to tell them about all the rumors because I think they would freak on me and just focus on the whole sex thing). They agreed the other girls started it, but they wanted me to apologize so the war between us would end. I refused to apologize, and they took my phone away and put me on restriction.
Honestly, Kelly, should I have to apologize for people talking lies about me and spreading rumors? How weak does that make me look to say sorry for just defending myself? But my parents say that until I’m willing to apologize, they won’t give me back my phone and I’ll continue to be on restriction. Lame. What should I do? I’m prepared not to give in. I think my parents are being so unreasonable. I need help with my parents and don’t know what to do.
DEAR MMH: Where to start? And with regard to this letter, who got it all started?
Every story has two sides. I’m only hearing one side, so it’s hard to make a definitive answer on who started the whole thing. From the story you tell, it seems like they started it by spreading rumors about you. If that is the case, they were wrong and you are owed an apology.
Did this rumor spreading come out of nowhere? Or have there been past situations that have been building up to this? I guess the important question is how long has this been brewing and, better yet, why so much bad blood?
The three girls were completely in the wrong to talk about you and your sex life (or non-sex life), regardless of whether or not it is true. The reality is that it is no one’s business what anyone does with someone else. End of story.
Indirect bullying comes in all forms. Spreading rumors is one. I say this because I think your parents need to know what the girls said and how it seems to have spread pretty far if your friend who doesn’t go to your school heard it. Your parents need to know that you felt bullied as well from the beginning. While your response was not right, it felt more like defending yourself rather than being the initiator or aggressor.
Hopefully, your parents hear the whole story and realize that while you might owe them an apology for saying mean or ugly things, the same apology is owed back. The unfortunate thing is that we can not control other people so they may never be willing to admit fault or that they did any wrong to you. If your parents push and demand an apology, perhaps that apology looks something like this, “I am sorry for any mean things I texted when I was feeling hurt about the rumors that were spread about me. I realize that I reacted in anger and said some things I should not have. I hope we can agree to move forward and not have another situation like this happen again. In the future if we have issues with each other, I hope we can talk about it in person and resolve things without taking it to texting or tweeting. I will do my best to move on and let tomorrow be a new day.”
If the other girls are unwilling to let go of what happened or continue to spread the rumors, go speak with the school administration and let them help you deal with this. Perhaps the girls need to hear from an adult that their behavior is not acceptable and that spreading rumors is a form of bullying. Also if school administrators are aware of what is happening, hopefully they will step in and mediate the situation so the rumors stop.
Your parents are trying to avoid drama and have you take accountability for your part in what happened. I respect that. But they need to hear what went down before all the tweeting and texting happened so they can relay the entire story to whoever contacted them. The outcome might not change, but hopefully all parties are held responsible for how things landed where it did.
Gossip can start big drama. Remember this feeling so you don’t do it to others. If it happens again to you, don’t engage. Seek adult help immediately. Let adults help you figure out the best way to handle the situation. Put your energy into something more positive and let your parents know that you learned an important lesson and you will work hard to not let this happen again.
Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email krichardson@ sacbee.com.