Thursday, November 15, 2007


Yesterday while reading Jezebel I came across the story of a Missouri teenager who committed suicide after receiving mean messages from a boy she liked on MySpace. Oh, but it gets so much worse. The "boy" was actually her ex-friend's mother. The mother knew that this girl had struggled with depression. The mother, upon learning the girl had killed herself, expressed no remorse because the poor girl had tried to hurt herself before.

It is so very sickening, I can't recount all the horrible details. Suffice it to say that reading the story of this poor girl's life and death, I understand the vigilante urge for mob justice. I want to call this woman and scream at her that she's the reason a child is dead. I want to show up at her business and spit on her. I want to stand on her front lawn and wait until she comes out to get her mail and then lash out at her with my fists and words.

Obviously I won't be doing any of those things, but it's noteworthy that I want to because I'm not an especially violent or vengeful person. I'm firmly in the "eye-for-an-eye makes everyone blind" approach to justice.

In 2001, when the DC sniper was crawling around local parking lots shooting strangers at random, I appeared on an MSNBC talk show to talk about what it was like going to school in DC in a post-September 11 world (no, I don't remember which show-- it was MSNBC, aren't they all the same?). When the host asked me if I thought the DC sniper should get the death penalty when he was caught, I said no. The host really pressed me, saying things like "but he's obviously evil and disturbed," and "so would you want him living next door to you?" I kept my cool and responded that morals only meant something if you held to them under the toughest circumstances, so no, I would not want the death penalty for the DC sniper. The host got pissed that he couldn't break me and went to commercial.

Overlooking the fact that I managed to be so sanctimonious at nineteen, you can get my basic point. I'm not a violent person. I use my words, and I use lots of them. But I think of this woman, her total lack of remorse, the fact that there are no laws on the books to protect people from online harassment, the gall it takes to press charges for property destruction against the parents of the child you drove to suicide, and I want to cause her pain.

It seems especially cruel that an adult woman would inflict those kind of mind games on a teenage girl. Believe me when I say that every day, I'm thankful that I never have to go back and do adolescence again. It was bad enough the first time, and not to sound too critical of today's whippersnappers, it was still not this bad back in my day. I can watch My Super Sweet 16 as an adult and make grand pronouncements about Today's Youth and Consumer Culture, but I never had one of those girls running my sophomore class. I had other girls say mean things about me in the halls (and to be fair, I also said mean things about other girls in the halls) but they were never captured and preserved for posterity online. There's not enough money in the world to make me repeat those years, but much rather I'd do it again as I experienced it than start over again today.

Since both geography and the bounds of human decency keep me from lashing out at this woman the way I would like to, I would add here for any teenage girls who happen to stumble across: I'm so sorry. This totally the worst time in your life. I get it, I really do. You have to get up really early and spend all day learning a lot of stuff you won't ever use, surrounded by a lot of people who can be really, really mean. And the adults around you... well, a lot of them don't get that it sucks. A few do, but they are few and far between, and their hands are tied by all sorts of regulations and rules and they're crazy busy and overworked. And a lot of stuff like, oh, watching out for the kind of non-violent but insanely cruel mental warfare that only teenage girls can inflict with such brutality... well, it gets lost in the shuffle. I totally get why you think life sucks. If I had to do that all over again, I would think life sucked, too.

So take this lesson from your Big Sis EJ to heart: right now it sucks, but it gets so much better. I promise! People start to chill out around your junior year of high school, and from there it's only a short time until college. And you can be anything you want in college! Experiment with bisexuality and Republican politics in the same year! Go to Italy on study abroad and make out with a European dude! Take Psych 101 and later tell all your roommates about how sad the monkey experiment was!

And then you go to work, where they have rules about the people you spend your days with being awful bitches to one another (unless you work in fashion, media or in politics, in which case... well, good luck). Trust me, your harried seventh-grade homeroom teacher has nothing on a Human Resources department.

Just hold on, and know that everyone-- and I do mean everyone-- is secretly terrified that they are weird and abnormal and strange and that everyone else knows it.

Oh, and my own little contribution besides posting here? I forwarded this to a friend who forwarded it to this guy. Who wrote this. And yes, there is some kind of poetic justice in that the internet, the same medium, they used to destroy this girl, is the same tool that is going to hold them accountable.

1 comment:

EclecticBlue said...

Sing it, sister. Back in high school, when I used to say I was dying for it to be over, I. hated. it. when some "grown-up" would be like, "But why? These are the best days of your life!"

Clearly, those people never went to college.