When I was in Grade 12, Spirit Week at the Estevan Comprehensive School rolled around and with it came “Wouldn’t be Caught Dead in That Day.” Basically, the day was dedicated to dressing in a way that was absurd and abnormal.
At the time, there were some Grade 9 girls who dressed “emo,” by which I mean they had brightly coloured hair, wore a pile of makeup and wore clothes that were unlike the jeans-and-hoodie uniform adapted by the rest of the student body. They were different, and I wasn’t OK with that.
Upper-class girls, both friends of mine and others, decided to dress like the Grade 9 emo girls. We wanted to show them how weird they were, and that we didn’t like it.
I was thrilled about this plan. I woke up bright and early and had a couple of friends help me get ready. We painted streaks in my blonde hair, sketched hearts and stars on my face and loaded on eyeliner.
The look was completely unlike anything I’d ever worn and I justified it to myself by thinking “This is an outfit I wouldn’t be caught dead in, so it’s OK to wear this to school.”
But in all honesty, when I went to school my goal was to make those little girls feel bad about themselves. They were different, I didn’t like it, and I wanted them to know. I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, as lots of other girls arrived at school with backcombed hair and coloured skinny jeans like mine. And at the time, I felt great that the Grade 9ers suffered from our treatment. How powerful it felt to make them feel so small.
I’m going into my fourth and final year of university, so it has been awhile since I’ve been in high school. It’s been a long time since I participated in a spirit day. But I still think about how poorly I treated those students, and I’ve never felt good about it.
Everyone is made to feel badly about themselves at times. It definitely happened to me in high school. The only reason I was in a position to bully those girls was because I’d been bullied myself and had conformed to fit the mould. And that’s what it was: bullying. I’ve heard teachers say there isn’t a bullying problem at ECS, but bullying can be something pretty small. We wanted to make them feel wrong and insignificant and that’s bullying as far as I’m concerned. I was never better than any of those girls, though at the time I believed I was, and I’m definitely sorry.
Going back into another school year, I would love it if this lesson hit home with someone. First, don’t change yourself to fit in with the rest of them. Second, don’t forget what it feels like to be at the receiving end of the taunting. Finally, be nice to each other. High school is hard enough without dressing up in pure spite of someone you’ve never even spoken to. I’m not saying you need to be everyone’s best friend, but be kind when you can and quiet when you can’t.
Tonaya Marr is a 20-year-old student living in Regina. Her favourite colour is blue and if she went to Hogwarts, she wouldn’t be a Gryffindor. Send Tonaya an e-mail at tonaya.m...@gmail.com or tweet her @TonayaMarr.