I do not have a library card because I grew up poor—very, very, After-School Special poor, cockroaches in my bedroom and scavenging from trashcans poor—and I was badly bullied by the kids in my school, leading, eventually, to a group of girls stealing and destroying my library books. I couldn't pay the fines. I couldn't even tell anyone what had happened, because when the scruffy little poor girl complained about the sweet, well-groomed rich kids who had each others' backs, well...I had been down that road. The only people who would believe me were my mother and my teachers, and all I could do by telling them was upset them. I couldn't change anything.
I'm not that girl anymore. But the idea of getting a library card terrifies me, because some small, irrational part of me is convinced, incurably, that if I were to get a library card, those girls from school would show up, and slap my books out of my hands, and leave me standing alone on the sidewalk, sobbing over the loss of one of the things I loved most in the world: the ability to walk into a library with my head up, feeling like the books were free for anybody who wanted to read them.
The library books weren't the worst thing that happened to me during my school career. I was weird, I was geeky, I had frizzy hair and glasses and didn't really "get" a lot of the unspoken rules of the playground. I blew grade curves and didn't let people cheat off me on tests. I was basically invented to be the school punching-bag. But the library books were one of the things I never got over, because the library books taught me, once and for all, that sometimes the bullies win. Sometimes, you can't fight back, you can't stand up for yourself like the adults tell you to, and the bullies. Just. Win.
Phoebe Prince lost, too. But she's never going to be a grown-up, secure from bullies, writing a post like this one. Because she lost to the bullies so hard and so overwhelmingly that she killed herself.
Megan Kelly Hall is organizing YA authors against bullying, in memory of Phoebe Prince. Please. Go and read what she has to say. Consider what the current culture of bullying is doing to us, to our children, to our nieces and nephews, to the children of our friends. Even bullying that you survive can scar you forever, and Phoebe isn't the first to take her own life over this sort of thing. It's gotten so much worse than it was when I was in school, and I cried myself to sleep for years over the bullying.
This needs to stop. We need to stop it.