I have never been the type of person to let one simple incident completely alter my personality; it has always been a string of events that lead me to change myself. During my junior year, I was getting over my emotional problems and my insecurities of being bisexual. I felt awkward about coming out because I was afraid that my peers would judge me and I would be treated unfairly. For awhile, I was incorrect about my fears, that is, until I met a girl named Tiffany. She was a stuck up girl in my third period dance class who did just about anything for attention. In this case, she decided to use my sexuality as an excuse to try to pick on me. Because I was in a vulnerable state of mind from the year before, I let her; however, standing up for myself would have at least made her bullying toward me less severe.

I remember how she would take a really long time to change her clothes since she always talked to her friends. Our lockers were next to each other, so to my great annoyance, I always had to wait for her to move because she would not do so if I simply asked. I suppose my waiting for her led her to believe that I was watching her dress or something.

"Um…can you please move a little over to the left? I need to get my clothes out of my locker," I asked as nicely as I could. Tiffany turned around and gave me a look of disgust before speaking to another person in a language I do not understand. I tried to just get dressed and not worry about what she was telling the other girl, but could not because I heard her say words in Mandarin that I actually was familiar with (such as homosexual). People have said the same types of words and told me what they meant. Not only that, but she also used enough English words, such as locker, so I would know she was talking about me. Rather than standing up for myself at that moment, I ignored her idiotic behavior.

Pretty soon, other girls in our class were rude to me as well. Tiffany had told them that I was checking her out in the locker room, which discouraged the other girls from being friends with me. I knew the rumor was false, yet I failed to justify myself. I also remember some things that Tiffany said to me all the time as well:

"Lauren, stop listening to our conversations."

"Why are your dancing moves like that? They're so ungraceful."

"Hey shut up, she's coming!"

Despite all of that, Tiffany was simply someone who was bothersome and was trying to get the wrong type of attention out of me - the type I would not give her. One day, however, she got to me to where I went from being annoyed by her to wanting to inflict pain upon her.

I recall wanting to dress quickly so I could avoid any sort of drama, and also so I could hang out with my friends before fourth period. A habit most girls in our class shared was not locking our lockers because we wanted to change faster. Besides, who would steal our clothes? Nevertheless, I grabbed her shorts on accident one day. Her locker was right above mine; it was an honest mistake. Noticing my error, I quickly put them back. However, it was too late and she had already seen me.

"What, are you trying to dress like me too? What the hell is it with you?"

"Honestly, I wasn't paying attention and I went in your locker by accident."

She glared for a second and then got in my way so I couldn't get my own shorts. I then decided to pretend that I was looking in my bag, which I put on my left shoulder while waiting for her to move. However, she kept moving closer to me while dressing and I would instinctively move away. I bumped into her friend and after apologizing, turned around quickly and accidentally hit Tiffany with my bag.

"What the fuck was that for?" she said, shoving me. I got up silently and shoved her back; she fell backwards and slid a couple of inches. I then got my shorts out of my locker. Once they were on my knees, Tiffany gave me a hard push, and then her friend shoved me on the floor. I jumped up and put my clothes all the way on. All I could recall after that was glancing at them, as well as everyone around us, and then saying they were all "fucking assholes". Even then, I didn't tell my teacher that Tiffany was harassing me.

A few months later, we had a spring dance performance. It was not just any performance: it was the largest and final one of the year, the one that everybody put their time in during class to practice for. Every single one of us was excited to put on our make up and costumes and perform. I remember my friends from the other dance class and I were all talking about who was coming to see us that night. Most of us strived to make our family and friends proud of us, especially since this was a huge moment, being on stage. Of my whole family, I was especially excited to hear what my mom had thought since I hardly ever saw her and I wanted to show her what I was able to do. I looked all over for her outside, confused and unable to find her. My grandparents saw me and told me that she didn't show up. I tried my best to not show what I felt: that my hard work was for nothing because the person I wanted to impress the most couldn't even remember her own daughter. Instead of breaking down, I decided that I would talk to my dad about it when I got home, and celebrate with my friends for a little while first. However, before I found them, Tiffany walked up to me…

"You know, you were so terrible on the curtain call. You weren't on beat, you did the moves in the wrong order, and your hair was flying all over the place."

I looked at her, blinked a couple of times, and walked away. I had never met anybody who tried so hard to hurt me and make me crumble. After finding my friends, I began sobbing and telling them how horrible the night was.

"You know, Tiffany was hurting me all year just because she thought I checked her out when I didn't. I tried to make friends in class and she stopped me from having any. On top of that, my mom didn't even come to the show! She arrives at all of my sister's concerts on time but she can't remember one thing I ask her to show up to? I bet Tiffany doesn't know that I have more shit to deal with on my own without her bull! I go through more than she can ever imagine!" I ranted like that for awhile. They apologized, hugged me, and walked away. I then looked to my right and saw Tiffany about ten feet away packing her make up. She heard what I had said, and she saw my tears. She looked like she in turn was ready to cry. We held eye contact for a good minute. She moved her lips, but no sound came from them:

"I…I…didn't know…"

I stared back.

"Fuck you," I soundlessly voiced back. Even though I could feel the guilt and the pain in her eyes, I was not about to forgive her from all the horrible things she put me through that year, at least not right away.

For a long time, I could not comprehend why I, of all people in the class, had to be bullied. I later had an epiphany: nobody will truly respect me unless I take the initiative to help myself out. I had to learn the hard way that if I let people push me around, then it is inevitable that they will. In that particular setting, I had to "speak" before she left me alone, although her letting off was a subconscious way of telling me to "speak up" in other situations. From then on, it has been a journey: even as an adult, I am still working on standing up for myself and not biting off more than I can chew. Though that girl caused me a lot of emotional pain, I now do what I can to take care of myself as well as others. I am becoming more assertive.