Is Mitt Romney a bully? Was he? Come November I will have the chance to vote in my first-ever presidential election, and I’m anxious with excitement. I am enrolled in an American politics class at school, and each class I cling on to every inspired word of my professor. I try my best to keep up with each presidential debate to make sure I can be as well informed about each candidate as possible by election day. I’m a 19-year-old female college student, and many of the hot-button issues in this debate directly apply to people like me and my peers.
But when I turn on the recording of the most recent town-hall presidential debate to watch with my father, I can’t help but think about those haunting news articles that surfaced earlier in the campaign that displayed evidence of a high-school age Mitt Romney leading a “prank” of chopping off the hair of a gay classmate.
Though apologetic when this incident reappeared, Romney seemed to not remember his traumatized classmate, which is quite alarming. Bullying is wrong and should not be brushed off with a simple, generalized apology, years after the incident. Clearly the victim had not forgetten, and I know a little bit about being bullied to know why this is.
Indeed, a good chunk of my eighth-grade year I ate my lunch in a quiet bathroom alone, devouring my ham sandwich and “Jane Eyre” with equal voracity. It may sound cliche, but I had fallen victim to a gaggle of mean middle school girls. It’s still slightly unclear to me what triggered this, but around late fall my friend group as I knew it decided it would be ideal to give me the silent treatment. They did, and eventually, I stopped trying to figure out why, or how I could once again resubmit myself to their good graces. All of my attempts to do so proved to be fruitless and even more upsetting.
This is why, when I see my little brother and his buddies today, I am grateful that he won’t have a similar experience. Nobody should go through that. Every time I come home for break I am struck by how much my little brother, William, has changed. Mostly it is because of his increasing size. I swear, he towers over me more and more. I used to be able to wear his slippers around the house, but now my feet look like elves’ feet next to his shoes.
But I am also baffled by how well adjusted he is. His maturity has always impressed me, but it seems to me as if he just skipped way past the awkward phase. He’s on the soccer team; he gets invited to co-ed parties. As an eighth-grader, he is in a completely different world than the one I experienced at his age.
I did finish many novels at record speed, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about my 13-year-old self, feeling so small in a huge world, given the brutal and cold silent treatment by those I thought were my friends.
As far as bullying goes, I know I didn’t have it that bad. Still, what I went through was humiliating, and it has haunted me to this day. It has shaped who I am, for better or worse, though I’d like to believe in the better. I know how it can feel, and I tell William almost every single day to treat other people how he’d want to be treated.
There is no excuse for acting any other way.
Of course, bullies never really go away. I’ve even encountered some in college. And I know that the adult world is chock full of bullies of a different kind. Bullying really does exist everywhere, and there will always be those people who will go out of their way to put you down. I try to surround myself with people now who are genuine, those who are happy for me and not spiteful. It’s a blessing and a curse that these people are hard to come by. I think it’s amazing that shows like “Glee” demonstrate to young people that it is okay to be different, and I have faith in bullying victim hotlines and resources that make it so that those who are bullied don’t feel so alone. I’ve gained perspective since eighth grade, thank goodness. When I was 13, though, it sure did seem like what was happening to me was the end of the world, and I’m sure for kids bullied today it is no different.
So when I watch the sly smile on Mitt Romney’s face when he has an answer to a burning question from that moderator, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same one he used performing his “prank” in high school. I wonder because I’ll never forget what happened to me, so how exactly could Romney let the memory of himself as a bully slip from his mind?
Brossman, the daughter of the Suburban Mom, is a Plainsboro resident and a sophomore at Vassar College.