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Not Just a Game This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Scarsdale, NY 10583, NY
“If you want to be my friend, you need to pass a friendship test,” the girl announced with a smile. I liked her sandals - red and shiny, the kind my mom wouldn’t let me wear to school. I found myself standing among the crowd of hopefuls vying for a spot in her clique. “The first test is the slide,” she ordered, pointing us to the nearby jungle gym. One by one, the girls slid down to the bottom and received a congratulatory remark from the ringleader. When my turn arrived, the girl paused, tugging on her pigtail before issuing a decree. “You don’t pass. You can’t be my friend.”

My encounters with bullying have not been the sort of things you see a late night special on or read about in the papers. I have never been beat up, held for my lunch money, or gotten my head in a toilet. The only abuse I’ve endured has come from the mouths of my peers, specifically of the fellow girls in my grade. Since I first began school, I’ve found myself subject to the sort of torment and teasing that can only come from children.

In middle school, I found myself in a sea of new faces eager to make a friend. I soon became attached to D, an Amazonian girl who exuded charisma. Her joking attitude helped calm my nerves before a test and always lightened the mood of everyone in the class. We became best friends, and talked for hours after school throughout 6th grade. When I returned from summer break, I was unnerved to discover that while at camp, D’s loveable humor had turned sarcastic, and she used her new talent to target my flaws. “Your hair reminds me of those troll dolls,” she observed, sparking laughter at my lunch table. “Have you ever heard of a brush?”
In hindsight, I kick myself for not separating myself from her earlier, a decision that would have spared me years of rushing home in tears. However, I continued being her punching bag, the butt end of every joke until I met a new friend, R. This relationship proved to be no improvement. R, a girl far more homely than the elegant D, still had an acid tongue fit for abuse. “You look like a f--king flamingo,” she would remark, reminding me that I would never escape my teenage awkwardness. I gave up trying to find kindness, and settled on developing a tough shell to deflect the comments. I sneered and scoffed, firing back retorts at every opportunity. My “friends” just laughed, leaving me with a healthy flush of embarrassment.
As a high school student, I see bullying daily. Not the dramatic made-for-TV type, but my kind. Adults should know is that bullying doesn’t come with a neon billboard of warning signs. We’re smarter than that. We know how torture each other without ever leaving a mark. We can gossip, mock, and exclude. We just can’t always ask for help.





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