Bullying for me was either being physically pushed around, ignored, called names and all the time trying very hard not to end up in tears. In those days you couldn’t complain to your parents (they just told me to get on with it), and you certainly didn’t have Esther Rantzen’s helpline to call and the teachers simply got fed up of punishing the bullies. I had a few friends but their loyalty was inconsistent because they felt it safer to stay on the side of the bullies.
I wasn’t aware of it but I was told that I had an ‘air’ about me and took a studious approach to school work that the other girls didn’t understand and did not like. The irony about this is that some of those girls were cleverer than me and most times performed better than me in exams, but they didn’t appreciate what they had and could not appreciate that I had to work to be ‘intelligent’. It did not help that I was attractive to the guys and the most attractive of them wanted to date me. It also didn’t help that I had parents who made sure my eye was always on that ball. My parents were oblivious to comments like they were behaving above their station or they were being ‘too ambitious’ as they were simply unconcerned about what other people thought. They pushed me like crazy to do the piano lessons, violin lessons, tap and ballet lessons, saxophone lessons to pass the entrance exam to a college of music and years later to get into University. When everyone was going to disco’s, having illicit relationships with boys and a quick fag in the toilets, I was at home seething with anger as my parents insisted that I should get on and continue either playing those scales or learning my Shakespeare! The number of medals, certificates and performing on stage (and being mentioned in the local paper) did not endear me to these girls, it just further alienated me from them and as a result, life was a constant misery without anyone having any idea that it was happening.
I married some years ago and my partner has become a successful banker. We have managed to live in seven cities, two countries, and at the same time have an interesting lifestyle. No doubt. But as for those who gave me hell, when I go back to my parents home I see them, or they see me and quickly cross over the road. I also see they’ve been burdened with having to look after a family from a young age or a few of them have gotten into lifestyles that can only make me take my breath away. I try not to give this too much thought otherwise I feel guilty of smugness.
I was determined that once I had kids and because I would hate for them to experience what I went through, my husband and I decided that our daughter would go to a boarding school and obviously it is a big welcome that there are now such things as anti-bullying policies and an awareness of how young people feel . Well before the story emerged about Kate Middleton’s time at Downe House, I selected this school and a few others as possible potentials. A beautiful school, a friendly Head, posh but serious-minded and intelligent girls. As to whether it was possible to detect that any bullying went on, it was difficult to say as the girls looked really happy. But we selected another school instead and so far, our daughter seems to be enjoying herself, as well as working hard!
From following all these media stories about Kate Middleton, I take it that it is more the media speculating as opposed to knowing what actually happened to Kate. We do not know what she experienced at Downe House but I do feel that whatever her experiences, she has been forced her to develop a thick skin: not really caring what people say or think. Kate speaks for all us who have played the role of Cinderella surrounded by so many ugly jealous sisters where we have emerged to marry our ‘prince’. May sound cheesy but I say well done to her and well done to the rest of us.