I’ve worked in the viciously critical world of women’s lifestyle publishing in New York City for 11 years. So yeah, I’ve come up against my share of haters. There were plenty of them before I grew up and moved East, too; in fact I’d say that the haters I met during my childhood and young twenties have been the most valuable to me. Because here’s the thing: Although they definitely made my life difficult at one point, they also taught me some pretty important things about life and yes, even myself. Thanks to them, I’ll have words of wisdom that I can pass on to my own children one day. So with sincere appreciation, I give a shout out to the people who have gotten in a punch (or three)…
1. The dismissive kindergarten teacher
Remember when you stood in front of the class and demanded to know who peed on the bathroom floor? It was circa 1982, and Mrs. V., that was me. You made me wait to go to the bathroom and by the time you finally let me go my little 5-year-old fingers just couldn’t get my overalls unbuttoned and pulled down quickly enough. So yeah, I peed all over the bathroom floor, washed my hands, and returned to my table. I was working up the courage to tell you when you brought the issue up in front of the entire class. So I kept my mouth shut and sat in wet corduroy all day, which sucked. Lesson learned: Never suffer in silence. Or put a little kid in overalls for school.
2. The bully on the bus in middle school
You were vicious and relentless in your taunts because you thought a boy who was a friend was something more. He wasn’t and, believe me, you could have had him. In fact, I would have told you that if I hadn’t been completely terrified of you, and all the mean rumors you spread about me. Of course, I forgave you years ago and I’m even thankful for those bus rides from hell, for I learned that no boy is worth drama. Especially one who would let his friend be bullied and not stick up for her.
3. The creepy roommate freshman year (and the bitch or two that came after her)
Bitches be crazy, especially when they’re sleep deprived, living with strangers in small spaces, fueled by booze and nicotine, fighting with their frat boy hook ups, and stressed about exams. But surviving four years of petty bullshit gave me the courage to live on my own after college and ultimately move to a new city where I didn’t know anyone. Because if I could survive that roller coaster of tears and love and hate, I could most definitely do anything. Thanks, girls!
4. The English professor who didn’t believe in me
You know who you are, the one who said girls like me should “edit stuff for one of those women’s magazine”? You said it after grading a paper of mine that you didn’t like, and in a tone that implied you meant it as an insult. You thought I wasn’t serious about literary criticism, I suppose. And, OK, I probably wasn’t; I wanted to be a news journalist, not a literary critic. Or maybe it was just your crappy teaching. But know this: There are some pretty great women’s magazines out there, so I didn’t take your words as a slight. Here’s something else. I did go on to edit for a lot of different magazines and websites and now I don’t just “edit stuff,” I run one. So thankyouverymuch for the motivation.
5. The straight up wicked boss
There have been two of you in my career, and I’m not the only one you’ve been awful to. You demanded that your staff work until all hours of the night, and on weekends, criticizing everything we did. You belittled us, you screamed at us, and you tried to break us (but you couldn’t). We moved on and we earned better jobs with amazing bosses. Thank you for inspiring us to be better to those that we’d manage later in our careers, and for teaching us how to never treat others anywhere, in any situation, no matter what. Later, mean girls!
© Heather Morgan Shott