Jealous high schoolers never stop the bullying look at the attacks on Taylor Swift

Bonnie K. Goodman
10 min readOct 30, 2022

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By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Being bullied in school is like wearing prison stripes that you cannot escape in this social media world, despite one's successes.

Barely a week after Taylor Swift released her new Midnights album to record sales, a former classmate of hers from Hendersonville High School in Tennessee, Jessica McClane, was two grades younger than Taylor. In the past few months, Jessica has been posting on her TikTok bashing Taylor and claiming classmates at Hendersonville High School “hated” Swift after she started becoming “super successful.” [1]

McClane puts a lot more stock in Taylor’s former classmate’s opinions because they were her peers, revealing on TikTok:

“Keep in mind; these are her peers. This isn’t, you know, just random people on the internet. She was 16, 17, leaving high school to pursue a career that people told her she could never have. McClane also made an accusation, “There were a lot of rumors going around about how she got her start in the first place … The fact remains is that there were not a lot of people in high school who had nice things to say about her. … There were general rumors about her being b***hy. [People would say], ‘She said this, she said that, she was mean.’” [2]

How fitting this story about TaylorSwift is. I can relate, and I hardly believe Taylor was the b***h her former peer says she was. Let’s face it; high schoolers are bullies. I am not as famous as Taylor, not by a long shot, but I was talented in high school; I painted rather than go to summer camp with them, and yes, I believe my peers were and still are jealous of me. Now 25 years after high school graduation, let’s be grown-ups, I was bullied, and even though my peers are on my Facebook page, I will distinguish it from friends because most are not even what you might call friendly acquaintances.

In elementary school, I was bullied for everything, the favorite my parents were too old, what I wore, my hair, everything, because when kids do not like you, they don’t; there is no rationality. The bullying was sometimes violent; one girl beat me up, catfight style, in the hall, and the same girl defaced my group's Bat Mitzvah book at the Bat Mitzvah afterparty at the synagogue. Now she teaches at a Jewish high school. Is it to relive her glory days or teach the teens now how to be as mean as she was to me? Two cousins would never let me go the stairs to go home for lunch, and I went home from lunch to avoid the bullying in the first place. One girl terrorized me at every moment throughout the school year; she would never let me live. Many times the abuse did not even come from the popular kids, but those were bullied themselves. Their excuse, like McClure to Taylor, I did or said something wrong; I was the mean one; how could it be when I was so marginalized?

In reality, I was not fat, average weight, so I did not dress fancy, so what, and now it is normal for couples to have children in their late thirties; in fact, I wish I had been lucky to have a baby at the age my mother was. In high school, I was laughed at for being friends with my Mom, this was before Gilmore Girls’ Lorelai, and Rory made mother-daughter friendships cool. I was laughed out for calling my Mom at lunch because no one wanted to hang out with me. I was laughed at for not going on class trips, including my grade nine Israel trip, when the real reason I did not go was their bullying, to begin with!

The best way to deal with being bullied for me was to act aloof, maybe I did come off as a b***h, but I was not liked much, so why should I have cared? It was healthier than getting depressed about it for taking it too seriously, as too many bullied kids do to the detriment of their well-being because my peers were never worth it. My parents instilled in me my self-worth and were my greatest cheerleaders; I never could feel alone. Instead, I hung out with the guys in my grade, which led to having slut marked on my locker; why could anybody understand about plutonic friendships? I found friends with kids in other grades and less judgment outside the grade social ranking. I tried to act as if I was on the fringe of the grade’s social group for appearances. Being as chill as I could be…

Still, it hurt when the boy I had a crush on made a fool of me rather than be friends, which I would have liked as much. Still, it hurt being bounced around and off the lunch table. Why are lunch tables made to say everything about your status? I blame teen movies. Still, it hurt not being invited to pretty much every Bat Mitzvah and Bar-Mitzvah, party, or sweet sixteen, and not even being allowed to my prom or, as we called it, grad dance because no one wanted me in their limo, and this was just months after my father died from cancer. Classy. And to me, unforgivable then.

The bullied never ends; however, it becomes passive aggressiveness as adults. And yes, it affects your life path as the years go by. In a city like Montreal, a small Jewish community, and a smaller circle in your age group, affects your dating pool, marriage partners, career network, etc. Because if you are not good enough, you never become good enough in your peers’ eyes. Even your old high school alumni page overlooks your successes with the petty minor accomplishments of the popular kids. I mean, the hatred from this former classmate towards Taylor all these years later, wow!

The social marginality might not have affected me in high school, but by Cegep and the time I entered university and the stress of school, I realized I gained the freshman fifteen, which did not help. While my peers remained tight, only widening the scope of their friendships to the other Montreal Jewish teens, I stayed on the outside because when you are out, you are out. I remember the first year of McGill was tough academically but more socially. I don’t think anyone barely in my classes spoke to me except one professor… I turned 18 when the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton scandal hit the news. No one could understand what leads a young woman to “bother” with an older man. She was slut shamed and, as Monica pointed out, the most bullied and ridiculed person on the internet and otherwise. However, when you are bullied in high school, the attention from an older important man is what you need; it is the most intoxicating thing in the world. Suddenly, your classmates want to talk to you and be your friend. It is excellent for your self-esteem, so much you lose weight, and just like that, you are almost back to yourself; you feel pretty and important.

However, it is never a good idea for a young, naïve woman like myself to become friends with her professor because society has a dirty mind. While your peers cheer you, it is the faculty with the dirtier mind, and just like that, your reputation is ruined, and doors close. In the natural order of things, young woman’s friendships with older men are never equal, and soon they let you know it, control sets in, and the social isolation starts again. Sometimes the road less traveled teaches more than predictable. However, doors opened, career opportunities abounded, and I found some fame, if not fortune. The public lauding your work and unbiased expert praise is the best encouragement, like the crowd cheering.

Then social media bursts on the scene, Facebook opens up to everyone, and you feel you are back in high school ten years later. At first, everyone seems nicer, but it is just condescending. My accomplishments were not enough, as everyone got married in the same year, then had their first baby again in the same year, and insecurities crept in. Social media is voyeurism and, as we now realize, cruel and detrimental, and we learned from celebrities fake, fake, and faker.

However, at the start, I believed it, and my accomplishments felt less significant because I thought I was failing again socially. After all, as kids, you feel you need to be in lockstep with your peers; if not, you are left behind, social media-fed that mindset. Especially since most of the people on my list were not my friends. The number of birthday wishes becomes the determining factor of popularity, your photos of trips, weddings, and children the currency to finally fit for so many, which were “unpopular” in high school. The golden ticket. Strangely, for my Montreal peers, the aughts were a twisted, technologically advanced 1950s “Leave it to Beaver” perfection, as Taylor calls it, a “lavender haze.” It made me feel I wasted too much time on someone who would never give me that perfection. Nothing becomes enough to live up to the plastic social media world, and dissatisfaction ruins the good you have.

It is a platform for adult bullying, the new passive-aggressive type, where verbal taunts are replaced with icy silence, as the popular look to be revered and, if not, canceled! You see stories of an outpouring of kindnesses, rallying around to support friends’ causes, new ventures or raise money for them. Really? I made a fan page for my writing work, and barely anyone from my list joined; at least I have over 1,500 strangers who support it. It is always warm and cuddly when your peers make a big deal about their friends’ silly, trivial, non-accomplishments but continually ignore my writing success and artwork posted; the silence speaks louder than words. It makes you feel invisible and like it’s high school all over again. It shouldn’t bother me, but it does because the isolation has ramifications if you are trying to sell your career, trying to find a husband, and make a life in a community that ignores you and doesn’t deem you worthy; you just can’t.

Nothing like a life emergency to gauge one’s social worth. When my mother was hospitalized last year, I had to beg anyone to talk to me. Two people blocked me for asking for help, for calling too much in the first few days of the hospitalization, and the other for asking for a ride to adopt two dogs at the SPCA. Really? There were some kindnesses, but my peers tired quickly. Among those who stayed around included a lot of fear-mongering, and barely a handful were emotionally supportive through the end. I realized in a real emergency, my peers are not going to the support system; they are for each other. It’s like high school all over again 25 years later, I am still the outsider, and they are as tight as ever. The rallying is a fairytale; I wish it weren’t….

Taylor’s former high school classmate is trying to cash in and bash Taylor’s success as she breaks all the records with her new Midnights album; she is even enjoying the backlash she is getting for her remarks. All the while, Taylor is successful in singing about being the Anti-Hero, full of insecurities, depressed, and worried about her “scheming,” not being a sexy baby” but “a monster on the hill,” and a “covert narcissism” that she “disguises as altruism.” Taylor might think, “it’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me,” as the chorus refrain goes, but no one who is bullied is the problem, blaming them is just cruel.

I will not give my peers the same satisfaction and would love to tell all those who bullied me F-U. You might laugh at me for not becoming a married middle-aged mother with teenagers living in suburbia. I have something better; I have that revenge body, people worldwide have read my writings, and world-class historians have cited and praised me; respect from strangers is the true gauge of one’s work because it is devoid of bias. Most of all, I still have hope, opportunity, and dreams for the better, the better success each generation of parents wishes for their children. Sometimes, the anti-hero is the real hero of the story, and my peers are the ones that “get older but never wiser” and are still basking their high school high.

[1] https://news.yahoo.com/taylor-swift-former-classmate-hit-181227136.html

[2] https://vt.co/entertainment/celebrity/woman-who-went-to-school-with-taylor-swift-says-students-hated-her

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a Professional Librarian and historian. She is the author of “Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896,” “The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish goal of whiteness in the South,” “We Used to be Friends? The Long Complicated History of Jews, Blacks, and Anti-Semitism,” and the viral article, “OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings.”

Ms. Goodman has a BA in History, and Art History and a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused on Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, particularly American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.”

Ms. Goodman contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature and on the Times of Israel. Her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu. She has over fifteen years of experience in education and political journalism.

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Bonnie K. Goodman

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a historian, librarian, and journalist. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.