General Question

juniper's avatar

How much courtesy do I owe the people who treated me badly in high school?

Asked by juniper (1905points) December 19th, 2008

It’s been eight years since I graduated from high school, but it’s hard to forget girls like Kelly, who found a notebook I’d dropped and read my girlish poetry aloud to the very boy featured in my verse, or girls like Julie, who spread a rumor that my religion was a cult.

I live on the other side of the country now, but every time I visit my parents in our small town, I run into these Kellys and Julies. And they always want to chat.

It’s like they’ve forgotten all of the nastiness of our high school encounters. Like they assume I’m happy to talk to them now—to answer indirect questions about my salary to coo over their engagement rings. But I’m not.

What’s the best way to handle these unwelcome reunions? I don’t want to be rude, but I have no desire to share my life with these people.

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17 Answers

judochop's avatar

I would just tell them what just told us and add a smile and possibly a wave bye-bye.

EnzoX24's avatar

As a freshmen in college I am already distant from my High School self. Not by choice, but by a push. Just know that we all change and in the end, we come out better from the encounters. So when ever you see them, just smile through your teeth and be happy knowing that in the end you won, because despite their best efforts, they didn’t break you.

Mtl_zack's avatar

I see people who I never wanna see again from high school all the time. I just say hi, give them the minimum amount of respect, and then leave.

shilolo's avatar

I say zero. Do what judo said, only I would add in a real judochop, just for fun.

jlm11f's avatar

I would say the same amount (or little more than the same amount) of courtesy you would expect from those you treated badly in high school.

Jeruba's avatar

How much courtesy? Enough so that you don’t compromise your own sense of decency, which would cost you more than it gained you. Strange as it sounds, they might never have meant to hurt you, and they may even be trying to show that by being overly cordial now.

I’d keep it cool but civil. If you can wish them well, do it: “Thanks for the update, Kelly. It’s nice to know you’re doing well. Now I hope you’ll excuse me. I’d like to go ahead with my errands.”

If even that is too generous, make it “Hello, Julie,” keeping it a little bit more formal than “hi,” with the merest smile, and then keep walking as if you never intended to stop.

If they’re still stuck back there in that small town you grew up in, and you got away and accomplished something, you can afford a little magnanimity, even if the smile is really for yourself.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Zack’s suggestion will work quite well if you’re in a situation where you can leave. If, however, you are not in a situation that you can just get up and walk away from (if you’re in a restaurant, at the library, in line at the grocery store) acknowledge them and then continue what you were doing. Just the other day, I was sitting in my favorite cafe waiting for a train to come in and the girl who ruined my senior year of high school came in. She looked right at me and said “Hi, Kate.” I simply looker at her, responded with a very curt “Hello,” and then looked back at my computer screen very pointedly. She didn’t say anything else and left the cafe. It may seem rude, but if they press you, say something like “I’m sorry, I don’t have very much time to finish/read/do this and I need to get it done,” or “I haven’t had a chance to have dinner with my family for a while. perhaps we could chat another time,” and then, in a very polite and civil manner, ignore her.

@Jeruba: Very very well said. I wish I could lurve you a hundred times for that answer.

Mtl_zack's avatar

I just remembered a tip in case you are in a situation that you can’t get out of. Read whatever you can. If you’re in line at the grocery store, look at the label of something and look like you’re really studying it intensely. That way, the person won’t interrupt you because you’re “busy”. If you’re in a restaurant, read the menu “busilly”, or if you’re on the bus, open your phone and pretend you got a text message.

So, just look busy.

juniper's avatar

@Jeruba: Yes, I’m partial to the “coolness” idea. That seems to work on those who are astute enough to recognize said coolness. ;) I love your suggestion of just saying hello and walking by. We’ll see if I’ve got the guts to do it!

(I would like to believe that their behavior in high school was unintentional, and maybe it was. Either way, it’s not that big of a deal—happens all the time, right? It’s just left a bad taste in my mouth.)

Mtl_zack's avatar

I just realized that what I said reminds me of a Seinfeld moment. This one might help

augustlan's avatar

You owe them nothing, but you owe it to yourself to be civil. Not kind, but civil. If they press you, I’d admit that they made high school unpleasant for you, and that you have no desire to pretend it didn’t happen. Wish them well and go on about your business.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I ignore the people who made high school a nightmare for me. If they pressit, I give thema curt hello and move off, as if I have better things to do than talk to them. Which I do. Last year someone asked if I was going to my 30th reunion. I said, “Maybe unless I am doing something more important, like taking a nap or trimming my toenails.” They never asked again. You can be civil, and rude with humor, if you have the knack.

Judi's avatar

The sad truth is that THEY HAVE forgotten! At my hubby’s 40 yr reunion we met one of his best friends who had attended the 35 year reunion. His friend (Scott) said that at 35 a guy came up to him and said “I want you to know I forgive you.” Scott didn’t even remember the guy. Apparently my husband and Scott teased him and harassed him and he spent years in therapy to get over it.
They both feel bad for the guy but really can’t remember him.
Kids do mean things in HS and when they become adults don’t want to admit to themselves how awful they were so they block it out. I was one of the “teased” ones so I remember everything.

bythebay's avatar

Let it go. Let them go. Judi is right, they have forgotten but yo’re still carrying the baggage they gave you. Be polite, be cool, be on your way. You’ve moved on-keep moving!

Mr_M's avatar

I’d be rude. Why not? Are you afraid you’d loose their “friendship”?

Disc2021's avatar

I’d be like “Kelly, Julie, I’m really busy right now – I dont have time to talk. Sorry, hope all is well”. It’s really that simple.

Then I’d be off on my merry way.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Civil? Nah…...go for it….....

“Hello, Tamra….lovely engagement ring…amazing how cubic zirconias look so real these days” :)

“Yes, I saw your big mansion on the hill…so you DID marry that guy with mob connections, right? That’s what I heard a few years ago…”

“Oh…Ally…wow…I didn’t recognize you….weren’t you a lot smaller (or fill in appropriate word) in high school?”

“Hmm….Mary, Mary…hmmm…..Mary….the only Mary I remember was really rude to me…and she had this horrid bleached hair and wore this strange spandex and she made my high school life hell…but her name was Mary…umm….Smith….that couldn’t possibly be YOU, could it? Oh…it IS? Wow, imagine that!”

“Oh, Zinnia…my my my…yes, I heard that you were now the Chairman of the Board for Tippy Toes Children’s Wear…pity that your clothes are all made in China in sweat shops where people are not even paid a living wage…but then again…you never did care about the little guys did you? What an utterly perfect job you have!”

“Why April Gardner….how lovely to see you! I honestly couldn’t tell who it was till you opened your mouth…how could I forget the girl who told the whole town I was necking in the bushes on prom night with Jim Toynbee when I never even knew the guy? You still sound like a bullhorn, what are you doing now? Moonlighting at K-Mart calling out bluelight specials?”

I go through this all the time when I go home…’s easy now though. All I have to say is, “I live in England.” And it ends the conversation. In TinyTown of meanie gossipy people——where I grew up——a Land Rover, 2.5 kids and marrying the quarterback don’t have a point of reference for a conversation on England. So, you could try and say you live in Tasmania. And as they search their brains for where that might be to parse a question…just wave and say, “Cheers mate….I’m off….to the South…”

(The names in the above quotes are all made up from my imagination and any relation to people living or deceased is purely coincidental and unintentional…honestly.)

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