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Bullied as an Adult: Making Sense of Mean-ness ?

Originally posted May 18, 2012.

For the American Psychological Association’s Blog Party for Mental Health Month, I decided to write about being bullied as an adult. Here’s my experience in a nice middle class neighborhood in northern New Jersey.

Eleven years ago, we stretched our budget and moved to our nice neighborhood with a good school system.

My husband & I drive a Chrysler and a Ford.

Into the ground, by the way…a car needs to be downright WORN OUT for us to buy a new one.

(outright GREEN of us, egad!)

Lots of people in the neighborhood drive, well, foreign cars.

And we don’t have a new kitchen. What we have is perfectly fine.

When I moved in, I wanted to fit in with a group of people.

Like most people, I wanted some friends.

My son was in second grade (he’s now 17).

I thought, well, let’s be friendly and make some playdates.

I called one woman. She said she was too busy putting in a new kitchen and her son couldn’t come over.

I felt bad, but thought, well, ok, try again with someone else.

I tried to call a few other women over the next few weeks/months.

Same responses, different circumstances.

I felt bad. It hurt. I felt like I was back in junior high school, on the outside looking into the cliques.

It was not easy to be rejected over and over again.

I cried at night. I was confused. What was wrong, anyway?

I was persistent, I volunteered as the class mom, did some other volunteer work.

Finally, I got some truth from the last woman I called.

She told me people here already have enough friends and don’t need anymore.

Ahem, this is New Jersey in the year 2002.

Not Salem in the 1600s.

I persisted, even though I felt bad.

I joined a Women’s Club.

(Maybe I should’ve enlisted to go to Afghanistan instead).

I was invited by one of neighbors up the street to go to a luncheon, She was taking her elderly mother who was visiting from Florida, whom I’ve never met.

It will be fun, she says.

I was happy to be included!

It was a nice spring day. We walk into the luncheon, and she guides us to our table. Her mother sits down. I sit down.

She quickly walks away to another table, where her friends are.

She takes the last open seat, sits down, and starts laughing.

Let me just say that her mother was a perfectly nice lady for me to have lunch with.

But how would you feel if that happened to you?

I felt bad. I felt alienated.

I cried a lot, those first few years.

And I was an adult, with a strong intact identity, strong ego and a secure family life.

I empathize with those children and teens who are excluded.

Young people who are just trying to develop their identity and grow into the adults whom they want to be.

These experiences have made me a better counselor.


One in four women suffers depression at some point in her life.

Geez, wonder why, huh?

What do you think suburban bullying is all about?

How about internalized sexism?

How about gender socialization?

How about internalized messages of inferiority from birth?

Fight to keep those pervasive sexist messages out of your psyche.

Mental Health is a work in progress, self-respect is hard won, healthy boundaries need to continually be refined and healthy relationships enhance mental health.

Have a Beautiful May and Celebrate Your Mental Health!

Today I sure know who my friends are.


Holiday, E. and Rosenberg, J.I. (2009). Mean Girls, Meaner Women. New York: Orchid Press.


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