A new approach to bullying: “Discover Confidence.” A TEDxYouth talk by Emily Lindin of The UnSlut Project.
A new approach to bullying: “Discover Confidence.” A TEDxYouth talk by Emily Lindin of The UnSlut Project.
June 15, 2000
Well, today was the last day of school. There was a graduation ceremony for the 8th graders in the new gym from 8:30-10:30am. Then we signed yearbooks from 10:30-12:15, when we went to lunch. At 12:45, we went back into the new gym for more ceremonious stuff, which lasted until school ended at 2:15.
At the graduation ceremony, each teacher gave out awards to their students who did the best. I received a Certificate of Excellence from the music, theater, science, and algebra teachers, the Middle School Language Arts Award for writing, and a Certificado de Mérito from the Spanish teacher “por su excelente trabajo en español.” [Man, I cleaned up at that middle school graduation awards ceremony.] And then everyone received a “Certificate of Award” from the principal for “Completion of Studies.”
Anyways, I’m very sad that school’s over, but I’m also excited for the summer. The year book is cool, because the 8th graders got to write a little “bio” next to their picture. But we wrote them in February, so they’re a little outdated now. Mine says:
Quote: “Right… do your thing.” [I guess I wanted people to think I said this a lot.]
Memories: parties, summer99, vids, gr7spn, VSS, LinsCasa, SB, s7 [Parties, summer99, okay… and you lost me. I have no idea what any of those things mean.]
All in all, I got 69 signatures. Last year I got 70, which is counting stupid ones that just say, “Have a good summer” and nothing personal. I hate those, cause where’s the memory there? In 6th grade, I only got 29 signatures because everyone hated me.
High school seems so scary! And there will be so much more responsibility, and… I don’t know. I can’t do anything except deal with it. Oh, well.
[This concludes the portion of my diary that I’ll be posting online. Once I got to high school, I was able to continue focusing on academics, music, performing, and my friendships enough to overcome the reputation of the school “slut.” I dated Steven until senior year of high school, when we broke up to go to separate colleges. I graduated from Harvard University cum laude and moved across the country to pursue my dream career. I currently live with my fiancé and adorable puppy and am very happy and satisfied. Life got so much better for me, and it can get better for every girl who is sexually bullied and slut shamed.
I am so glad to have been able to kick off the story-sharing of The UnSlut Project with my own diaries - I hope you were able to get something positive out of reliving this experience with me. Please consider sharing your own story, and use Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all the cool things we’re doing at The UnSlut Project, including our progress on "Slut: A Documentary Film." Thanks for reading! - Emily]
June 11, 2000
Today is Sunday. The semi-formal on Friday could easily be called the most magical night of my life. It’s not that any specific event or events made it that way, it was just the whole atmosphere about it. My hair was done in a mass of perfectly shaped, bobby-pinned, and hair-sprayed curls on the back/top of my head, with tiny twists of hair leading into it around my whole head, topped with a gorgeous tiara. All of my friends got their hair done similarly, but none with a tiara. With my lavender, ballroom-style prom dress, I felt like Cinderella. [Did I mention I had a tiara?]
The decorations at the dance were spectacular - the theme was Hollywood 2000 and the walls were covered with creative representations of famous movies all throughout the past century, like The Wizard of Oz and even South Park! There was also an entire corner devoted to snacks, complete with a fake popcorn machine. [Why was it fake? That seems disappointing.]
Steven looked adorable in his suit and tie, as did all the other guys. I was with Steven almost the whole night, and he got me a rose! I felt like a princess dancing in his arms, especially when he lifted me around the waist so my toes were just above the ground and danced with me like that for a whole song, so we could really be “cheek to cheek.” All in all, the evening was amazing. I’ll put a picture in here when I get them developed.
June 9, 2000
It’s 3:30pm. I just got home from school, and in 15 minutes I’m going to get my hair done for the semi. I’m SO excited about it! Today was high school orientation day, and the 8th grade went up to visit the high school. From what I saw, it seemed much more laid back than the middle school.
I’m looking forward to going there next year, but I’m also kind of scared. The sophomores, juniors, and seniors will just be so HUGE! And I’ll feel like a loser freshman. So many of them already know me as a slut, and I’m scared to actually have to face them every day.
Anyway, Steven and I were hanging out all day. He’s just so cool to be with! I feel like he’s my great friend along with my boyfriend. All the upperclassmen at the high school know him because of his older brothers, and they were like, “Hey, Steven, SHE is your girlfriend?” He didn’t care. I felt like he was proud of me, and I liked that feeling. [It seems so strange that the high school students knew about my reputation and, apparently, cared about it. That didn’t last for long, though.]
Then after school today, I gave him a hug and he said, “I’ll see you at 7:30.” I said, “Don’t forget to tell me how beautiful I look!” and we both laughed. He said, “I won’t, don’t worry. You always look beautiful.” The things he says [the things I told him to say] just make me want to cry, he’s so adorable! I gave him another hug and said, “I love you to pieces!” And he gave me a kiss on the cheek.
Oooh! I can’t wait for tonight! But now I gotta go get my hair done.
June 7, 2000
Today is Wednesday and the semi is on Friday! I’m so beyond excited and psyched for it! We’re all going over Maggie’s house at 5:30 to get ready and put on makeup and such, and then we’re meeting the guys at the school at 7:30 when the dance starts. I absolutely can’t wait!
Today, Steven did the cutest thing. I saw him before 7th period in front of the Social Studies room, where he was headed. I was going downstairs to Language Arts, and I stopped to talk with him for a moment. I need to explain something quickly before I continue though, okay? […Okay!] Steven’s friends like Tyler, Jacob, Louis, and James all tease him and call him “Emily’s Bitch” because he usually does nice things for me if I ask him the right way. But I know he’s not my “bitch” - he’s just a really nice boy and he wants to make me happy.
Anyways, in front of the Social Studies room, Steven took my Language Arts binder and assignment notebook and put them on top of his Social Studies stuff. He said, “If I walk into Social Studies with all these books, people will think I’m really smart!” We both laughed and I said, “You want to hold my books? You like it?” “No!” He laughed, and tried to give them back to me. But I touched his arm and looked into his eyes with my most wide-eyed, puppy-dog look. “Please? Walk me to my next class.”
He sighed, giving in, and laughed. “That always works for you… that look.” [For the record, that look only works if you’re trying to get someone to carry your books down the stairs to Language Arts class. It doesn’t work for getting out of a speeding ticket, for instance. Or getting a bank loan.] And he carried my books down the stairs.
On the way, we passed James, who said, “No way, Steven. Stop it!” But Steven just laughed. We also saw Emma, who smiled and said nastily, “Steven, Emily’s got you wrapped around her finger.” Doing what I do to him to anyone else could probably be considered manipulation. But he is completely aware of what I pull off, and we joke about how he can’t resist my looks, when I bat my eyelashes and say, “Please?” He tries it on me sometimes, too, as a joke.
Anyways, when we got to the bottom of the stairs I took my books from him and had the sudden urge to kiss him on the cheek, so I did. And so what if I have him “wrapped around my finger,” as Emma put it? He has me wrapped around his finger, too. I would do absolutely anything for Steven, I love him so much. I feel so close to him - he’s one of my best friends as well as my boyfriend. I hope we go out for a very long time! I don’t want to lose such an amazing person.
May 30, 2000
I was supposed to go to Melanie’s family’s summer house for Memorial Day weekend, but it was rainy so they decided not to go down. On Friday night, there was the other performance of the school play and it went well again. I wasn’t nervous because no one I knew was there.
On Saturday, Jenna came over and we walked into town and bought Coolattas at Dunkin’ Donuts, which reminded me that summer will be here in no time and I can count on filling it up with trips into town and low-fat hazelnut coffee Coolattas, just like last year.
On Saturday night, I went to the movies with Laura, Melanie, Shauna, and Erin. Louis, Tyler, and Steven were at Louis’s family’s summer house, so our usual guy posse was MIA. [Oh, right. This is around the time I started actively adopting lingo from Seventeen magazine like “posse” and “MIA.”] On Sunday, Jenna came over again.
Oh, wait - I forgot that I slept over Laura’s on Saturday night. That was fun, because we had major bonding time. Laura’s one of my best friends, which is coolness because I’ve known her for less than a year. [Another term I kept trying to make happen: “coolness.”] But she’s so like me that I trust her with everything. Anyways, when I was at her house, we finished watching the movie that she made of the New York trip, which is really cool[ness]! And a wonderful memory.
When Jenna was over on Sunday, we watched it again, and I made a copy of it for myself so that I can have it to keep. Anyways! On Monday, there was an adorable message from Steven on my answering machine. He had promised he’d call, and I guess I wasn’t home, so he left a message. What a sweetie! I love him to pieces!
May 25, 2000
Tonight was the opening night of the play I’m in, that the school is putting on. I get to sing a song all by myself! I know the song REALLY well, and it is such a pretty song, but the whole class was there and I was so nervous!
But everything went beautifully. When I finished singing, the clapping went on forever. Steven stood up an pointed to the stage and yelled, “That’s my girlfriend!” I felt so happy that he was proud of me. After the show, literally a million people I didn’t even know came up to me to tell me how great I was. [It definitely wasn’t LITERALLY a million people. Probably more like four. Maybe.]
A random sophomore that I’ve never had a conversation with came up to me and said, “I just want you to know that you were what made this show worth coming to. The rest was pretty boring, but you were so good!” I wish I could have done more than just smile and say thank you.
Another sophomore, Alex, came up to me and gave me a huge kiss on the cheek. “You were AMAZING.” He gushed. “Just wonderful.” I love that kid so much. He is openly gay and his brother, who is in my grade, is ashamed of him. But I think he is the coolest person. [Alex was the first openly gay person I knew, and I’m glad I met him when I did.]
Gina bought me flowers, which was awesome of her. I am on such a happy cloud right now. Nothing could ruin this night for me.
May 24, 2000
May 23, 2000
Tonight I talked on the phone with Steven and Jacob, on Jacob’s 3-way. It was the first time I’d talked on the phone with Jacob in a while. Well, I mean besides the times we’ve called each other to like, organize trips to the movies or something.
This was also the first time I’ve had a long conversation with him and not started liking him romantically. I realize now that I couldn’t ever feel that way again - that thing I loved about him that I couldn’t identify is gone, now. [What a tragic way to word that.] And that is definitely a good thing. Laura likes him SO much, and when I see the way he teases her heart it nearly makes me sick. Laura is under the impression that he likes her, and she has reason. He flirts with her constantly, and he told some people last week that he did like her. But tonight he told me and Steven that he definitely didn’t, and that he had KINDA liked her about a week ago, but then changed his mind.
That does not seem the least bit fair to Laura. [Actually, it seems supremely fair to Laura.] He led her on in a major way and he knew that she had feelings for him! I told him that he needs to be straightforward with her, but he acted as if he didn’t want to talk about it. So I don’t know what’s up with that, but I hope for Laura’s sake that it gets figured out.
On another note, school gets out on June 15th! It’s only 16 school days, because we get Memorial Day off. All that’s left now is the play, a nature field trip thing, and the semi. [“Semi” is short for “semi-formal dance,” and I cannot stress enough how important the semi was. Despite the attire prescribed in the event’s very name, we treated it as if it were a formal prom.]
We have to go on this nature field trip to a nearby reserve where we can do kayaking or ropes courses, and then we have orientation for high school where they tell us about all the different sports and clubs we can do. They divide the class into two parts for the field trip. While one half is on the nature field trip, the other half is watching “Schindler’s List.” It’s cause we’re starting a unit on The Holocaust.
And then the semi! That will be the ultimate. I have a hair appointment and I am making Steven buy me a corsage. I know the summer will be fun, but I’m so scared of getting older. I don’t want to be in high school.
May 21, 2000
Today is Sunday. The last dance was on Friday, and it was such a blast! Steven’s older brother was chaperoning and everyone was going crazy over how gorgeous he is. He is beautiful, but he seems like a bit of a conceited asshole, because he was making fun of Steven right in front of me. It really embarrassed Steven, I could tell.
Speaking of Steven, he and I are so cool! I absolutely love our relationship. It’s not just like we are going out, it’s like we’re really good friends, too. We fool around so much: at the dance, a bunch of guys had on these jumpsuits that gas station workers wear. [Of course. Didn’t you ever wear a jumpsuit like this to a school dance? No?] They got hot in them so they took them off and dared Steven to wear one. He did, and then convinced me to wear one, too.
I felt like such a dork, but in a good way, because Steven and I started to tango [re: definitely not tango, because we didn’t know what tango actually was]. But Laura told me that Emma and some other girls said that my suit was an “easy-access” outfit, since it zipped all the way down the front.
Anyways, almost at the end of the dance, they played “Graduation” by Vitamin C. It made me think. I don’t really want to leave 8th grade. A lot of my friends are going to different high schools or moving, and it just seems like way too much is ending way too fast. I want to cling onto what’s left of being the way I am now, since I know I’ll change, too.
(I’m not embarrassed to admit how intensely I loved this song. [Photo: gurl.com])
May 18, 2000
I can’t even believe that school is over in less than a month! We get out this year on June 15th. There is a dance tomorrow night, and it is the last dance ever aside from the semi-formal, which is on the 9th. [The last. Dance. EVER.]
Anyways, I love how me and Steven are! He is so adorable - he really, truly cares about me and wants me to be happy. We act like very, very good friends in that we always fool around and sneak up on each other and try to beat each other up all the time. He calls me every night at about 8 o’clock, and we talk until my parents make me get off the phone.
An interesting thing about Steven is that he is the youngest of six boys in his family. The oldest three are in college, but one of them was my camp counselor two summers ago. One of them is a high school senior this year, and one is a junior. They are all very hot. So my point is that Steven is going to be very hot when he gets older (not that he isn’t already).
Oh yeah and one more thing, completely unrelated. I am in the school play in a week. Right now, it’s very sucky, but I get to sing a pretty solo. So even if the play blows, at least I get to sing.
May 10, 2000
"Your Life" by Emily Lindin
Your life is passing by so fast
You wish to catch it, hold it still
But time does not stop at your will.
When you are young, you wish to grow
When you are old, you’ve grown too far
You’re never happy with what you are.
You’re always building memories
But think about it this way, too:
Your memories are building you.
You’ll never figure out who you are
Though most people spend their whole lives trying
We’re all the same - we are all dying.
May 8, 2000
It’s Monday, and I forgot to write about the rest of the bus ride home from the class trip! Steven and I hooked up. He was sitting next to me with his back to the window, and I was lying in his arms. We were both listening to “Against All Odds” by Mariah Carey on the same discman on repeat. I liked that, because it made me feel like we were in our own little world, since we couldn’t hear anything going on around us.
[For the record, my discman was way cooler than this one. It had a clear blue case and a belt clip. (Photo: thefastertimes.com)]
We weren’t making out at first, we were just lying there with our eyes closed. His face was nuzzled in my neck, and I wanted to kiss him. So I wrapped the arm closest to him around his neck backwards, and he tiled his face upward and kissed me. We must have made out for ten minutes or more. We were in our own little world - I didn’t even care that everyone could see us if they wanted to. Nobody has been speaking to me except Steven, James, Laura, and Melanie.
Then Emma bumped into my legs hard. I looked up and saw that it was a good thing, because Mr. Jones was coming back to collect trash. We stopped making out, but I think he had already seen us. He didn’t say anything, though.
We stopped for dinner when we were about an hour from home. It was then that I found out that Daniel had broken up with Stacy. I should feel at least a little bad for her. But I don’t, at all. Today in English class, she randomly started crying… and not just crying, like bawling. Then she stormed out and didn’t come back. What a weirdo. She’s such a head case - I don’t even attempt to be her friend anymore. It’s too much of an unnecessary hassle.
I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with bullying. Sexual bullying is a very real thing for those of us who went through it, and sharing my story doesn’t invalidate or encroach upon your own struggle. It’s just a different experience, and not everyone will be able to relate to it.
May 6, 2000
It’s about 8am on Saturday morning, and we’re on the bus going home. Okay, so now to write about yesterday, one of the weirdest, worst days of my entire life. First off, the main point is that Steven found out about what I did with Hunter. After we toured the United Nations headquarters, we had to go on a 3-hour tour around the harbor on a big ferry.
At the beginning of the ferry ride, Laura, Shauna, Jacob, Tyler, Steven, and I were sitting on the top deck getting tans. I hadn’t really been talking to Steven too much all day. I told James what happened, and he advised me to wait until after the New York trip to confess to Steven, so it wouldn’t ruin the trip for him.
But Lisa came over and said, “Steven, I need to talk to you.” As they walked away, she threw me a look like she thought I was just about the most disgusting thing she’d ever seen, and I knew that she knew. I also knew that she was going to tell Steven. Laura nudged me and looked worried.
After about ten minutes, Steven came back and sat down again. He didn’t say anything, and for a second I had a surge of hope that maybe he didn’t know. But he whispered something to Tyler, and then got up and left with his face all twisted up like he was trying not to cry. I felt tears welling up in my own eyes, and asked Laura to come to the bathroom with me.
When we got to the bathroom, Melanie was there, and she said, “Emily, everyone knows. Including Steven.” All the girls who had been in the bathroom left immediately because I was there, and they obviously didn’t want to be anywhere near me. I started to cry because I felt like such a horrible bitch. All I could think about was how crushed Steven must be.
Emma came down to the bathroom and said, “I was just talking to Steven. He’s very upset, Emily. He hates you now, and so do we.” By “we” she mean like, all the girls in the grade. I started to say, “But it wasn’t my fault,” or something along those lines, but she put up a hand and said, “Enough, Emily.” Then she started to walk away, but I said, “Wait! Can I talk to him?” She said, “Whatever,” and ran up the stairs. I put on sunglasses so nobody else could see that I was crying.
A few minutes later, Steven came down. He put his hand on my back and led me over to somewhere where we could talk in private. The first thing I said was, “I am so sorry.” He shrugged. “I guess I’m just disappointed,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is hurt you at all,” I told him, and then continued to explain that it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made and that if he hated me forever, I wouldn’t blame him one bit.
He was silent for a moment and then he said, “I don’t hate you, Emily. Everyone makes mistakes. I mean, I like you so much - I just can’t forget about those feelings.” Hearing him say that made me start crying again, and I could see that he was already crying, too. I wanted to wipe away the tears from his face, but I was afraid that he wouldn’t want me to touch him.
We sat there for the rest of the ferry ride talking. Hunter came by and apologized to both of us. He said he hadn’t really known what was happening in the theater, and that Matt had taken my hand without his permission. [That is surprising! I hadn’t remembered this apology from Hunter.] Steven and I decided to stay going out, and have him try to regain trust in me.
I couldn’t believe he was being so good about it. I felt so horrible for putting him through that. We ate dinner in the All-Star Cafe in Times Square, which is really cool inside. I sat with Melanie and Laura because none of the other girls would speak to me. But Steven came over and said, “Emily, will you sit with me at Beauty and the Beast?”I smiled and said yes.
We went to see Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, and it was the best show I’ve ever seem! [It really was magnificent. I still remember the spectacle of amazingness that was “Be Our Guest.”] Steven and I sat next to each other. During the second act, he had his elbow on the armrest between us, and I pushed it off with my elbow. Instead of pushing it back, he put his arm around my shoulders. I snuggled against him and held his hand. When it was time to applaud, I took his hand and used it to clap with my other hand.
On the bus ride back to the hotel, I fell asleep on his shoulder. When I woke up, I was bothered by something. So I said, “Steven? Do you forgive me?” I said it softly, because it was very dark on the bus and everyone was sleeping and I felt like talking louder would ruin the calm. “Yes,” he answered. “Do you promise?” I asked, even softer this time. “Yes, I promise. It was a stupid mistake, and you deserve a second chance.” I loved him so much right then, and I knew that he must love me, too, otherwise he wouldn’t put up with me. I will never make such a stupid mistake again, I promise myself.