Hurting Catherine
I probably would not be the way I am today if peer pressure hadn't made me make fun of the new girl in our class. I never believed in hurting people just because they didn't fit in with the "in" crowd. After all I had been hurt like that too and I knew exactly how it felt. Unfortunately I gave into the pressure of my friends and classmates. Maybe I wouldn't have become such a nasty and rude person if I had not given into the temptation to fit in that day. Making fun of the poor girl really did change my life. I ended up becoming everything I never wanted to be. The only thing I gained from it all was "fake" popularity and "fake" friends.
About a year ago, a new girl joined our class. She was shabbily dressed, and had half-torn shoes. One could tell that she was very poor, and probably didn't even have a proper dinner every night. When I first saw her, I felt sorry for her. She shyly looked around the class, while I could hear a lot of snickering from the boys. I felt angry, how could my friends be so shallow? Just because someone can't afford proper clothes doesn't mean that they should be ill-treated.
Our English teacher introduced her to us as Catherine. She turned red in the face when my so-called "best friend", Vanessa, made a dirty remark about her clothes as she walked by to take a seat in class. She looked as if she was going to cry any minute, as she quickly walked to the back of the class bumping into many chairs along the way, and I felt a strong urge to hit Sarah for saying that.
After class, I was the only one who went up to Catherine and actually talked to her in a nice way. In fact, I came to know a lot about this new girl, and found that she was actually a really nice person. Unfortunately, my "wonderful" friends did not like her, and kept sneering and complaining about her "imaginary" bad smell. In fact, when I invited her for lunch that day at our usual table, my group of friends decided to leave, making up a hundred and one excuses so I don't feel bad. At the time I couldn't believe my friends were being so shallow. Little did I know that I would become just as shallow as them in the near future, if not worse.
Catherine and I had a long talk during lunch that day, and she was feeling terrible. I came to know a lot about her and her family, and all I could say to console her was "don't stress about it too much. Everything will be just fine. Don't worry, you'll adjust soon enough and trust me, once people find out how nice you are they will stop tormenting you like they did today." Little did I know that the torment would go on for the rest of the school year, and that I would join in very soon.
Catherine was an orphan, and she lived with her grandparents. They weren't very well off, as they couldn't work due to their old age. She loved them a lot, and she even sacrificed a lot just for them. She always said how lucky she really was having such loving grandparents, no matter how poor they were. Her family was not always poor; in fact they had been quite rich up to a few years after she was born. Unfortunately they were overshadowed by numerous debts, which could not be paid. Then Catherine's parents died in a car accident, making life for her hell. The bank took her beautiful house, and she was sent to live with her grandparents, who were poor, unlike her parents. Hearing all this, I found it hard to believe that she could smile so much, and be such a cheerful person. We immediately became good friends.
Even a month into school, my friends had not accepted her. They made fun of her almost everyday, and she would go home crying. I tried my best to stand up for her, without myself getting insulted, and it worked sometimes, though everyone started thinking I was no good. When Catherine got straight A's in her report card, my classmates made her life even worse, calling her things like "poor geek". As time went by, I found that I had stopped sticking up for her, but would just sit there and watch them torment her. I was afraid they would pick on me next if I opened my mouth to protest. I should have realized then that I was a coward and not worth her friendship, but I didn't.
Then it happened at the Halloween Party. I made Catherine come along with me to the party, and I even helped her find a costume, which she could afford. We reached the party around 8 o' clock that evening. I left her in a corner while I went to talk to some of my other friends. I had become quite distant from some of my friends since I spent a lot of time with Catherine, and found this occasion a good time to catch up with them on their life. Suddenly one of the boys, Daniel, started picking on Catherine. He was shouting and insulting her, while his friends were laughing and encouraging him to continue. My friends grabbed my hand and pulled me over to the crowd that had formed around Catherine and Daniel. My friends found this the perfect moment to test me. Vanessa told me to join in on making fun of Catherine or else I'll be kicked out of their group.
There was silence in the hall. Everyone had their eyes on me, while I was trying to make up my mind. On one side there was Catherine, looking scared, pleading with me to not hurt her, and on the other side there were my friends and schoolmates, ready to insult me if I said no, or ready to call me their hero if I agreed. I chose my friends and schoolmates. I actually went up to her and said the nastiest things I could think of, while everyone else laughed and joined in the fun. At the time I actually enjoyed it, especially when everyone came up to me and patted my back telling me that I did the right thing, along with cheering me on. Through the crowd I saw Catherine's tear stained face as she made her way to the door to leave the party. Oddly, I didn't feel bad about what I did, but instead I felt the party had been a blast, but this feeling didn't last for long.
When I got home later that night, I realized I had hurt her a lot. I called her to apologize, but unfortunately she was too hurt to forgive me. I don't know what happened to me, but I became very bitter towards her, though I was actually angry with myself. Slowly I started acting rude towards everyone who did not "fit in". I hated myself for what happened, and on the inside I hated myself for becoming just like the kind of people I generally hate. When I think about it, then I feel so terrible that it hurts deep inside. It's like a pain that doesn't exist but is very much there. One piece of advice, never let peer pressure make you do something that is wrong or you don't believe in, because in the end you will end up hurting yourself as well as others who don't deserve to be hurt.
Of course, now I have stopped being so rude, as my behavior just hurt me even more. I am happy for Catherine now. She has a few friends who can be called true friends and are wonderful people. Yeah sure, her friends aren't popular, but then why be popular and not be happy, when you can give up all that attention and be yourself. Catherine deserves friends like the ones she has. I do feel that I don't deserve friends, but I have friends, just not what one can call true friends. I'm really sorry Catherine, I never should have hurt you like that, and I can understand if you hate me.

-Sonam Mandal

Note: Names have been changed for everyone.