Tuva is a Whore – An Essay by Tuva Johansson

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This is a little love letter to my friends. They were always there for me, helping me to escape into another world away from the awfulness of lunch breaks, school corridors and food canteens. This is a summary of my time at secondary school. It all started with: “Tuva is a whore”.

Immediately after summer holidays I found out that a girl in the year ahead of me had written that I was a whore online. This was the time before Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It had been written on one of the first social websites in Sweden, Skunk. I walked home feeling uneasy and attacked. The thing was that I did not even know the girl. I was turning 12 and had never even kissed a boy yet this person accused me of being a whore. Questions swirled around in my head. It must be a mistake, I thought. But no. This short sentence was the beginning of a two-year long bullying campaign. For some still unknown reason this particular girl and her friends all hated me, and this hatred was spread around the school.

Fiery comments were missiles around the corridors “You walk like a fridge!”, “Cunt”, “ Slut”, “Whore”, “What the fuck are you looking at?” or more often “Who do you think you are?”. I was taunted every day for two years until these girls left secondary school. Everyone commented on how I was dressed, laughed at my shoes that I really loved… The boys thought it to be OK to touch me, to shout inappropriate words after me in the corridors, to push me up against the walls and pretend to take me from behind. This was seen as OK. Because I was a whore.

I was scared and felt uncomfortable every day. I hated walking through the school building. A bullied person’s biggest fear: lunch breaks. In order to go to the food canteen I had to cross the cafeteria where these girls always seemed to hang out. I took detours and sat waiting until classes rung in order to hopefully miss their faces in the crowd outside the classrooms. I avoided going to the toilet. I knew their timetables inside out.

One time after having tried to ignore them for over a year some words finally slipped out of my mouth asking them what their problem was. The meanest person of them all laughed and then shot up from her seat against the wall, stood opposite me and shouted: “Come get me then!”. I will never forget that feeling of fear. I thought she was going to hit me.

My friend quickly pulled me away and we hurried off. Laughter echoed across the corridor and my heartbeat pounded hard in my chest.

I have two separate memories of this time of my life. One is the constant feeling of unease and anxiety. Hiding in my room at night, listening to sad music and wondering why the whole world hated me. The other memories are those of my best friend and I buying ridiculous mopeds and driving around our small little village pretending to be somewhere else. My friend and I discovering music and disappearing into another world where we felt at home. Hour long phone calls every day and sitting in our raspberry-red rooms being teenagers.

There was one girl, in the year group above me who had been alone all through school. She committed suicide not too long ago.

I had a small number of friends but it sufficed. They were my support and saviours. We do not need thousands of friends on Facebook. All we need is a few close friends who will be there for us.

Years later at college: “Hey Tuva, fancy seeing you, can I stand here?” A drunk ex-bully appeared while my friend and I stood outside a local club, nearing the front of a long queue to get inside. She tried to win a spot closer to the door by acting as if we were long-lost friends. My friend and I just stood there, froze, and did not utter a single word. She sensed herself as being unwelcome and walked off. It was a major battle I just had won. And I would not have been able to win it without my friends.

Friends seem to be so easily collected and discarded. We boast with a high number of friends on social media websites, ensuring connections in order for us to get ahead in life, in our careers and in our social life. That is not what friendship is about. Friendship is not numbers and quantities. Friendship is about quality. The best friends are those who deeply care about you, who will always be there for you. I just think about how hard it must have been for my friends to be friends with me back then. Because as we all know, it is not cool to be friends with the bullied one. It takes courage and real friendship. I did not have many friends but everyone can survive and heal their scars with the help of as little as one friend. Thank you for being my friend.

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