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schadenfreude

February 22, 2009

The word “popularity” was important to me in junior high, I think, but I haven’t thought about the concept much since then. I was never the most popular kid in school, preferring the company of books to my classmates, and although I didn’t really want to be friends with the “popular” kids, their rejection still stung.

In seventh grade, a girl named Jamie Klausen* moved to Edmond, Oklahoma, and the school placed her in most of my classes. Since she arrived in the middle of the year, I was nice to her from day one, afraid that she would be lonely.

After three weeks, however, she managed to worm her way into the “popular crowd”, and she made it clear my company was no longer desired. She’d turn her nose up when she passed me in the halls and point and whisper from her table in the lunch room.

As the year wore on, her subtle mockery metamorphosed into targeted cruelty. As far as I could tell, I was the sole subject of her harassment. She would try to slam my fingers in my locker and trip me in the halls.

I couldn’t understand why Jamie would want to cause me harm, couldn’t imagine what I might have done to deserve her punishment. Now, looking back, I know that I did nothing wrong, that my existence was reason enough.

Nevertheless, I came home crying more days than not and learned to hurry from class to class with all of my books so trips to my locker were unnecessary. Jamie quickly amassed a group of “popular kids” to join in on the fun, and the remainder of my seventh grade year was spent in quiet but intense fear.

Fast-forward to present day. I no longer care about popularity, of course, and I thought I’d forgotten all about Jaime Klaussen. I guess those memories are stickier than I realized.

Yesterday, I was browsing through a few news articles online when I ran across a headline about a woman who had just been arrested in my old hometown on charges of fraud and grand larceny. The name, more than the location, froze my pointer finger over the mouse button.

Jamie Klaussen.

A file photograph attached to the article confirmed my suspicions, and I read through the account with an embarrassing level of giddiness.

And the terrified seventh-grade girl inside me said: “Take that spoonful of karma, you COW.”

Bullies take warning: Yes, we remember your cruelty for years to come; yes, we take petty pleasure in your future downfall; and no, you may not borrow bail money.

It’s kind of like those talk-show programs where beautiful women who used to be fat or ugly confront the men on whom they had crushes during high school. Except in this instance, I don’t need Jamie to see that I’m successful or well-liked by my peers. Knowing that she failed in life and is heading for a long jail sentence is satisfaction enough. How petty am I?

*Name changed to protect the cow.

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