Of Romney and His Gang and the Gang Who Held ME Down

In high school I was held down by a group of boys against my will.

Much like the story being told about Mitt Romney, my high school days included an incident where a group of young men ‘played a prank’ ‘had some fun’ ‘joked around’ ‘acted like boys’ ‘bullied someone different’ ‘tackled’ ‘pinned to the ground’ ‘forcibly restrained me.’

Much like the story being told about Romney and his group of friends, I lived in a suburb of Detroit, near the prestigious Cranbrook school Romney attended. While he and his buddies held down another student and cut off the hair they decided they didn’t like, I was held down by a group of boys who pulled down my top, exposing my breasts.

I’d say that roughly the same number of boys were involved. I’d say 75% of them have, over the years, apologized. Except the ring leader- who to this day remains a total asshole.

I do not think any of us are who we were in high school. We grow. We change. We evolve into adults that are hopefully more mature and wise and educated. However we do have certain traits that remain, even if we’ve tried to shake them. Sure we’re a hell of a lot different, but we certainly have a core that has stayed consistent.

In Dreams From My Father President Obama writes of a bullying incident he too was involved in where he was teased along with the only other student of color at his school. He denied to the other students she was his girlfriend:

I was haunted by the look on Coretta’s face just before she had started to run: her disappointment, and the accusation. I wanted to explain to her somehow that it had been nothing personal; I’d just never had a girlfriend before and saw no particular need to have one now. But I didn’t even know if that was true. I knew only that it was too late for explanations, that somehow I’d been tested and found wanting; and whenever I snuck a glance at Coretta’s desk, I would see her with her head bent over her work, appearing as if nothing had happened, pulled into herself and asking no favors.

My act of betrayal bought me some room from the other children, and like Coretta, I was mostly left alone.

Romney, on the other hand, claims to not even remember the incident of cutting another student’s hair after his gang of friends allegedly held the boy down.

Now the point here isn’t to compare the character of each candidate (or anyone for that matter) solely on how they behaved in their youth. That would be absurd. But there is a certain wondering one must do when one man can write so eloquently about an incident in which you can feel his pain for having ‘betrayed’ (the President’s word) another student and another man who can’t even seem to recall what, by all accounts, seemed to be one really dickish move by a spoiled rich kid ala some John Hughes movie in which I fully expect Molly Ringwald to report Romney (played by James Spader, of course) to the principal.

I’m disturbed that Romney does not remember. I really am. Either he did things like this so often they didn’t even register in his memory or he found it to be such a ‘non’ issue he had no reason to remember. Or he does remember and can’t bring himself to discuss it and actually tell the world this sort of behavior has no place in our society. Or…or…. I don’t know. I just know his reaction to this has been bizarre, at the least.

I certainly remember being held down by that group of boys. All them, to this day, remember holding me down. It seems all of Romney’s gang remembers holding down their victim as well. All except Mitt.

Again, this isn’t something that defines a presidential campaign, should be brought up in debates (unless, of course they discuss the issue of bullying and suicide and teens- then please, by all means) or should overshadow the economy, jobs, foreign policy, wars, etc. But it sure does seem to paint a picture for me.

It paints a picture for me as a girl who was held down by a group of asshole boys who thought they could do what they wanted and get away with whatever they wanted. Just like in the alleged Romney incident, I was told I was asking for it. Or that I liked it. Or that somehow in the warped minds of those trying to justify their actions it was my fault for wearing that bikini top, just like it was John Lauber’s fault for wearing his hair different than the rest of the kids.

Bullies do that. They victim blame.

I certainly hope Romney has changed since his youth and doesn’t find what the Washington Post calls ‘pranks’ as funny anymore. As the President wrote in his book, he had been tested and found wanting…if only Romney seemed to show the public he too failed. Not just apologized for youthful indiscretions, but found wanting.

For those of us held down. For those of us on the floor with the faces of young men looking down on us with laughter and evil in their eyes, we not only expect you remember, but that you felt tested and now and forever found wanting.







  1. First of all, I am deeply, profoundly sorry you had that experience. I felt clammy & anxious just reading your words; I cannot begin to imagine how that moment felt for you.

    I also feel rage that anyone ever thinks it is ok to overpower and intimidate someone like that. I’m glad that most of the boys have apologized.

    As for Romney, I don’t support him and never will, but that incident and his response to it tells me all I need to know about his character.

  2. As a person who was bullied, I got no love for Flipper (Romney). One of the puzzling things is the statements about how he was enforcing the dress code. With a pair of scissors.

    An adult person has the opportunity to reflect and make a statement that “I was wrong, my life experiences and growth as a person has taught me that lesson.”

    Someone will have to write that sentence for him. It has yet to come from him.

    It does make the case that if your world view is so narrow you can’t accept people being different. I don’t see how you would could be prepared or have the vision to represent all people in this nation.

    Not that I think that is in the game plan.

  3. I may not remember all the times I was a jerk to people in high school, but I certainly remember the worst ones. I never put my hands on anyone, thank goodness – I would remember that, and I’d feel pretty damned bad about it.

  4. I think that is exactly the point- all of us remember clearly the times we were horrible to other human beings. I remember doing it once in ELEMENTARY school when I used the n word on someone having NO idea what it meant. When I learned what it meant a few years later I was sick to my stomach and spent high school always being super nice to that person, hoping they’d forgive me for something I did as a pre-teen. Remembering these things just … seems human.

  5. I’m sorry, Erin. My stomach dropped reading this for little Erin.

  6. Perhaps he can’t remember because he never did it. The individual who was bullied is dead and this incident was reported by politically motivated ‘friends’. His family is horrified that his name is being used for political purposes.

    I was bullied horribly as a child and teenager (for eight years straight), a lot of my former ‘bullies’ grew out of that phase the few that didn’t where violent and were kicked out of school for being violent. The ones that grew out of that phase did so because they learned that bullying was wrong and chose not to repeat that mistake.

    If we were all judged on the mistakes we made as a child or young adult (some of us develop slower), no one would be judged worthy.

    If you have to dig into someone’s childhood to find something ‘wrong’ with ones character then there probably isn’t anything to report. I’ve felt that way about all candidates that reporters have to dig that far back into.

    I find it appalling that people have issue with Obama attending an Islamic school. He didn’t send himself to that school, his parents did. What matters is the choices one makes as a fully grown adult.

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