What came to Maisie, though, was an idea for passive resistance, pigtail-style: Instead of scurrying away or returning the girl’s nastiness in kind, she’d wear her hair like that all week — I’m fine the way I am, thanks — and maybe get a couple of friends to do likewise. She poured out her heart — and her plan — on Facebook, then headed off to her after-school babysitting job.
When she checked in a few hours later, she was overwhelmed to find more than 500 notifications and hundreds of friend requests waiting: “Some of them were people I’ve looked up to and never met! I started shaking and couldn’t stop.’’ But — and this is my favorite part — Maisie typed out a second status update, asking for restraint: “I’d like to remind people that this is a protest against bullying,” she wrote, so bullying the girl right back “would be against the movement,’’ which she dubbed “Pigtails for Peace.”
The next day, much of the school in the historic fishing village — girls, boys, a dog and at least one teacher — was pigtailed, and the bully absent. “There were hundreds of them — almost all of the sophomore class’’ copying Maisie’s do, said Loren Weston, a counselor and sponsor of an anti-bullying club. “People from every friend group and year did it,’’ said a junior who didn’t want to be named. “The way she dresses — she’s funky — and outspoken and positive, but she hadn’t been feeling so good,’’ the girl said, and kids were glad to have the chance to rally around her.
In the days since, the student who mocked Maisie has not only backed off, but also sent a message of contrition through friends: “She’s been going through some stuff, too,” Maisie told me on the phone, and hopes that down the line, they’ll be able to talk about it. She’s also gotten multiple messages along the lines of “She’d been bullying me, too, and now she isn’t anymore; thank you!”
Old-fashioned cruelty has always gone on, of course; I’ll never forget the old German nun who routinely yelled at a boy in my class, who had trouble reading aloud, that he was “so stupid” — STYOU-pid, she pronounced it — or the girl with albinism at summer camp who everyone said was a lesbian; I sat with her at lunch one day, not out of compassion, I’m sorry to say, but because she was ahead of me in line in the cafeteria, and that’s how we usually sat; I still recall the stage whispers around us as everyone steered clear, and have often wondered what became of her, and wished I’d had the moral moxie to get to know her.