I don’t normally use this blog to get all serious and Debbie Downer-y or to air my petty grievances (we all know that is what Twitter is for), but every once in a while a story hits the news and I just can’t help myself. Last week a couple of Virginia Tech college students were arrested for the murder of thirteen-year-old Nicole Lovell. Now I have lived in America all my life so unfortunately people being murdered or arrested for murder is a pretty standard affair. What made this murder stand out amid all the others was the victim and her particular story.
Nicole Lovell survived cancer, MRSA and a liver transplant at the age of five only to be lured out of her home and allegedly murdered by the 18-year-old “boyfriend” she met online. Nicole had a tracheotomy scar and took twice daily anti-rejection drugs that made her gain weight and because of this she was often bullied at school, so much so that her mother kept her home on more than one occasion. And while they may look like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths there isn’t anything more vicious in the wild than an 8th grader in yoga pants with an agenda. Nicole was ripe for the picking from a predator and the Internet made that all the more easy to do.
I think a large part of why this story just plain got to me is that we all could have been this girl (although in my day we did not have mobile phones or Kik and were lucky if we had a corded princess phone in our bedroom and a tv with four channels, max). By just about anyone’s measure the junior high/middle school days are the worst even if you don’t have anything to make you stand out from the bland madding crowd like scars and transplant drug weight issues. Throw in a Lord of the Flies survival-of-the fittest herd mentality and it’s a miracle any of us get out alive.
But survive most of us do, even if we do stupid things like lie to our parents or sneak out of the house, carrying a Minions blanket like Nicole did. Maybe because her school life was not the best she had an active online presence, posting selfies to sites asking total strangers to deem her hot or not. She met someone and showed his pictures to her friends and described him as her boyfriend. One of her classmates supposedly went to a school counselor because she thought he appeared older than the 16-years Nicole said he was. The school counselor denies the relationship was ever brought to his attention and it doesn’t really matter now because it is too late for Nicole but it shouldn’t be.
Girls from a young age are sold the fairy tale that there is a soul-mate out there, a proverbial cover for every pot, but sometimes that lid just doesn’t fit right and the Judge Judy show is jam-packed with cases of lonely women (mostly, not solely) so desperate to be loved that they take out loans to borrow money to a guy they have known for a New York minute.
I have a couple of thirteen-year-olds in my family and for all intents and purposes they are babies even if they don’t think so. My heart aches for Nicole’s family and all the other little girls out there who just wanted to be accepted and loved even if they are not standard issue Barbie dolls.