There’s nothing funny about actual “Mean Girls”

Mean girls suck. Actually, mean people suck, but I’m going to focus on the concept of the “mean girl”, since that’s what most relevant to the situation at hand. To get into it I need to set the stage, so I’m going to roll the clock back to my time in second grade (around 1980).

I was transferred to a new school so I could be part of a “Gifted & Talented” program, one of those accelerated learning programs that public schools in my area offered for kids who tested out of the standard curriculum. I didn’t know anyone there, but the rest of the kids had been together for several years. It’s not like I was some kind of novelty; the other kids mostly just ignored me those first few days. Only one girl took any interest in me, and we became fast friends–a deep friendship that continued for many years.

Some of the other girls, however, were assholes. It’s not like it was everybody, but a select group of A-groupers who were thinner and prettier than everyone else decided that I would be an easy target for their bullying. They’d be nice to me when they wanted to see how I solved a math problem, but otherwise they’d tease me for being fat, for being ugly, for being different from them. It was classic herd rejection.

It took years for me to be comfortable enough in my own skin that I was willing to look past what those early interactions did to my self-esteem. And there was no small part of me that sighed with relief when I saw that my daughter was an improvement on the model by leaps and bounds; she’s just this gorgeous, athletic, smart, funny, kind, and effortlessly cool kid. I figured things would be easier for her.

And yet, I spent a good bit of time up past her bedtime chatting with her last night about the mean girls that she’s encountering. Some are budding juvenile delinquents–not so much for lack of intelligence but for complete lack of discipline and manners. Some are from the classic “mean girl mold”, like telling anyone who’ll listen “I hate {dd}” and stage whispering about dd with her mean girl clique. Some are veritable human tofu: they take on the personality and aspect of those around them, regardless of whether they’re good or bad influences.

It’s sad and frustrating on so many levels. I want to protect dd from the pain that I went through, to have her rise above it and not feel rejected by those who choose to pick on her. I’m incredibly sad that some girls that I’ve known for years, that I’ve taken into my home at times or that I’ve spent time around, are treating her so horribly now. And I know that I can’t go to the parents and ask them why their kids are being such assholes to my kid, because it’s not my place to tell them so. (And they may be aware of the behavior and just don’t care, although I’d like to hope that’s not true.)

When I talked with dd about all of this mess, I asked her to see these kids for who they really are. The tofu girl may still be the nice girl that I’d like to think she is. But when her personality and actions change depending upon who’s she’s around, who’s the real her? The *mean* girl and the juvie-hall candidate-in-training are the ones I’ve told dd just to avoid. I’ve encouraged her to play with the kids that are nice, to find and make those safe spaces away from the kids that treat her like crap. That pushes her outside of her comfort zone which requires risking further rejection by attempting to go and play with someone new.

And I know that everyone thinks their kids are the cutest in the land, but seriously my girl is gorgeous. As in: when I look at her, I’m amazed that she’s my kid. That’s why it was a painful conversation, listening to her to tell me how ugly her face is, how much she hates the color of her skin, how few kids she feels comfortable playing with because of all the cliques and divisions that exist even at the 4th grade level. It hurts because she has natural advantages I didn’t (like her stunning beauty and her athleticism) and she’s still being subjected to this bullshit.

Maybe this is part of growing up, helping you develop a thicker skin and build your self-confidence…or maybe it’s just a shitty part of society that we really need to get past. Maybe one of these days we finally will. It just can’t come soon enough.

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