Friday, January 12, 2007

Mean Girls: An Essay

The Girl called me from school last Wednesday and begged me to come and pick her up so that she wouldn’t have to attend her After School Program. When I asked why, she sobbingly told me that two of her classmates were waging a whispering campaign aimed at ostracizing her from the rest of the girls in her little circle of friends. She tearfully told me that one of her friends was already “on their side” and that she was certain that no one would talk to her if she went to Program. She would be alone. Friendless. Could I please, please, please, come and get her?

In that moment I was transported right back to my own childhood and I came thisclose to dropping the phone and racing to the school to rescue my daughter. Instead, I did one of the hardest things that I will ever have to do as a parent; I said no.

Instead, I encouraged The Girl to dry her tears. I suggested that she seek the company of girls who don’t bow down to the Mighty Mean Girls. I told her that a true friend doesn’t stop being your friend on the recommendation of someone else and I asked her if the situation was reversed, would she willingly abandon a friend just because a peer told her to? It came as no great surprise when she said no; of course she wouldn’t do that. So, I said, why would you want to be friends with someone who would?

By the time we finished our conversation, The Girl was calm and optimistic about her chances of enjoying After School Programs. I told her how proud I am of her and I promised that we could talk about it more at home that evening and we said goodbye.

I was sick with worry about her for the rest of the day yet, when I picked her up after Program, she bounded out of the classroom with a smile on her face, overjoyed at having spent the afternoon with one of her friends who thinks The Mean Girls are just a bunch of phony-baloney (her words). So, either my daughter is super-resilient or she has the attention span of a gnat; either way, crisis averted. For today, anyway.

Yet, I worry.

Mean Girls are not new phenomena; since the dawn of time, they have ruled the playground and lorded over the hallways. Their weapons of choice; intimidation, cruelty and ridicule. What they lack in self-esteem they more than make up for in viciousness and bile. Oh yes, I have known my fair share of Mean Girls.

Historically, there are a number of ways in which ordinary girls deal with Mean Girls. Some fall victim to their influence and become mean themselves, because, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

Some retreat into their own worlds; adopting characters in books as friends and whiling away the time until their own self-esteem grows to a point that they can defend themselves against the criticism of the Mean Girls (my Dad totally just went Ah-ha!).

A lucky few, already in possession of a strong sense of self-esteem, ignore the Mean Girls altogether, pursuing their own interests thus escaping the drama.

A handful are so beaten down by Mean Girls and, by life in general, that they lose hope of ever being good enough for anything and drop out of school or lose themselves in substances that offer a reprieve from the pain. They are broken; powerless.

And, in the end, being a Mean Girl really is about power. Because, when you feel crappy about yourself as a person, what could possibly make you feel better about yourself than making someone else feel worse about themselves? Mean Girl Logic 101.

What the Mean Girls fail to realize is that; the person with the most important opinion of you is you and, once you arrive in a place where you are peaceful about who you are, the Mean Girl is powerless over you.

Getting there is the battle.

Speaking of the battle; next year, The Girl enters Middle School, also known as The Eighth Circle of Hell. The Mean Girls will have had an entire summer in which to add to their bag of tricks. So, The Girl will need to have her defensive manuevers firmly in place. As her mother, all that I can do to help her is to tell her, constantly, how very much we love and value her. How important she is. How worthy. In not rushing to her rescue this week, I hope I taught her that, while I am here for her, I also believe in her ability to deal with these situations on her own. To make the right choices. To treat others as she would like to be treated and to stand up for herself. To be a Nice Girl.

I have every faith in her.

And still, I worry.


  1. Great post. My mom used to always say "why do you care what they think?", but she didn't say it in a nice way or a helpful way because HELLO, you do CARE what others think! But it doesn't have to dictate what you do and I really liked your approach to it. I also plan on asking my children questions as to WHY they think the Mean Kids are acting like that. One thing I have learned in my vast knowledge as an adult (ha!) is that people are usually mean because they are jealous or unhappy.

  2. We'll have to be support for each other next year when our girls enter Middle School. I'm dreading it!!

  3. I remember those days all to well. The worst was 6th grade when my supposed best friends would allienate me. I've forgotten most of it, but my mom remembers me coming home crying on more than one occassion. I remember at the end of the year, they didn't speak to me for a week because I had the nerve to talk to other girls at the overnight sleepover! Imagine! It just sucks that girls and boys (teenagers too) can't understand that it will all end someday, and life gets better.