Yesterday, I got a text from daughter while she was on her three girl sleepover hang-out.
“It’s annoying when everything your friend does has to be better than you.”
I text: “Hells yes.”
She texts: “She does all this stuff, can afford whatever, does all these programs because she can afford it. I just don’t like being the broke girl with divorced parents.”
I read this and my heart sinks. My heart sinks because I KNOW.
I text: “I know. It must be hard. Honestly, I don’t like being the broke divorced mom either. I am sorry, honey. I wish it were different. Try to see what you DO have… like a loving brother.”
She texts: “Yeah. But it’s different for me though. Whenever we talk about anything it’s all horseback riding and I was on a national gymnastics team and I have a beach house, etc. etc.”
I text: “Try not to compare. I know when I compare I feel miserable.”
She texts: “BUT SHE WON’T SHUT THE F UP ABOUT IT!”
Yes, she really texts that.
I text: “Talk about your singing, your writing, your stories, your grades. You are great from the inside out. Not the other way around. If she won’t shut the F up, she needs to hear herself, know what I am saying?”
She texts: “She has amazing grades, she THINKS she is a good writer, she has money and parents who are married. What else does she need?”
I text: “Apparently to shut up and learn some humility.”
She texts: “If my self-esteem were any lower than it is right now, it would be 20,000 leagues under the sea.”
I put the iPhone down. I sit, remembering all the triangulation between teenage girlfriends growing up. All the betrayal, mistrust and humiliation. But mostly the exclusion.
Who is “in” today. Who is “out”.
This is the thing girls do to gain control of one another. While the boys fight it out after school, we are busy leaving each other out.
Before long, daughter arrives home. And she starts talking. First slowly, but in a very short time the dam bursts.
She says, “We were skating and “M” and “S” were always skating together, holding hands and every time I came up and tried to hold hands and skate they would skate away, or tell me, ‘Oh it’s too hard to skate in threes’ or something. It just kept happening and they were all acting like it was me making it up but they were really doing it!”
She is crying now. “They kept saying, ‘What’s the matter with you anyway?’ and I tried to talk to them and they were just like ‘ok…’ and walked away. I was just standing there by myself. It was horrible!”
I hug her. All her black eyeliner in running down her face. I pet her head.
The she says, “And “M” just thinks she is the best at everything. It makes me so sick!”
Now she is REALLY crying. Big crocodile tears. I keep listening. I hold in all my mama revenge thoughts.
“It sounds really hard honey. It reminds me of when I was growing up. Girls would leave each other out, write mean things on the bathroom wall…”
“They still do that!” she says.
“I bet.” I say.
“Mom. When we were on the train they kept walking away. They would be in one spot together. Then when I came over they would move!”
“Whoa!” I say. “You know though, that kind of stuff is not about you. You are just the convenient target for their control issue.”
But I can feel the humiliation. I want so bad to solve it all for her. But I know I cannot.
She cries in my arms. We talk about growing up female. We talk about friends and middle school and high school. Soon she is wiping her eyes and making Goth girl eyeliner jokes.
After a while she gets up and goes about her business. I sit on the floor and think.
I hope I have been a good listener. I know there are two sides to every story, but I want to tell daughter to never, ever, ever, never hang out with those two girls again.
I know this day in her life has left a mark.
I hope it is a learning mark.