Dear (former) mean girl,
I’ve included “former” in good faith, as I hope that time has made you kinder.
Anyone that grew up in my town in a small corner of a small state would have the same answer when asked, “Who was the meanest kid in your class?” You reigned as the head mean girl from elementary school all the way though high school, even occasionally acting out in college. I wasn’t the sole target of your unkindness, thankfully—I’m not sure I would have survived it. As I came in and out of your orbit, I witnessed countless peers become the target of your cruelty for periods of time as well.
Your brand of mean back in elementary school was beyond your years. You were able to manipulate girls with ease, pulling them into your friend group and then almost as quickly shutting them out. You made others crave your acceptance and approval, which you might have granted ever so briefly before quickly turning on them. Your cruel words managed to damage self-esteem in girls that should have been too young and carefree to be self-conscious. Do you need a reminder?
You followed behind a neighborhood girl after getting off the bus, singing “Baby Beluga” at the top of your lungs.
You called a 10-year-old girl “pizza face” as she began what would become a long battle with acne.
You told the entire fourth grade (untruthfully) that you saw two of the girls in your class kissing. In fact, they were dancing around and just being kids.
I’m not sure you’ll ever know the extent of the damage you did all those years ago.
I managed to stay out of your way in middle school, but you certainly made it a special kind of hell for kids already going through a difficult time. You targeted kids that were different—the girl that cut her hair short, the boy that hadn’t yet lost his baby fat.
I found myself incurring your wrath once again in high school, when I dated the ex-boyfriend of one of your friends. The harassment was constant: awful comments in the hallway, egging my car, calling my cell phone and sending hateful instant messages. The irony is, you were far meaner to me than the former girlfriend who felt slighted; I have to believe you were thrilled just to have a target.
Even in college there was the occasional harassing Facebook message from a stranger. Upon further investigation, they always appeared to be individuals who went to your school and showed up in your friend list.
I’d like to say that I never think of you, but between social media and hometown gossip, your name still comes up once and a while. And everyone has a personal story about just how cruel you were to them, the painful details forever etched in their memories.
Most recently, the gossip mill reported that you were married and had baby. And all I could think was, “Oh, I hope you raise that child to be kind.”
Because see, I’m a mom now, too. And what I’ve learned is that children are not born mean. Children are either taught to be mean, or they become mean because there is something very lacking in their upbringing that causes them to lash out at others.
And I wonder, what made you act so cruelly all those years? Did you not get enough love? Enough acceptance? Enough attention? In some ways, my heart breaks for you.
But my heart also breaks for my child, who I know will one day face someone like you on the playground, in the hallways, in the parking lot.
So I’m asking, from one mother to another—don’t let history repeat itself. Let all of the good and the innocence remain in your child. Raise your baby to be kind, and I promise to do the same.