My best friend swears I could be kind. He says I always, always helped people who asked for it. And I did have moments of kindness in college. But I was also a grade-A mean girl. I was a bitch. And I don’t mean I followed a crowd. I was a Queen Bee Mean Girl: one who manufactured nastiness, who publicly eviscerated people. I made people laugh at others.
I regret every bit of it.
Yes, I could be kind. But I could also be a vicious bully, and I had the friends and the wit to back it up. When the residential college prom queen asks you, in front of a crowd, if you picked up your accent at the duty-free shop in Heathrow, you slink away in shame. “He probably still thinks about that at night,” my husband told me once. My stomach sunk. Yes, it was funny. It was funny at the expense of someone’s dignity and self esteem. And that particular person was struggling with a lot of issues already. The crowd knew it.
They ate it up.
I Was A Mean Girl For Attention
I wanted attention. I wanted people to look at me, to like me, and there’s a simple way to make that happen: tear down easy targets. One of the easiest? A former beauty queen who came to college and turned promiscuous alcoholic. Her exploits became legendary, and I helped spread them around. Did you hear so-and-so gave the couch crabs in a threesome?! I’d gloat. I heard from the cleaning staff that…
That girl didn’t need gossip. She needed an intervention, and I did nothing but tear her down. I think she dropped out. I could have helped her. Instead, I used her as a cheap way to turn eyes on me.
“Yeah, you’d go after people you thought were a threat to getting more attention than you,” my BFF tells me. That included the resident furry, who wore a pink bunny suit (just go with it), and a guy with a massive crush on me who we knew as “Punk So-and-So.” I’d make a dorm-wide deal of hiding under my bed when I heard his enormous ringed punk belt clinking as he came to call.
Because I got attention when I did it. People laughed.
People Don’t Laugh AT Mean Girls
And when those people laughed, they didn’t laugh at me. I went from pure high school loser to that mean girl bitch from Cruel Intentions. But those same high school insecurities gnawed at me. If I went after someone else, no one would go after me. Simple arithmetic. So when the beauty queen slept around, I could slut-shame her and deflect attention from my own (totally promiscuous) exploits. I could bully Punk Rock Boy and conceal that yeah, I sort of had a thing for him.
I discovered that when I endlessly ridiculed the kid who pretended to be a vampire, no one talked about my outrageous exploits. I could get away with all kinds of wild stuff, because people were too busy laughing at someone else.
And they didn’t want to be my next target.
And I Feel Awful
I remember most of all a little gay freshman showing up at our dorm on one of our first nights of school. We had a reputation for being gay-friendly. He didn’t live there, but he had come, presumably, to make some friends. But he made a big mistake. He started spouting off about having Charleston money.
He started lying about said Charleston money.
I’d grown up around money — I hadn’t had it, but I knew the trappings. And I ate this skinny little boy for lunch, stringing him along, helping him dig himself deeper and deeper while all of us older kids snickered behind our hands. It took this boy an hour to realize he was getting played, an hour of total humiliation by a pack of older kids led by a wide-eyed mean girl asking him to tell her more. He finally slunk away and never came back.
I could have befriended that kid. I could have pulled him aside and said look, I know you’re lying, play it real and you’ll do fine. I could have given that kid real friends and real acceptance. I made a snap decision to get some cheap laughs instead.
That’s why I did it all: cheap laughs from a mean girl. I hated myself, and I was scared other people would hate me, too. So I used my smart mouth and pack of friends to draw attention away from me and onto kids who least deserved it. I could have sat down with that beauty queen and helped her. I could have been kind to Punk Rock Boy.
That’s the crux of it: I could have chosen kindness. I could have looked beyond my own self-loathing and chosen something greater. I didn’t. And my own particular psychological issues at that point are no excuse for any suffering I caused anyone else. I have no idea how deep it went. Maybe some dumb comment I don’t remember caused someone a lot of pain. Maybe no one really remembers what a mean girl I was.
Hey, you all I went to college with. You know who you are. I grew up. And I’m sorry. It doesn’t mean much now, and this apology’s yours to take or ignore. All I can do is offer it humbly, and hopefully with grace. I was a total mean girl to so many of you. I might not remember fun times we had. But I remember being vicious. And I’m so sorry.