I was the mean girl.
Do you know how hard it is to admit that aloud, much less on paper for the whole world to see? It’s hard, so, so hard. I say it, though, to give hope to the mothers of children who are subjected to the meanness or the teasing that is used to push others down. And even more importantly, I say it to the mothers of the excluders, the daughters who may be popular and use their status to push others down, subtly or inadvertently, in a spirit of meanness. I was that child—the seemingly overconfident child, a lanky girl with her blonde hair cut into a cool style and a confident smile. That was me on the outside—happy, sassy, and outgoing.
Inside, I was desperate to fit in with my small private school group and I did, pretty easily, minus the few run-of-the-the mill blips of girlhood. I remember each of those blips though, in glaring detail. Could this mean that they were processed by my childish mind and interpreted not as casually as my mother may have thought? Did she even know? I doubt it. I did not volunteer this information that would have portrayed my vulnerability, and she did not ask. In hindsight, they were blips, but at the time, they were heartbreaking, and neither my mother nor any other adult even thought to ask questions.
My history was not an excuse for my bullying, but if we want to get to the root of the mean girl, we must consider her background so we can better end this dangerous phenomenon. I longed to be the best friend of Annie Smith. That is my first feeling of real hurt, as she had been claimed by another suitor, a girl who I perceived as prettier, smarter, and funnier than me. I was in the third grade and heartbroken. Annie was clueless, her light and airy self, and had moved to a new school. Always inclusive, the slight went over her head, but it went straight to my vulnerable heart—my first real experience in realizing there was not room for three.
Perhaps that initial pain spawned my own hardness, which I’d begun to project on others. That feeling of power grew, and looking back, I can see the other cliffs that led me to my fall. No one caught the signs and certainly they were subtle, but I remember them. I worked craftily to keep my feelings buried, hence my need for control. It is a dangerous game that can unwillingly make a child become the mean girl.
I’m sure it didn’t happen overnight, but I remember the growing cattiness within me and my tendency to tease others. I was a perfect example of a mean girl. My mother was clueless about what happened at school and in our kid-filled neighborhood, so it was not until another mother called her to report my unkindness that I was dealt with, particularly the part of me that had become merciless in my teasing.
I remember getting a call from the principal’s office that my mother was on her way to get me. Filled with a sense of dread, I waited on the sidewalk by the bleak, snow-covered playground of my small school. Recalling that dread, I must have sensed the havoc I had wreaked and was fortunately coming to an end. The minute I got into the car and looked into my mother’s eyes, the tears began to fall. I was caught, and I felt so relieved and ashamed all at the same time. Most of all though, I felt love. Whatever the dark place within me had hidden, it was out in the light now—freedom.
I was the mean girl. I still have a tendency to tease, and perhaps, sometimes push the limits. I try to watch myself but I know I err every so often. I like to think that the mean girl is long gone though. I truly enjoy people and love getting to know them and their stories. I have become softer over the years; experiencing death and tragedy will do that to those that have faith.
Please consider the mean girls as exactly who they are. They are girls who are hiding pain or secrets, and in their search for power and control, the meanness presents itself. Offer them love, lots of love, and hugs and conversations and chances to talk over making lunches in the morning or lying beside them before bedtime. Make sure you catch the blips that come your way, and consider the girl who is mean as just a little girl, like I once was. I was her.