Hey, Mean Girl. I Have Something to Say
written by Mary Katherine Backstrom
I wasn’t that cool in middle school. I was cooler than I was in fifth grade, but only because I became a cheerleader. Unfortunately for me, no amount of pom pom shaking could make this face forgivable. Ratty bangs and green-rubber-band braces? GOD HELP.
I was a walking target. And those hand-me-down clothes made me a VERY big one. Over time, my hair and chompers got better, but the bullies never did. Or maybe “bully” isn’t the best word.
Gossips. Slanderers. Crap-Talkers.
Yep. MEAN girls.
I did everything I could to protect myself. First, I tried to disappear from their radar, which didn’t work. Then I tried getting cooler, which definitely didn’t work. Then I tried to defend myself. . .and you can guess how that went.
You see, I was under the delusion that their hatefulness was caused by something I had done. Turns out, hate is an insatiable beast. And that beast feeds off the gentle-hearted, the conflict averse, the generally nice.
Now, I’m not perfect, but I am sensitive and considerate of other people’s feelings.
And that makes me a Scooby Snack to the Mean Girls.
Today, roughly fifteen years out of high school, I read an article loosely entitled “Dear Mommy Bloggers, You Effing Suck”. Isn’t that lovely? So I was reading it (why? I don’t know.) and immediately felt my confidence begin to shrink. Here I am at the ripe age of 32, going through the same emotions as that ratty-banged Brace Face.
Who, ME? She doesn’t mean ME does she? Nah. I’m different than the people she’s making fun of. Oh, wait–maybe not so different. Maybe I should close this tab and stop reading. NO, I’ll just comment and tell her that I’m cooler than the other mommy bloggers. NO, I KNOW! I’ll comment and tell her what a self-righteous sonuvagun she is. That’ll do it!
So I typed six different comments before fine-tuning the PERFECT takedown. It was clever and snarky, but above the proverbial fray. It was perfection. I hit “enter” and sat back, arms across my chest, feeling pretty darn proud of myself.
. . . .then I waited.
. . . . . . and waited.
And as the “likes” came rolling in, my stomach hollowed out.
Because I had forgotten something very important. A lesson I had learned in college, sitting on the back steps at a fraternity party. Hugging a drunk, sobbing coed. This girl was my lady enemy, mind you. My polar opposite in every way. I was brunette, she was blonde. I brought my guitar to parties, she brought a beer funnel. Flip flops vs high heels. You get the point. And man, was she nasty-mean. Let’s call her Jenny.
Jenny could stand in a corner, give you the once-over, and you would instantly KNOW how little and insignificant you were. She was the Queen Bee of sorority life. No matter who challenged Jenny, they lost. But that didn’t stop me from trying.
Ultimately, she proved her point by having a fling in the back of a Toyota SUV. With my boyfriend. You can imagine how I felt about Mean Girl Jenny.
But my heart was softened that night on the back steps because as she sat there sobbing, she was so alone. And so sad. (And so, so drunk, but that was beside the point). Not a single friend went to comfort her because frankly, nobody cared. Whatever it was–she probably deserved it, right?
I joined her on the crumbling steps overlooking the back lawn. As we gazed out over a landscape of burning couch cushions and crunched Natty Light cans, Jenny told me a story.
Her dad left at a young age, and not long after that her mom got a boyfriend. Boyfriend became Abuser, and this went on for years until Jenny finally got up the courage to say something. Sadly, when she reported the abuse her mom denied it and disappeared to another state. For a few months she was in foster care, but eventually she got the privilege of finishing high school under the roof of her paternal grandmother. That was a whole other monster.
Jenny was angry, bitter, and hurt. And she acknowledged that she was, in her words–not mine, a “bitch”. Being mean made her feel strong. Less vulnerable.
MEAN was her armor.
We didn’t become best friends or anything. Far from it. But I did walk away, for the first time in my life, feeling sorry for the Mean Girls. I had learned a lesson: Everyone has hurt, we just react to it differently. Mean Girls? They aren’t made of steel. They hurt, too.
So back to the bomb I dropped under Mommy Bloggers Suck. I read and reread my comment and as other dogs joined the fight, I began to feel guilty.
What was I trying to accomplish?
I knew in my heart that words alone weren’t going to change this woman’s mind. I’m not even sure she actually believed what she wrote.
She was just being mean.
Which, I remember now, means she was just being hurt.
So to the Mean Girl I called out today on the internet. And to the Mean Girl stealing boyfriends in the back of Toyota SUVs. And to all the other Mean Girls from fifth grade to age fifty, I have something to say to you:
I’m sorry you are so hurt, angry, and bitter. I’m sorry that life dealt you the cards it did, and I’m sorry that the only way you knew to respond was in kind. You have my love, my hugs, and my prayers. But you can no longer have my energy.
That I will save for better things in life. I just hope you can join the party soon.