9/15/2006

mean girls

First I must apologize for being so incredibly busy at work that I have had little time to much else...including blogging. I'm going to catch up this weekend because I'm missed all of you dearly.

My niece started high school. Although high school was many many moons ago the experience remains in the forefront of my mind.

Girls are mean. In case you didn't know this I'll explain why I know this to be. When I was in 5th grade I decided to become a bully much the same way someone decides what their going to eat for lunch or which shoes to wear with which outfit. I was popular but not because I earned it, my father was on the school board, I was lucky enough to be blessed with decent looks, my family bought me things, I wasn't shy, I had a built-in pool in my back yard...all things which made it easier for me to be noticed and to be liked. Shallow reasons to befriend someone but when you are a kid you don't analyze the reasons people like you, you just accept it. I started off nice. I liked most everyone because my parents taught me to and I rarely ever questioned if someone was 'acceptable' to be my friend...until I met Ellen. Ellen took a liking to me, not in a sexual way since we were only in the 5th grade but rather in a 'look up to you' way. She followed me around the play ground, she listened in on my conversations, she was in an essence my shadow. I never much minded having Ellen around because sometimes it's rather nice to be admired even when you are too young to actually realize what real admiration is. And then one day Ellen wrote on her notebook "Ellen and NWC, Best friends forever." Sweet I know, but one of the 'mean girls' saw this and started teasing me that I hung out with losers. Ellen was small for her age, she wore thick glasses, she lived in a house that used to be a funeral home so instantly she was labeled 'weird'. As soon as my 'friends' started to tease me I lashed out, not at them, at Ellen. I called her 'weirdo', I told her to stop following me, I told her I'd never be her friend and amazingly enough - she listened. I continued on the path of 'meanness' by not becoming a follower but a leader. I led the campaign against little Ellen and in no time my popular friends thought I was cool again. Most of my 5th grade year and part of my 6th grade year were spent being 'mean' to Ellen and any other girl deemed unacceptable by the 'click' I belonged to. Eventually Ellen's family moved away and I changed schools and all those moments of meanness disappeared as if they'd never happened - at least for me.

Luckily after I changed schools I found the sweet girl I used to be and rather than become an enemy of the 'unacceptable' people, I became an advocate. Somehow I was always able to maintain my 'popular' status and make some very good friends with the people that nobody else deemed 'worthy'. Maybe it was because I cared little about what other people thought and more about what I deemed acceptable. When you stop worrying about measuring up to other people's expectations, the tables turn and you become the one people take measurements against. There's something appealing about a person who is secure enough with themselves to live their life the way they see fit. People stare, they wonder, they sometimes try to make you the strange one but when they realize their efforts go unnoticed, most times they accept you for what you are.

So, my niece started high school. Her very first day of school she fell off the bus when exiting, she got lost going to her classes and began to cry so her counselor had to walk her around to each classroom. In her second week her best friend decided that she needed to hang around more popular people and in a matter of days my niece went from being accepted to being an outcast. Her parents nag her about finding friends. They pressure her into finding 'just one friend' that she can ask to the football game. Without even realizing what they are doing, they have peeled the sticky label 'loser' off the wall and placed it firmly across her forehead. I know it's hard for parents. Parents want their kids to be liked but in reality who are we really wanting their popularity for? For us or for them?

Girls are mean. We can be emotionally cruel. We can throw insults out and forget them later. I'm not saying boys don't do this - but girls do it better. I wish I knew why this was true but I don't. I only know that I've been there and luckily enough my parents influence was strong enough that eventually I remembered who I was born to be.

A few years ago while visiting some old friends in my home town I ran into Ellen, the girl I bullied in 5th grade. Strangely enough she recognized me but she was far from the person I remember with big thick glasses. We sat and talked for awhile and as she explained her life, her accomplishments, her failures, all I could think about was how mean I was to her. When she got up to go I touched her arm and said, "I'm sorry." She knew exactly what I meant without me explaining. Her only reply was, "I always knew that underneath it all - you were, sorry."

I am worried about my niece. I worry that in her quest for acceptance she'll seek out the wrong types of people to be friends with. She'll allow herself to be manipulated by those who prey on the 'unaccepted'. I suppose part of me wants her to be mean back...at least to those who treat her with such little respect but the bigger part of me wants to march down to her high school and kick some freshman ass. Yes I know, real grownup of me right? I suppose what I will do is sit her down and drill it into her head that the very best friend you can ever have is the friend you find in yourself. It starts there you know? Acceptance.

Have a wonderful weekend.

7 Comments:

  1. Tab said...
    I keep having to click on some box on your blog..what the hell is that?

    You aren't going to do your neice any favours by worrying about her.
    She needs to know someone believes in her..even if she does hang out with the wrong crowd for acceptance.
    We have all been there.
    Sometimes that is the best way for some of us to learn who we do NOT want to be like.I hope for the best with your niece..you are a fab aunty!

    I love your big heart Net!

    Thanks for sharing~
    lash505 said...
    Very good post. I think that is a lesson we all new to learn.
    Rex said...
    Thanks for sharing. It reminded me of all that my daughter went through in high school. Because of all those experiences she is a strong, independent, wonderful young woman enjoying college and chasing her dreams.
    Caterpillar said...
    Middle high and high school were both really hard, and I would never ever choose to go back to being that age. Of course there was fun as well, but yes, there was so much meanness, and so much of seeing ourselves only through other people's eyes and not our own. I feel terrible for your niece. I think you talking to her and being there for her will hopefully give her some strength and hopefully help her see the wonderful person that I'm sure she is. I wish I could give her a hug, too! I hope you're having a wonderful weekend!
    Anonymous said...
    Sorry, but I just have to tell you about this totally wholesome site I found. Made my day :-)
    www.naughtyamericahistory.com
    heather said...
    that made me cry. but in a good way. thank you.
    NMAMFQLMSH said...
    We are on the same wave length. Friday afternoon my friend's daughter was jumped by 4 girls on the way home from high school. The poor kid didn't stand a chance....GIRLS ARE MEAN!
    I see you,
    JJ

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