DISCLAIMER: I’m on a roll. Let’s change ALL THE NAMES!!!!
I was 11 years old when my best friends, Amy and Angie (“The Twins”), befriended a girl outside of our regular social circle, Diane. They must have thought we were in Season 2 of our friendship.
Diane was cool enough, I guess, smart enough, I guess,
nice enough, I guess with shiny, straight black hair and almond-shaped eyes. Right off the bat, I felt like I couldn’t trust her. She never said it aloud, but it was obvious she was laying the groundwork for her Popular Crowd Migration to middle school, less than one year away.
During the years leading up to Diane’s initiation, The Twins and I had ridden our bikes to school together, joined the same summer swim team, and created a fantasy baby-sitting business, just like the one in the book series we obsessively read while sitting side-by-side in their shared bedroom.
Soccer, girl scouts, arts and crafts – The Twins and I were inseparable. By 5th grade, though, I was overweight and badly in need of braces; there was no way I was making the cut into Diane’s budding Popular Crowd. The Twins and Diane would still sometimes invite me over, but do their best to exclude me once they did. That winter, when we tried to build an igloo at Diane’s house, they told me they couldn’t make it big enough to fit me.
The following spring, The Twins and Diane invited me to meet them at a drug store in the neighboring town – the town where all the cool kids hung out after school. They wanted to get the latest must-have toy, DIY balloons. By squirting a dollop of liquid plastic on the end of a little red straw, you could blow a hardcore
bubble “balloon.” And then you could, ah, well, um. I don’t know. Stuff your training bra with it?
I couldn’t wait to get there. Babs (Mom) and I pushed the heavy drug store door open, the bells jingling as we looked left and right, trying to spot my crew. We wandered to the toy section…the card section…the toiletries section…back to the toy section. I did a double-take. The huge rack holding the balloon toys was empty. We waited. And waited some more.
I tried to ignore the dread pooling in the pit of my stomach. Eventually I accepted the truth.
They had told me to meet them there late.
I quickly did the math in my head. They each must have bought over a half-dozen balloon packs to clear out the store before I had gotten there. Now that’s commitment. I stopped speaking to them after that, and shortly afterwards, my 5th grade teacher caught me after school.
“Is everything okay?” she asked, her kind face crumpling with concern. I was a straight-A student; I was never held back to talk to the teacher after school, let alone forced to witness her Pity Face. I was mortified.
“Everything’s fine,” I muttered and bolted out the door. Were all the parents talking about me? It was bad enough being in the same classroom with Diane every day.
Angie, The Good Twin, tried and failed to apologize, explaining that she was just going along with the other two. All this did was remind me that their evil plan had been real.
The next year, I started having panic attacks on the way to middle school. I was teased for being heavy and wearing
weird quirky clothes, and had the sinking feeling it wasn’t ever going to get any better. The drug store incident had been nothing compared to the bullying some endure, but for a sensitive pre-teen, the moment was life-altering.
That was the moment I could have decided to let them win, to become one of them. To look at the world through the lens of, “How does this make ME feel?” instead of, “How does this make YOU feel?”
The mean girls reminded me exactly how to treat other people.
And by that I mean how NOT to treat other people.
Us mean girl prey know we never want anyone to suffer like we once did. And we love the role they played in our lives. Without their cruelty, we might never have cultivated such huge-ass hearts.
What did the mean girls/boys teach you?