An Open Letter to Mean Girls everywhere...
Hello Mean Girl.
It's been a while since I've seen you, but I remember you. I first met you when I became your target in High School. I'm not exactly sure why I was targeted by you, but I was. I was hunted down, ruthlessly, in the hallways by you. I changed my daily routine at school so I didn't run across you and your posse. I came to school as late as I could. I left right after school. I changed the way I got to and from classes. My self-esteem took a huge hit. But, here's a little confession for you, that I'm not sure you knew...I was almost one of you, for a while. I tried to do the same things you did. I worked at targeting those with lower self esteem than I had. I wanted to make myself feel better, so I tried to belittle and exclude others who were "easy prey." I know that's not a pretty term, nor was it a time in my life I'm proud of, but I grew up and put my mean girl persona behind me. I was glad to leave her in the dust. Leaving "her" behind allowed me to forget about you...for a while.
In college I became your target again. Again, I'm not sure why. I have no idea what put me in your crosshairs when you threw a drink in my face in the middle of a bar and laughed about it, and me, for months. I have no idea why you wrote, "bitch" on my car in red lipstick. Your treatment of me then didn't do much to lower my self-esteem. Instead, it made me burn with a white-hot rage. Luckily, I was surrounded by a group of friends who repeated, over and over and over, "It's not worth it," when I all I wanted to do was retaliate. I'm glad I had those friends surrounding me so closely. I was able to forget about you all over again and it felt good.
I forgot about you for a long time. I was too busy having babies and raising kids to think about you. I had no reason to think about you. Until I realized you grew up too and started having babies and raising kids of your own. I was smacked in the face by memories of you when one of my boys was in 4th grade. He confessed to having a crush on one of your daughters. I learned quickly how well you taught your daughter, Mean Girl. She proceeded to make sure to spread nice little lies and rumors about my son. His self-esteem was lowered beyond imagination and I was stunned. I was astounded that you could teach your daughter, so well and so young, to target a nine year-old's self-esteem. He begged me not to do anything. I'm sorry to say I remained so dumbfounded. I didn't know how to react. So I let it go. After that your presence, and that of your newly minted Mean Girl, faded into the background for a while.
But then you came flying back into my life, again, when another of your daughters targeted mine. She hit her mark, and Claire reeled backwards. She had never been the target of a mean girl. She sobbed into my shoulder at the cruelty your daughter inflicted on her as she begged me not to do anything. But this time, Mama Bear came roaring to life. This time, I didn't stand back and let the attacks continue. It was a one and done deal. I took care of your daughter-turned-Mean-Girl in the way an adult should. Claire was never her target again. And I'm happy to say I forgot about you again.
But now, I have to say, "Ah, Crap! You're back," once more. You seem to be everywhere, Mean Girl. You came back into my life and this time not in the form of your daughter. This time, you, The Original Mean Girl, are back. I truly thought I had outgrown you, but here you are again, rearing your ugly head. Like the last time I was your target, my self-esteem and self-worth are not affected by you. But this time is different from the last time. This time, there is no white hot rage. Only a sad spark of pity that you haven't outgrown your high-school, mean-girl ways. You seem to thoroughly enjoy making others feel bad about themselves by excluding and ostracizing. What a pity that is. In the face of that I will continue to enjoy welcoming new friends and keeping old friends. You seem to thrive on drama and snarky comments. I'm so sorry you do. So, I'll do what I can to tune out your negativity and bring on the sunshine. You seem to thrive on making others feel bad by whispering behind their backs and making belittling comments. What a shame. Instead of allowing your whispering and belittling to get to me, I will put a smile on my face, and I will be polite when I am in contact with you. So, now when I say, "Ah Crap! You're back," it just serves to remind me of what I don't want to have in my life or become.
Let me go on to say, while my self-esteem and self-worth are no longer tied to you, my children are still vulnerable to you and attacks from your well-trained daughters. So let me make one thing perfectly clear. The white-hot rage I no longer feel when I think of you, sits just below the surface waiting to erupt if one of your well-taught, mean-girl daughters ever tries to strike out at one of my kids. I will be waiting patiently and quietly. I know you're back and your daughters are well equipped to deliver their worst. My children will not be their targets again. I've tried hard to teach my children as well as you've taught yours, only I hope I've taught mine a little differently than you've taught yours.
I'd like to expand on the last paragraph a little, if you wouldn't mind...
I'm not saying I'm always perfect in my treatment of others. God knows I'm not, and I will be the first to admit it. My children aren't angels either. But you and I, and our children, we're different. I work hard to try and teach my children compassion and concern for others. I strive every day to make sure my kids' self-esteem is good while also trying to make sure they don't think too highly of themselves. I think that's a small part of the difference between you and me. I try to teach the right things. Sometimes I fail and flounder, but I try hard to teach my kiddos to do and see the right things. But there's more to the difference between you and me. The rest of the difference is in one little sentence. It's a sentence I work on drumming into myself and my kids everyday. It's a simple sentence, really, but it's a powerful one. Are you ready? "You don't have to be best friends with everyone, but you have to be kind." I told you it was simple sentence. And it's the difference between me and you. I know I'm not perfect, no one is. But that sentence sums up perfectly how others should be treated. I try hard to keep that sentence in the forefront of my brain and the brains of my children. I want them to remember to be kind, always.
So, Mean Girl, I can't seem to forget about you for long. But I can minimize you. And I will. For the love of my children...