Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Are Mean Girls getting meaner?

Today the Girl and I were sitting with a social worker friend and got to discussing what mean girls are like these days as opposed to when the adults were kids. Frankly, the conversation was kind of scary. My kid does come home and tell me every day what Kelly did to Kristi and how Marcie and Mary got into a big fight over matching clothing. Some of the stories make my blood boil. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't say to her "But that's MEAN!" She knows it's mean, but the culture of middle school sort of revolves around being mean to everyone else.

Our friend D, who went to another middle school in this town and is in her mid-30's, talked about how when she went to school, she was one of the judgemental mean girls. She was a cheerleader and on pep squad and evidentally one of the cool crowd. She was telling us about how now she looks back on some of the things she said and did and cringes. She also said that when she moved to high school, her friends were totally different than those of middle school, and she stopped being mean almost immediately. Making fun of the other girls just don't have as much cache in high school, she said.

When I was in Junior High, back in the Pleistecine era, I was so tangentially involved in the social whirl that I honestly can't remember being either picked on or being mean. I know I was really picked on in elementary school because I wasn't allowed to do any physical activity including recess, and that didn't go down big with the other kids. I was also 5'9" tall in 6th grade. But in Junior High, I was into horseback riding, dressage, jumping, and spending time at the stables. I babysat a lot, and I read a lot. I did have friends, but I can't even recall who most of them were. Once I got into high school, I got more popular, got into more usual stuff, and started noting the popular girls. The school queen bee, Laura Bammer, was the one to emulate, but unfortunately for me she was about 5' tall and maybe 100 lbs soaking wet, with long straight blondish hair. Me, 5'9, 140 lbs, long brown curly/frizzy hair and more of a Janis Joplin type. There was no way I was gonna fit in with her.

But I was smart and artistic and I ended up knowing most of the very cool kids because they were smart and artistic and a bit out of the box, like me. By my senior year I was definately in with the in crowd, but I still didn't much get into the whole mean girls thing. I don't think I'm mean at heart.

So I was saying to the Girl that I often cringe when she tells these stories about how Buffy ran into someone and tripped and everyone stopped and laughed at her and called her names, etc. Or when some girl walks up to someone and accuses her of being blind because her outfit doesn't match. Conformity is extremely important in middle school. Any diversion from what is considered acceptable is greeted with hoots of insults. I can't stand it. I'm always telling the girl how mean she sounds, but the weird thing is, she's extremely popular. The other kids LOVE her and look up to her. Now, I love her too, but when she's out of line, I let her know in no uncertain terms that her behaviour just isn't acceptable. I have no tolerance for that kind of meanness.

In talking about this, I realized that a lot of my negative reactions to perfectly normal, if obnoxious, insults comes from my own experiences as a kid and being completely outside the social scheme in Junior High. I wasn't expecting such a visceral reaction to this discussion, but I did have one. I'm hoping that by pointing out to the girl that judging and making fun of other kids is just plain mean, she's outgrow it and move into high school with a different attitude. I just don't know though. It's so freaking hard to be a teenager right now as compared to when I was a kid. I don't envy this generation at all.
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Blogger MetroDad said...

Oh boy, Margalit. I'm cringing just reading about these mean girls. Growing up as a boy, I never really thought about the diabolical goings-on of young girls. Now? Being the father of a young girl? I'm terrified!

9/5/06 8:56 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Cringeworthy indeed. I'm 24 now but I remember in 8th grade I had to rework my routes to different classes to avoid the girls who tormented me. I spent a lot of time in the guidance office that year! Girls sure can be brutal but luckily by the time I was 15 the meanness among the girls began to fizzle out. Like you, I was really busy too so even though I had a lot to go through in school keeping busy kept it from getting to me too badly. I think keeping your own active outside of school interests is key during these time periods.

10/5/06 8:45 AM  
Blogger gordaboo said...

as my hubby keeps telling me, girls are horrible between 7th & 8th grade. see, i don't remember having any big problems but he says there were. my girl comes home and tells me everything same as yours. who hit who...who made fun of who...who isn't best friends with who anymore...its crazy...these kids keep changing friends like they change their clothes. my day...my friends were the samne from kindegarten to high school...never really changing only adding. i do wish these girls the best of luck. my girl starts 7th this year...can't wait :(

12/5/06 1:57 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

I removed my daughter from public school at the very end of her 8th grade year, because of mean girls and because she had become a mean girl. She's been homeschooled for two years now and life is much better for all of us, (she's officially finished 10th grade at home). We've just started reading Odd Girl Out and after that we will read Odd Girl Speaks Out. You might find both books of interest to you. (I had to use my blogger name to post a comment but I no longer blog on blogger... I'm at Blogher and at http://flamingohouse.blogs.com)

12/5/06 7:33 PM  

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