What I’ve Learned About Mean Girls

I’ve been alive around 28 years. Admittedly, that’s not that long (or it’s longer than I think, or not long enough). In 28 years of life, I’ve gone on a 7 Eleven run with my idol and favourite musician of all time; I’ve travelled to California just to see my favourite band play at the Greek Theatre; I’ve met a stranger when volunteering for a Human Library event who became my lover on a whim; I made out with men in bars whose names I can’t remember; I’ve gone to over 100 concerts, proving always, my dedication for music; I’ve said “I love you” to someone and meant it right to the core of my soul and beyond that even, to places that I can’t physically reach, but that I can feel exist, despite how deep they run. I’ve done so many things in my life and faced so many challenges and hardships and engaged in so many exciting, worthwhile risks and rewards, there isn’t enough time or space to write them all down. By 28, I’ve rapidly crossed many, many items off my bucket list. And I’ve done so in spite of my fears, shortcomings and a resistance to stepping out of my own comfort zone. In short, I am fortunate – either to experience things that were good, or to learn valuable lessons from things that were not so good.

When I was in high school, a girl who I shall refer to as Arch Nemesis, was constantly berating me. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps because she felt threatened by me, or she knew I didn’t like her (I didn’t, but I had good reasons for that), or because she felt like she needed to bring me down to the very low level she had sunk to every single day in one way or another. This girl had a significant impact on my life, although she doesn’t know it. She made my life into enough of a seventh circle of hell every day in Junior High, that I was motivated, more so than I ever thought possible, to do things by myself, and to get out and move far, far away from the microcosmic prison that is the ‘high school experience’. She hit me in the shins with hard cork field hockey balls in gym class; she followed me around calling me a lesbian; I ignored her so she would troll me after school repeatedly saying ‘hi’ in hopes of garnering some kind of reaction; once I left and came back, she assaulted me once in a bar by jumping then grinding my lap for some reason. When I saw her most recently, I was in my third year of university, home from a ski weekend and she was the lift operator. As she grabbed me a T-bar, she said to me, “Why are you still so fat?” She was a relentlessly awful person and I can only hope that in motherhood now, she has found peace with the ugly parts of herself that she thrust upon shy, awkward me who learned early, that there are some girls who just don’t like you and spend time, effort and energy being mean just because they can.

I was foolish in thinking that once I graduated high school and moved forward in my life, that I would encounter less and less of these ‘mean girls’. Things described in Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan’s infamous movie of the same name would eventually dissipate because I was outside that microcosm. And what I learned surprised me (at some point, anyway): the meanness of girls not only doesn’t end after high school, but in fact manifests itself even more in ways that are deeply insidious, conniving and underhanded. Or worse yet, passive-aggressive, or disguised as something else: concern, care, love, friendship…

The last time I had a career, I worked in an office of 18 women. This was a microcosm like high school, but full of passive-aggressive, admittedly smart professionals who spent 7 hours a day, every weekday together. This caused tension, jealousy, and some acts of cruelty that I was amazed, shocked and appalled that adults would even partake in. I thought these kinds of dirty tricks and backstabbing happened only among adults on reality shows. The truth however is, once you get a lot of girls in a tiny microcosm, they will retreat back to being high school mean girls. And they then have the brains, resources and manipulative prowess to be even meaner. I abandoned that office in favour of a new career and was hoping this time, I could be airlifted from this unpleasantness and I wouldn’t have to see 30-something-year olds acting like children and hurting people I cared about anymore.

I was never the type of girl who was involved in ‘girl drama’. I met my core group of girlfriends in residence in my first year of university and we’ve had a healthy, level-headed, supportive, loving and wonderful friendship for 11 years now, despite a few minor bumps in the road that accompany many old friendships. Whenever I see those girls it’s like we were never separated, despite being on different continents than some of them for many years now. I have another great group of girlfriends who are like myself, aspiring teachers and they’re wonderful and fun and happy for one another in life, love and career. Without them, I wouldn’t have been as strong as I was when completing my Bachelor of Education. I have girlfriends I worked with at my former workplace who I’m still in contact with and I love seeing them when I can, catching up and reliving fond memories of office pranks and non-stop laughter. I cherish these friend groups so much because they’ve helped me grow as a person and a professional and there is so much love and support among those women. They teach me something about myself and the world and the meaning of friendship every day and I’m reminded of what I bring to friendships every day. Those relationships are invaluable to me, and I cherish them.

Sometimes however, it doesn’t matter what you do – mean girls will be mean. And girls will backstab and inciting incidents cause trauma and irreparable cracks with un-mendable friendships that fall apart.

My mom used to say, “it takes two to make a fight” whenever I would fight with my sister. She was right, then. All one person needs to do is avoid presenting the desired reaction by walking away, ignoring the problem and then reporting it. The person who does that is supposedly ‘the bigger person’ and they come out with clean hands. But sometimes you don’t want clean hands; sometimes you want answers and you need a place where reaching for answers, no matter how long and deep you have to seek, becomes more important than being ‘the bigger person’. Sometimes the only way to make peace is through combat. Furthermore, sometimes you cannot make peace at all.

What’s the point of ‘making peace’ with someone who was once your friend and then turned out to be a mean girl like every other mean girl you’ve encountered in your life who competed with you, backstabbed, made you feel like a child trapped in that microcosm once again? Why would anyone subject themselves to being constantly reminded of negative associations with girl friendships? Why would anyone want to try and repair something that was always based on jealousy, competitiveness, winning over someone else, petty fights and ultimately, exclusion? For a few fragmented memories of when we were happy in this world where nobody was winning and everyone was stuck at the starting gate and hadn’t done anything with their lives? That world existed ages ago and it’s safe to say it has become extinct and its return is uncertain.

Having said that, and despite how laughable this might seem to some certain people, I am a peace maker. I live my life based on the philosophy of ‘never going to bed’ angry.  I like closure and hate animosity and confrontation. Without those pillars in my life, there are tempests inside me that grow and swirl and spiral out of control. Ultimately, these tempests will cause me to reach out, whether I reach out ‘peacefully’ or not. This is what I do, and people expect this of me. If I fight with my mother over the phone and she doesn’t want to hear me anymore, I will call and call and call and demand to be heard. I will do this because I need to repair those taut, fraying ties. I’m not perfect – and I don’t always do this in a way that is either successful or kind or fair, but I always do. And people wait for me to do this because they know I will. My mom will wait for those repeated phone calls. And my mom will get those repeated phone calls. And if this were a situation I was ever in, my boyfriend would get those repeated phone calls, or even maybe my sister. But no one else.

I’m not going to be the peace maker anymore with the mean girls in my life. I’m not going to place onus on myself and have another pointless ‘discussion’ with girls who will continue to cut me down and make me feel small, worthless and devalued. I will no longer be subservient to people that aren’t “contributing positively to my life” as was so aptly put, anymore. I won’t because I shouldn’t have to. My life, principles, soul and heart are worth far more than apologizing and mending fences with people who refuse to ever apologize or mend fences with me. I’m done with the mean girls in my life and I’m done placing equal importance on all relationships when the priority should be on relationships that deserve the time and attention and apologies that they may require.

The only way to be ‘rid’ of mean girls, is to rid yourself of mean girls. Otherwise, they will never go away and they will always be there, watching and scrutinizing and judging you and waiting for your weaknesses to show so they can pounce like lions picking off sick wildebeests. That’s what I’ve learned about mean girls.

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