I want to paint a lifetime picture for you. Let us start with around the age of 13 or 14. You are trying to find your way through the hot mess that is Middle School. You are trying to decide where you fit in or where you want to fit in. Do you want to be what you consider one of the popular girls, i.e. the cheerleaders, whom you think has it all? They are usually pretty, have lots of friends, seem to have endless invites to all of parties or group events. Do you get your thrills from being one of the brainy girls, always trying to top yourself and others with your GPA? You enjoy being part of anything that requires a teacher’s recommendation to attest to how mature, responsible and bright you are. Do you want to be in the EMO group that seems to want people to think that you really could care less about the latest fashion styles, you prefer different music, etc.? You consider yourself to be an outcast, rebelling against all things stereotypical about this age. How about being an athlete? This group truly wants to make sure that they do not conform to any of the other groups because they are the ones that prefer the idea of “no drama”, nothing too girly girly. The final group is the “bitches” or the “stuck up” girls. They are unapproachable, have few friends and don’t seem to like anyone.
It is interesting to me now because what I see is that each and every one of the social groups are exactly alike, believe it or not. Each of you feels safer in your designated group because you believe you are surrounding yourself with like minded individuals. You do not have much tolerance for the other groups. You have an idea of what they are truly like and it is proof, in your mind, by who they hang out with. You are all a bunch of dummies.
Each of you is the exact same insecure, unknowing, clueless, acceptance seeking, jealous young girl at the core of things. You just want to belong. You just want to have friends that call or text you, eat lunch with you, invite you to things, share secrets with, hug you when you need it, create memories with you. Each of you will be tested with friendships that break up and get back together in a matter of hours, days or weeks, even though you specifically declared with certainty, “we will NEVER be friends again”.
Each of you will struggle with your insecurities of your bad skin, are you boobs big enough, do you have a good butt, are they talking about me”, “why is so and so mad at me”, how did I get that grade on that test?” You will all piss on your bushes, otherwise known as your friends and boyfriends… and God help anyone that crosses those lines! You will feel no one understands you, especially your mother! You will feel that your troubles are completely and totally different than anyone other than you age, because it is such a different time.
You will each be faced with situations and scenarios that will require you to react in such a way that you won’t regret. Your one friend is “changing” in that she likes boys now… really, really likes boys. There are rumors about her that you hear. You may even know for a fact that some parts of the rumor are true. You will have to decide whether to abandon her and join the witch hunt bound and determined to make sure that every outlet, (social media, texting, etc.) is used to make sure that everyone is aware of what a “whore” or “slut” she has become. You will have to decide whether you would rather reflect on what kind of friend she has been directly to you and not pay attention to anything else. You will have to decide whether her recent reputation is truly that detrimental to yours. Seems to me that if you have done a good job of behaving properly, you shouldn’t have to worry about people associating her behavior with yours. Seems to me, perhaps, your behavior could be a positive influence on hers. Just maybe you could be the friend that could be the ear to listen to her, the should to cry on, the voice of reason.
Each of you girls is insecure in one form or another. Each girl just handles it differently. Some give themselves ulcers trying to be perfect. Some injure themselves trying to be the best athlete. Some of you give yourselves away too quickly and too easily because you just want the attention or someone to love you.
Let’s skip to High School. The groups have typically been established and their titles are relatively understood by all the others by now. There have been some defectors in these groups that transitioned to the other groups. This happens. You have a bit more freedom now. Some of your parents will still be completely involved and stay on top of things. Others, will chalk up this time, to “normal teenagers” and have checked out a bit.
You will all like the same boys at one time or another. This will open up your chance to show your integrity or your meanness. Friendships will be ruined by such a “betrayal”. Missions will be launched to outcast and turn everyone else against this other girl. You will either be the girl that was tortured or the one that did the torturing. You will feel good about the fact that some many people “had your back”. You will be the poster child for Girl Code. You embarrassed her and made her cry…. yeah, you won.
Your behaviors, attitudes, insecurities, talents and choices are basically the same… they just have more benefits, consequences, rewards, notoriety with them. You are either making your family proud or embarrassed, usually both. You are still just trying to fit in and find your way. The damage can be long term at this point, depending on what you have done that wasn’t such a great idea. Your rewards are can be life changing, for examples scholarships, awards, etc. These years is the beginning of it really is all up to you. (ideally, with some supervision and guidance from your parents, teachers, Church).
Moving on to your first years out of High School. You walk into a store and you see another girl that you made sure you were a part of torturing her during school. You made sure everyone knew that she was a whore. The awkwardness will go one of three ways: you will avoid her like she could possibly be packing a machine gun ready to unload all of her pain and humiliation on you; you will avoid her because, clearly, she is still the same slut or bitch you always knew she would be; or, you will feel a deep sense of shame, sadness and/or regret at your role in putting this girl through hell and you will be the first to make eye contact and say “hello” with a genuine, warm smile on your face. It never occurred to you that, in fact, she was actually quite shy and didn’t know how to talk to you or that she actually wasn’t a slut, instead was someone that had a rumor started and it grew a life of its own, thanks to you in part. You might even be capable of mustering up the guts to say, “I am so sorry”. After all, you have grown up a little. I promise you that this WILL happen to all of you.
Now, for the years that you have become a wife and a mother. You now know what it is to love so fiercely that you think your heart may explode at times. You read everything you can on becoming a better mother. You panic about what your child’s life will be like. You wonder in which of the above groups will they belong to. You fear anyone ever hurting them or being mean to your precious angel.
Your child is older now. He/She is proficient in using the computer. Being bored or curious one day, he/she decided to search the web with his parents names. He finds you. Will you be the one that your precious child sees her past posts and they were positive, kind and funny; or, post of you threatening someone else, calling another girl a whore, participating in campaigns to shame, hurt or torture someone else. Or will you be the one who is called a whore, posted pictures of you with cigarettes or alcohol, being half dressed or completely naked? Will you be the kind of parent that is comfortable in her own skin knowing you have provided a great example to your child. Are you the mother that is mortified by your choices back then and now will have explain it all to your child? Or will you be the kind of parent that it really doesn’t matter because you have perfected raising a child just as rotten as you were?
The past does have a way of finding us… all of us. You are the only one that has control over how it is represented. Either live a way that no one would believe garbage said about you or make choices that anyone would believe anything negative about you. Struggles growing up are not specific to one generation, just your generation. They are rather mostly the same, in fact. The only thing that changes is the music, the clothes, the opportunity to make it more public. The essence of growing up….choosing right or wrong, establishing your reputation, honor, your values, your interactions with others… hasn’t changed since Creation. The consequences, however, can be much more devastating than we have ever seen before.
Stop hating each other. Stop making others miserable so you can feel better. If it isn’t your business, stay out of it. If you don’t know for a fact, leave it alone. Let that boy go, keep the friendship and your own dignity. Think before you post, hit send, or text. Think deeper. Learn to be accepting. Learn to be compassionate and empathetic. Take pride in yourself. Lift others up. Learn to refrain. Learn to have a stop button. Learn to say “I am sorry”.
Mean girls grow up to be mean woman. I don’t like either of them. Don’t grow up to be a mother that doesn’t hold your children accountable. Be the kind that is involved. Be the kind that says “Delete that!” or “that is mean”. Don’t be the kind that goes to bat for your child and then looks like a fool. Don’t excuse everything. Don’t blame others for your child’s behavior. Tap into the hurt that you felt, feel remorse that you caused others and let that be your compass.
At my age, I now know, it really is that simple.