In an awkward encounter on Easter Sunday, fate put me in the same air space with a ‘mean girl’ from a time in my life I would rather forget – high school. You women know those ‘mean girls’ I’m talking about, the ones that used to put you down to raise themselves up, would exclude you from social events, would pretend to be your friend and then talk about you behind your back? Ringing any bells now? I thought so. It’s okay, that nauseous feeling will pass soon, just take some deep breaths.
In 2004, Tina Fey’s screenplay made it to the big screen and Mean Girls, a movie that would become a lifetime favorite of mine, was born. I remember sitting in the theater when the movie first came out and about halfway through feeling like standing up and screaming, “thank you Tina Fey, you get me, you really do!” (This is where I could fan out and go on a diatribe about the 10,000 ways Tina Fey is a genius, but I digress.)
So back to that unfortunate meeting on Easter Sunday. I’m standing there with my daughter, exchanging pleasantries with this woman I can’t stand and whose persecutions I have not forgotten. When it hits me. This maternal instinct to protect my kid. This overwhelming feeling comes over me and my intuition is saying, “she may have done it to you, but she WILL NOT do it to her.” We exit quickly.
On the ride home, I’m sitting in my emotions. How can so much time go by and yet sentiments be so raw? I then remember a quote by the great Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Being around that woman made me feel horrible, and it was the same feeling I felt as a girl. She has a negative energy that most mean girls have and it’s palpable. It’s an energy that I never want to feel from my own daughter.
I don’t want my daughter to be a mean girl for the obvious reason that I want her to be nice. And while we live in a society that teaches our girls to be tough, relentless and determined, I also think it’s okay to smile, be welcoming and inclusive at the same time.
Mean girls are mean because while they put up a facade of self-confidence, really they are broken. Hurt people, hurt people. I don’t want my daughter hurting people.
Mean girls set up cliques to make certain people feel unwelcome and unwanted. I never want my daughter to make anyone feel less than, or unwanted. Also, while there is this notion that mean girls are always popular, that isn’t true. They think they are, but really it’s the nice girls who win homecoming queen and prom queen. At least at my high school that’s the way it worked. Not to mention you can find mean girls in the drama clique, sports circle, drug crew, goth group, they are everywhere. I don’t want my daughter to make people uncomfortable.
Mean girls finish last. I’ve seen it in the workplace. No matter how good looking you are, how well you can schmooze, how much self-confidence you can fake people will eventually see your true colors. Natural leaders are inclusive, inviting and have a positive energy that will never accept the polar opposite a mean girl brings. It’s been my experience that the real world tends to smack mean girls in the face. I want my daughter to succeed in life.
One last note. To all the reformed mean girls out there. No hard feelings, no one is perfect. I certainly had my fair share of episodes on the playground that I am not proud of, but the difference between a mean girl ‘lifer’ and a reformed mean girl is self-awareness. Again, to quote Maya Angelou, “I did then what I knew to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” To the mean girl in my life, I hope you learn to do better. To my daughter, my vow to you is to do whatever necessary to make sure you NEVER become a mean girl. And yes, that does include watching Mean Girls with your Mom at least a dozen times.