Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Lean on Mean (Part One)

Hey Everybody,
Ever known a mean girl?
Ever been a mean girl?
I'll admit I've been on both sides of the mean girl/victim equation. Here's an excerpt from my book, Season of Change.
At my new school, there was one girl in particular who ran a tight clique that called all the shots. I spent a great deal of time studying Lindy and trying to figure out the essence of popularity. Why was she popular? What was it that was different about her? How did she get to be the queen bee? The puzzle, quite frankly, intrigued me. I vowed to get to the bottom of it, and that’s sort of where I ended up. All my sleuthing brought me to the only thing I could figure was the difference between who was in and who was out: It had to be the shoes.

Lindy and her friends had beautiful Nike tennis shoes,the exact same color and style. I had no-name, no-brand shoes, and they mocked me for it. Those white Nikes were the only thing those girls had in common, so I assumed those shoes were the key to popularity. Since I knew that my folks were not about to buy me a new pair of expensive tennis shoes on a preacher’s and a teacher’s salaries, I figured my claim to fame was lost at sea. Then, at Christmastime, I spotted a pair of those Nikes, just my size, on a clearance table. What luck! I didn’t realize, of course, that there was a closeout on the shoes because they were about to be last year’s model. I asked for them for Christmas, got them, and wore them proudly to school after Christmas break—only to see Lindy and her friends strutting their stuff in new Nikes, now having another reason to make fun of me.
Mean girls. They have been around forever. They are as ancient as human nature and something all women have had to endure at some point in their lives. I honestly thought I had put those memories behind me, buried them with forgiveness and grace—until, right around the age of eleven, my daughter began experiencing certain trials of her own with mean girls. I relived some painful personal memories as I watched her wade into the turbulent waters of adolescence, where the mean girls, like sharks, still circle around their prey.
I was all too familiar with their mode of operation because, in twenty-five years, nothing had changed. They smell the blood of insecurity and awkwardness, seeking prey that is obviously weakened from coping with a changing body and an unwelcome discomfiture. Their menu varies like a seaside restaurant offering the “catch of the day.” They head toward their current target with alarming speed, intent upon sinking their teeth into the tender flesh of budding self-awareness—all for the singular purpose of feeling better about themselves.
Instinctively, I tried to head off the sharks before they could get too close to my daughter. I offered loads of advice and platitudes, poisoned (unfortunately) with bitterness for the mean girls that visited the beach of my youth. My husband stepped in with a word of caution. “You are getting too involved in this,” he warned.
I stepped back. I realized that I was obsessed with rescue. Somehow, I had gone from being a mother to being the coast guard. Like Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws, I was consumed with ridding my family's previously calm waters from this invasion by the mean girls, because I remembered. Do you?*
I'll be talking about Mean Girls and Cliques tomorrow on our local morning news show, "Tennessee Mornings." Check back here on Thursday for some tips on what you can do to help your daughter navigate these choppy waters of growing up! And lest you think I was always a victim of mean girls, on Friday I will post Part Two of "The Lean on Mean": my own story of mean girlness! (I know--shocking! LOL!)
Feel like sharing? I'd love to hear your story about mean girls!

Read More Articles:
The Lean on Mean (Part Two)
Helping Your Daughter Navigate Mean Girls and Cliques

*Excerpted from Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose by Rebecca Ingram Powell,  © 2008 Tate Publishing



Jane In The Jungle said...

I'll confess a mean time. Unfortunatly in HS I was a follower, my BF was one of the most popular girls! We all had a friend, that we found out when we were 15, who had gotten pregnant and had an abortion. Instead of having compassion and trying to help her at amost difficult time, instead we turned on her and "outed" her. She was humiliated. I stood by and watched it happen with out a word. We all got past it, but the damage was done. Later in life she married, but was never able to have children. I will never forget it and I learned from it.

Rebecca Ingram Powell said...

Wow, Jane--that's some heavy stuff! Thanks for sharing that!
Everybody has a mean girl story. That in itself should really show us how those words we say and things we do during our growing up years stay written on our hearts and minds--for a very long time, if not forever!

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