Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mean Girl and Nice Girl

I got an email a few days before Christmas from a friend. Her daughter is in elementary school and already (ALREADY!) she's dealing with that difficult phenomenon of Mean Girls. What did she ask for for Christmas? Some advice from Santa regarding how to deal with it all.

Ugh. Why are girls so mean? Why do we pick, pick, pick until our chosen victim crumbles into a pile of self-loathing and hurt? Why don't we form little cliques of protection and positivity rather than exclusion and superiority? I don't know, but I'm sure we've all been there; on the outside AND on the inside. Perpetrator and persecuted.

The email, though, was such a lovely thing. My friend was emailing every woman she knew, the significant women in her life, and asking us to write a little note to her daughter. Something to encourage her, strengthen her, impart some love, wisdom, laughter and courage as she makes her own path into adulthood. I haven't heard how many letters she received but I know that it hit a nerve from the conversation between the women she emailed. I loved that this email suddenly formed a community of women, separated by thousands of miles but united in purpose for one little girl.

I don't really like the phrase "It takes a village..." It's too utopian for my cynical mind. BUT, the meaning behind it is real. What are our relationships for but to help each other carry burdens, strengthen each other when one is weak, offer our experiences when asked in hopes of providing a little encouragement in this confusing walk we each must take through life?

Dear Little One,

I heard that you are having a hard time with some mean girls at school. I’m so sorry. I remember how difficult it is to hear those mean things said about you, to never know if you’re going to be liked or disliked on any given day, to feel like you’re always behind in knowing what the cool thing of the day is. It’s so hard to be on the outside looking in.

Here’s the thing. I was a mean girl once. I was also a girl who was picked on by mean girls. See, it’s hard to figure out who you want to be, who to spend your time with, and whose words to believe. Sometimes we make the wrong decision and end up hurting someone else because we think it will make us more popular and happier. But it doesn’t, not in the long run. One of the things I’m most sad about when I think about when I was a girl is when I chose to be mean. Not when I got that C in math, or had to ride around in an old rusty van with my mom and dad, or lied to get out of a basketball game. What still makes me sad is the time I said that I thought brown eyes were ugly; knowing the girl with pretty brown eyes was standing right behind me. Or when I gave a girl ex-lax instead of chocolate and then pretended it was a funny joke during a slumber party. When I think about those two girls and who I was when I chose to be mean I want to hide. I’m so disappointed in myself.

But, then there are the times when I made good choices. Like when I chose to be friends with the quiet girl that didn’t wear the trendy clothes but had the best imagination, we would write stories together. Or when my best friend was girl with red hair and freckles and we would spend hours building forts, collecting marigold seeds to plant fairy gardens, and collect crawdads from the stream in the church grounds. I’m so proud of myself for making friends with girls who were positive, fun, creative and unique. We made each other better because we helped each other find what we loved to do and how to do it well.

You have the best example of being a good friend when it’s not popular in your mom. I moved to your mom’s town from Africa. I didn’t know anything about Maine. I didn’t know any of the popular music, I didn’t know some of the foods that everybody ate, I didn’t know the cool toys, the lingo, or clothes. I was awkward and shy and didn’t have any friends. But your mom decided to be friends with me. She didn’t make fun of the strange things I liked to do (like play trivial pursuit or watch old tv shows or play games outside even though we were in high school and supposedly too mature for that.) She was my friend no matter what. She didn’t make the easy choice to just ignore the strange girl that was hanging around; she wasn’t mean to me in order to make herself more popular to those around her. She looked into the heart of people to find their worth.

Its really hard sometimes making the choice to not be popular, to ignore the mean things people say because you’re choosing a different path, to be ignored even though you have great ideas and things to share. It will continue to be difficult; I’m not going to lie. But keep practicing. Practice will make it easier and, later, you will be so proud of yourself. You’ll be as proud of yourself as your Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles, and all the other people in your life who love you, are right this very moment.


With Love,
Sarah (your adopted aunt from far, far away)

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