Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mean Girls Suck (cause they're self esteem parasites!)

Way back in the day, I was teased by the “mean girls.”

It was 6th grade. I was the tallest girl in school – coming in at almost 5’9” at 12 years old.  Luckily in 7th grade and beyond, a few female classmates would surpass me, but in the 6th grade, it was just me. For that year I was known as Too Tall Terri.

I also blossomed into a full B-cup when only myself and another girl, this Amy chick, who made me show her my boobs in the girls bathroom in front of (what seemed like hundreds, but was only about 5) of my female classmates. I flashed them, proving that my bra was absent of stuffing -- but that, of course didn’t stop them from continuing to tell others that they weren’t real.  

The oddest insult, though, was with my teeth. They were, as my dentist once put it, “as straight as a ruler.” I was accused on filing them. And by accused I mean, tormented. Girls brought in nail files, wood files, and even metal files and put them on my desk, directing me to use them while they watched. It got weird. Really weird. Lucky for me I had an even weirder sense of humor and an oddly mature sense of self – because even though I did not like these girls and they tried their hardest to hurt my feelings, I shook my head at the thought of them actually believing that my greatest assets were faults. With my super long legs and (what seemed like huge) boobs, I walked away from those mean girls with a laugh that showed my great pearly white perfect smile. 

Now it’s my granddaughter’s turn. She’s 12 and bullies are attacking her for her perfectly wonderful shape. She has her mama’s curvy figure – one that women twice her age are paying good money to cosmetically copy. Accusations are flying out of the mouths of the Middle School mean girls, but this time they come with a twist. My darling girl is charged with stuffing her rear and chest with silicon rather than toilet paper, and of course they added something my classmates didn’t think of until High School – that because of the granddaughter’s shape, she must be some type of slut. 

Middle school is an awkward time for a lot of girls. Everyone wants to fit in, and the girls who often want it the most become an easy target for those who look for a face in the crowd that will respond to their eye rolls, nasty comments, and group-assisted bullying with tears and shame. Us adults… we wipe away those tears and tell the sobbing kids that the bullies are usually children who are being bullied at home, or they are just lashing out because they have no confidence. But really, that doesn’t help, because when you’re being put down, the very last thing you want to do is emphasize with the bitch who’s verbally assaulting you. I sure as hell didn’t!

I think kids today have seen enough documentaries and public service commercials to have a basic gist of why researches and doctors think some kids bully. They know that it could be a bad home environment, being picked on by older siblings, or they don’t like who they are. But honestly, does that really help make the kid who’s being shamed in front of a group of their peers feel better? Nope. Because kids live in the moment. And in that very moment, all they see is a person who has power over their emotions --- and it really, really sucks.

So what was so different about me? How could I walk away? It was simple: I told myself their opinion didn’t matter, until it really and honestly didn’t matter.

I know that seems like an impossible feat, but honestly, it can be done. And it all started when I was in elementary school.

I was raised right next to my grandpa’s store. People I liked, didn’t like, didn’t trust, and even hated came into the store all the time. Grandpa told me that every person was a costumer, and I had to pretend like I liked them (or face banishment from the establishment). I liked the store. It smelled like Grandma  and had free candy, so I opted to stay. It was difficult at first – to smile at someone who was not nice to me in school. But the “fake it until you make it” advice of one of grandpa’s employees helped me to get the hang of it. He said to pretend like I was in a movie, and just ACT like I’m being nice to them. So I did it. I smiled. I opened the door. I was polite. And eventually, they smiled back. 

By Middle School I was pretty good at pretending. I actually created a character who didn’t care what people thought, or what they said, or if they were making ridiculous accusations about my legs (that I stretched them out at night on some medieval torture device) or my boobs (that I stuffed them with water balloons). This character walked away laughing, shaking her head, mumbling how absurd these girls were. My character said things like “In order for your opinions of me to matter, YOU would have to matter TO me. And you don’t.” My character was far cooler than my real self, and I liked her. A lot.

Funny thing is, that character and I eventually meshed as one by the time I was going into High School. I faked it until it became real. I had developed an attitude that was bully-proof. I honestly did not give a rats ass what these country classmates thought of me. I was still being teased – this time because I was a published writer, President of the Students Against Driving Drunk chapter, and wrote for the school paper.  I was a nerd… a mouse… a weirdo. Fashion labels really mattered at my high school, so the fact that I didn’t care about name-brand clothing or the latest fashion (and I loved dressing as Annie Hall, wearing my grandfather’s pants and ties) earned me the “poor trash” title. And I didn’t go out every weekend and binge drink, so that of course made me the “Nerdy poor trash boring weird girl.” Needless to say, I don’t think I was all that popular. But, I also didn’t care. And I think that confused many of them… so much so, that my turn at being bullied was always cut short.

I didn’t respect them as peers, and I didn’t respond to their belittling and ignorant accusations, therefore there was no peer pressure or bullying. And it really was that simple. 

And in the end, I was right. I can look back now with an adult perspective and see that all those Mean Girls were never important to me then, nor are they now. I’m a published author, an activist, a photographer, a mother, a grandmother, and some would even say a community leader. I have an incredibly fulfilling life full of meaningful friendships, achievements, and true happiness. I look at those who tormented myself and others and see a lot of broken marriages, dead-end jobs, and bitching on Facebook. Not one of those Middle School Mean Girls have a life I would exchange for my own. 
Recent comment from former classmate via Facebook

 But I still use the “Fake it till you Make it” philosophy, and I encourage others to as well. One thing I have learned is that if they can’t get under your skin, they’ll eventually stop picking. They want victims, and if you aren’t one, well… then what fun are you?

Want another visual? Think of it this way:  Mean Girls are parasites who feed off the inner turmoil of others. The only defense against them is to slather on a shield of self-love – whether real or faked – and pretend like their sick and twisted lies don’t hurt. Once they realize they can’t cut through your thick skin, they’ll stop trying to bore inside your self-confidence. And that’s when you’ve crushed them. That’s when you’ve won.

Thanks for listening!

~ Terri Jean

Picture your Mean Girl as a Parasite. Don't let her BUG you!

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