Mean Girls - by Bozemama
May 03, 2012
Posted By: Shaunescy
Clique. Click click click click. Like little kitten heels clickety clacking through school
hallways, that word alone evokes a form of feminine torture. (Unless, of course,
you use the French pronunciation “cleek,” and then maybe you’re just a pretentious
poser and have bigger issues). For some of us who look back on our adolescence,
cliques were synonymous with teen treachery -- a petri dish for lifelong insecurities
and anxiety. (It may sound like a stretch, but hang in with me here.) At the mere
mention of middle school, many of us visibly cringe and mentally reel back to a time
of having to juggle orthodontic contraptions, unrequited crushes, unfamiliar body
odor (and parts) all while trying to negotiate an identity and a scramble for a place
in the arbitrary pecking order. Oh god, just thinking about the headgear, the lunch
tray, and my mutinous frizz gets me clambering for a Xanax. And who can forget the
mean girls? The popular pretty girls with shiny hair and white teeth, who would
pretend to be your friend, get you to admit your deepest darkest secrets and then
breezily betray you over the PA system at lunch.
So, in an effort to lessen the load of luggage on my own 6th-grade girl, I recently
picked up Rosalind Wiseman’s book, “Queen Bees & Wannabes,” which was
originally published 10 years ago (my daughter was a toddler then, so I was reading
a different book about how to be the perfect mom) and has been updated to include
more information about the new minefields of texting, IM-ing, and all the other
wonderful social networking opportunities for bullying that our children are faced
with today. Yay.
Well, let me tell you, this book is fascinating. (Anything that gets you to put
down “Fifty Shades of Grey” has got to be good, right?) Wiseman has worked with
girls for many years and seems to have cracked the “mean girl” code and made sense
of it for those of us who lived through middle school (barely) and have no idea what
really happened. According to her, “Our best politicians and diplomats couldn’t
do better than a teen girl does in understanding the social intrigue and political
landscape that lead to power.” Wow, right? It’s practically innate, like the urge we all
have to rush the gate at the airplane the very second it opens or the need to lick the
very bottom of the Ben & Jerry’s container (that’s not just me, right?).
The social hierarchies of girls are sophisticated, intricate, fluid, and every girl has
a part to play. Part of the trick is figuring out which role your daughter is playing
(or may be destined to play) and being aware of the risks and dangers. There are
many roles -- Queen Bee, Wannabe, Sidekick, Floater, Pleaser, etc. -- and the amazing
thing is that if you talk to your daughter about this book, she’ll be able to identify
these parts and the girls who play them at her school. I must say, I think I’m pretty
lucky with my girl (let’s call her Hermione). She’s a thoughtful introvert who was
born with a relatively accurate BS-meter and has been able to sort the wheat from
the chaff socially for years. After just a few short weeks in the trenches of middle
school, Hermione informed me that most of the girls were idiots who all wear the
same hairstyle (high pony; skinny headband), the same shoes (Uggs), the same
jeans (skinny) and talk smack about each other. Yup. Sounds familiar. Thankfully,
Hermione has a few good friends who share her values and sense of humor.
Sometimes, though, in the dark of night, she admits to me that she would like to be
a popular girl. Ouch. But she knows that she would have to compromise herself and,
the good news is, she has a strong personality and isn’t willing to do that. At least
not yet. Fingers crossed.
Anyway, let’s go back to that whole thing about lifelong anxiety and insecurity for
a minute. It might sound a bit extreme, but my friend Rosalind Wiseman says that
by compromising themselves in order to fit in, girls today may be sowing the seeds
of abuse and violence for later in their lives. If your daughter lets her friends treat
her like crap in middle school, then what’s to stop her from letting her boyfriend
beat her up in high school or college? This is scary stuff that goes way beyond which
jeans to wear and lip gloss to use.
So, what can we do as parents? We need to keep an eye on our girls and make sure
they aren’t paying too high a price for belonging. Wiseman wants us to be the loving
hard-ass parent that I wish I could be all the time (and am only when I’m well-
rested, fed, and with a glass of wine in my hand): Own up to your mistakes and
expect the same from your kids, teach her to learn from those mistakes, love her
unconditionally but hold her accountable, and don’t ever make her feel ashamed of
who she is.
Then, do yourself a favor and watch the movie “Mean Girls” (which is Tina Fey’s
adaptation of “Queen Bees & Wannabes”) and revel in Amy Poehler’s performance
as the Queen Bee’s mama, a brilliant tutorial in what not to do. Let me know what
Bozemama is a local mom, writer, dog owner, all around smashingly funny new contributor to Gum in Your Hair. We are lucky to have her, show her some comment love below, folks.
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