As Lane has ventured her way through kindergarten, we’ve had to deal with a handful of social issues that have come up. None particularly crisis-inducing, but just that stuff that happens with a bunch of kids together in a room. She got in a fight with her best friend and they weren’t talking for a couple days. One girl, who she’d never been particularly friendly with but is the only other kid from her class on her bus, made a point to tell her that they were *not* friends and Lane wasn’t sure what to do with it.
And as we muddled through these various little things, I felt all those school-age insecurities get dredged up. I went through elementary school as, I shall say it, one of the most popular girls. Until about fourth grade (it seemed in my world) being smart and active and friendly and nice were enough that most girls were friendly to me, and I had a plethora of friends. Then I hit about seventh grade, and being smart and friendly and nice became the assets that made me a target for the more queen-bee-ish of the friends I’d accumulated. No time in school was particularly harsh, and I was thankfully wise about judging about who my real friends were. Getting involved in sports helped a lot, too; I and the other athlete-girl-types mostly were straightforward and avoided the general social pettiness in which the rest of the girl population wallowed/thrived.
To help better understand the dynamics of the stuff Lane would be faced with, but that I never seemed to understand in school, I read Queen Bees and Wannabes not too long ago, which was incredibly insightful. I borrowed it from the library but I know it’s a book I’ll want to own a copy of. Happy to say, while I spent a bit of time as a Target/Torn Bystander type while I was learning to navigate the social circles of junior high, I pretty much evolved into a Floater in the Queen Bee/Wannabe vernacular… comfortable in a number of different groups, confident, keeping myself above the fray, etc. Turns out I did pretty good for myself after all. I had always thought of myself as more of the victim, and conflict with other girls — especially those super-cliquey, power-hungry types — would give me a cold sweat just thinking about the possibility. The truth is (which I realized while reading the book) was that I handled them well. No one ever got a second chance to be entrusted enough to be mean to me. I think my true test of social endurance and personal fortitude happened in ninth grade. A true queen bee, this mean, wicked, power-hungry girl who I shall call Samantha found out that a junior football player stud-type (who I shall call George) liked me. (George didn’t like me in a “wow, you’re amazing and smart and I want to get to know you better!” kind of way, he liked me in a “Wow, you wore leggings the other day and you looked hot and I want to stick my penis in you really bad!” kind of way, so while it was, honestly, a bit of an ego boost to be noticed that way, I was decidedly not responsive to his interest in me.) However, I didn’t make it widely known that I wasn’t interested, I just sort of shrugged it off. George, however, did make it pretty widely known that he wanted into my panties. This was incredibly threatening to Samantha, as George was her well-known target of lust and affection and I assume she had been-there-done-that with him, or had publicly aspired to do so. Therefore, George’s attention paid in my direction seriously undercut her power accumulation and I was a very serious threat, without doing anything at all. There were confrontations, and rumors spread, and other lovely things, and I distinctly remember being amused by it and feeling above it. I shrugged it off, I laughed with my friends about it, and when George (with much fanfare, and for some reason everyone knowing he was going to do it) invited me to be his date to a party, I turned him down privately, though I’m pretty sure Samantha never found out I’d said no until she got to the party and he was there without me – I only told a couple close friends I’d said no, and certainly George didn’t go bragging about it. It was a fun few days of watching her struggle so strongly to try to tear me down for her own ego. It was an episode I’d never reflected on an awful lot until I’d read the book, and realized how much more power this girl could have had over me if I’d let her.
But I see the uncertainty and the insecurities I felt rear their ugly head as I am starting to help Lane navigate these new waters. I’ve also caught myself assuming she might be more apt to be a target/victim than an instigator/manipulator. I really don’t know why I would make that assumption — can a mom with absolutely no tendencies toward manipulative, power-seeking, queen bee type behavior have a daughter who becomes that stereotypical “mean girl”? Sure, why not. I honestly don’t see it in our case, but weirder things have happened… so as I’ve started to give her bits of insight into her own actions and those of others, I’ve started to take into account that she could shape up to be a victim, or a perpetrator… but ideally, neither.
Luckily she has at least a couple more years before the girl-cattiness starts showing up in significant amounts. I hope I can guide her to realize being above the fray is way better than trying to win at it, and the best friends she’ll find are the ones who feel the same.