La La How The Life Goes On

Mean Girls

Posted on: March 30, 2014

Read that article. Then come on back for the skewering of everyone involved.

The article is entitled, “The Terrifyingly Nasty, Backstabbing, and Altogether Miserable World of the Suburban Mom.”  It really should have been called, “The Terrifyingly Nasty, Backstabbing and Altogether Miserable World of the Wealthy, White, Low-Self-Esteem Suburban Mom.”  Where to even begin with this mess of neurosis, psychosis and grandioseness?

The thrust of the story is that in this one wealthy town (and potentially in yours) there exist Mean Moms who control everything and everyone by being Queen Bees. So: high school. On a municipal level. Shocked I am not. But stunned I am to read of grown women participating in it and then acting surprised when their lives consequently suck.

News flash to adult women everywhere, particularly the rich white ones in rich, white towns like this one: living like this is a choice you are making. Befriending nasty women is a choice you are making. Allowing your kids to see this play out is a choice you are making. These are all choices you are making. You are not trapped. You are not homeless. You are not penniless. You are not marginalized in our society. You are endowed with the privilege of being able to make choices that most of the planet’s women would dearly love to make. So make better ones, even if they make you feel unpopular. In short, grow the fuck up. For the love of God.

My 4th grader had an issue with a Queen Bee in her class last year. We talked about it at length, about how this girl got to be the QB: because my daughter and her friends were allowing it. She is running the show because you have all somehow agreed that she is running the show, either by silent assent or active participation. Either way, the nanosecond you decide she’s not in charge–voila–she’s not in charge. A leader has to have followers in order to lead.  So stop following. It will hurt at first. Maybe no one else will get on board and you’ll have to find new friends. Maybe things will get worse for a time as QB rages against the dying of her might. But die it shall. As soon as YOU decide to stop participating. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun. But it doesn’t sound like your average day under the iron fist of QB is easy or fun anyway, right? So just refuse to be a part of it.

My then-3rd grader figured it out in about 30 days. You can do it too. But it requires–REQUIRES–you to love yourself. It requires you to remember that you are not in high school anymore; that you are a grown-ass woman WITH CHILDREN! It requires you to filter your daily actions through the prism of “what am I teaching my kids by this example?” Right now, you are teaching your girls to be bitchy, mean jerks or compliant, frightened doormats. You are teaching your sons that females are irrational, emotional dumdums. Is that really what you’re going for?

Listen, I’ve been there. Those moms do exist in my town, especially at my youngest’s preschool. I went to a parent event one night at 6:30pm. I was wearing dark-wash jeans (ie, a nice pair) and a nice shirt, having run out of the house as soon as the BabyDaddy got home from work, and having spent the time leading up to that moment feeding the girls, doing bath time, checking homework. All the stuff a parent does at that hour. Well, I apparently didn’t get the memo that I am supposed to have a nanny or babysitter come over so I can spend the hour beforehand showering, putting on makeup and donning a little black dress. I shit you not. Wine and cheese in a preschool classroom–all those little teeny tiny chairs and mini-desks–and grown women competing for Best Fucking Dressed. At 6:30pm on a g-damn Tuesday.

I would be lying if I did not admit that I absolutely felt like a loser surrounded by these put-together women. Like, cue the Sanford and Son theme tune when I enter the room. I was supremely uncomfortable until another mom–a normal freakin mom–showed up and we locked eyes like, “WTF with this crowd?!” Relief. Palpable relief. So I get it. When I got in my car I immediately dialed my friend who lived in another town like mine and had told me similar stories. (And let me add that my friend is supermodel beautiful; an absolute blockbuster stunner of a woman, and even she was struggling with feeling less-than around other moms). She and I declared to each other on the phone that night that we would never give in, that we would never wear a little black dress to a preschool event. That we would never get sucked into believing that what we wore to drop our kids off at school somehow said anything about us beyond “this is what I’m wearing at the moment.” We swore to ourselves and each other to never be part of that Bitchy Mom Machinery, no matter how much it might hurt. We swore that we were Awesome As Is, and eff these high schooly moms for trying to extend their 15 minutes of “greatness” from adolescence. We would not be participating, even if that meant we didn’t get the coveted invite to the Mom’s Night Out at Paint Bar.

I swear to god I have never looked back. I know I don’t get invited to stuff as a result. But I don’t care because–and here’s the relevant, oft-forgotten fact–I don’t actually like those women. I don’t want to have dinner with them. I don’t want to scour my brain for something to talk about besides Where They’ve Traveled Recently, How Much They Have Worked Out Recently, or What Expensive Activities Their Kids Have Excelled At Recently.  I mean, kill me now, right? Rather than being all upset that you’re not invited to an event at the Yacht Club, why don’t you consider that these are not people you want to hang out with anyway? My mom once said to me in high school, “I find it strange that you spend a lot of time trying to impress people that you don’t even like.”  BOOM.

So what’s the solution? Maybe if:

We stop trying to impress people, especially those we either don’t like or who engender feelings of worthlessness in us.

We diversify our friendships. We never say no to an offer of friendship simply because that person is of a different color, ethnicity, or income level from us. A good friend (and totally not bitchy fellow mom, Miz B) noted  that Bambina’s school is almost devoid of this QB stuff precisely because of its racial and income diversity. There aren’t large swaths of idle rich ladies having lunch on a school day, cooking up ways to be evil. A good percentage work outside the home–and a good percentage of us who do not have paying jobs don’t, as a result, have the discretionary income to be Evil Lunching on the regular. In short, there just isn’t the homogeneity that is required for this type of insular bullying to either occur or be tolerated.

We opt out. Consequences be damned. Sotto voce reassurance: your kids will turn out fine regardless. Let them see this play out. Let them see you be chill–although honest–about not getting the invites. Let them witness their mother love herself enough to opt out of destructive relationships. Let them see that a little exclusion won’t kill them or you.

As one of our favorite authors, Todd Parr, says in his “It’s Okay to Be Different” book: “It’s okay to say no to bad things.”

Memorize and repeat as often as we need to.




1 Response to "Mean Girls"

It would be nice to think that girls grow out of being mean girls, but the reality is mean girls grow up to be mean women. I’ve had to cut off friendships with women, as a mid-40 something mom, because they were exhibiting mean girl behavior to other moms that I know. I was like “Um, I left middle school back in the late 70s is this the example you want to teach your daughters?” It’s shocking the shenanigans that go on as females, at all ages.

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