Her name was Millie, the girl who sporadically made high school my personal nightmare.
She’d stroll carelessly through the hallway with her pack of slightly quieter friends and go out of her way to brush by me and cackle out words like “pathetic loser,” and “monster ugly” and other colloquial Kansas jibes about “breakin’ the cam’ra when you get yer pitcher taken.”
In choir, she sat behind me, and when the director would ask me to try out a solo, she’d giggle and cough and kick the bottom of my chair for extra maddening effect. Then she’d elbow her friends and they’d all boo behind their hands after I was done. While they never saw me cry or react, most of my time was spent hyperventilating while waiting for the next onslaught of snark.
I let Millie ruin a good portion of my high school experience.
We’ve probably all had a Millie in our lives, whether it was in high school or even today. That girl or woman who, no matter what kind of a mood you’re in, can eat you up and spit you out just by honing in on whatever weakness you feel in any given moment.
Feeling a little embarrassed by your slightly greasy hair (which your friends had previously told you NO ONE would notice)? There’s Millie, “Hey, girls! Check out her hair. She’s going to need some 409 to clean THAT tonight. HAHAHAHA.”
Self-assuredness at an all time low while speaking in public? There’s Millie at the back of the room, doing a spit-take when you mispronounce the word “epitome.” (Seriously, shouldn’t it be ep-it-ohm? C’mon.)
At one time or another, there’s going to be a Millie-and-her-gang in your life, but that doesn’t mean they have to obliterate the self confidence of you and all the other girls within spitting distance.
Dear Crunchy Betties, There Are These Girls …
Last week, I received an email from a teenage reader (I LOVE our teenage Crunchy Betties!) seeking some advice. Out of respect for privacy on the details, I’m not going to quote the email, but here is the gist:
Amy (we will call her, not her real name) is concerned about her friend, who is having exceedingly difficult problems with a group of girls at her school. They are, for reasons only teenage girls understand, humiliating her on purpose and taking their catty ways to a new level.
This girl is quiet, and shy, and emotionally vulnerable – especially to a group of peers. The friend is distraught, and dreading school and further encounters with these girls.
Amy wanted to know if there was any advice or help I could give her to pass on to her friend. This is where I need your help.
You see, this issue has plagued me for the last week, and I’ve thought through all the responses I could possibly give, each one being more and more pathetically stereotypical.
“Tell her that high school is only a very small portion of her life, and that it will get better soon.” “Tell her that those girls are either jealous or lacking self-confidence, which is why they’re lashing out.” “Tell her BLAH BLAH BLAH stand up for yourself BLAH BLAH BLAH don’t let them get away with it BLAH BLAH BLAH talk to your guidance counselor.”
But none of those things are real. They’re all patent responses that we grew up hearing, so it seems like what we should tell the next set of women coming up behind us. But, seriously, none of that common wisdom helped ME back then, so how on earth can it be expected to help someone else?
After pondering this for hours today, this is the only thing that made sense to me:
While not everything is our fault, how we react to it, respond to it, and accept our role in changing it IS our responsibility. If I could share anything with a girl who is going through being bullied by another group of girls, it would be that.
(Whether you’re 14 or 64.)
The longer you accept the role of victim in your situation, the longer you will remain the victim. No one but you has the power to change your emotional response to a situation. And, no matter how mean or vicious the words and actions of another person are, only YOU can let them ruin your day.
If nothing else, being bullied is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to find the strength and the courage within yourself to be in charge of your emotions; it’s an opportunity to look at the situation and go, “Hey, I could feel like crap about what’s going on, but I could also choose to focus on something better instead.”
Now, when you put yourself in the situation of a teenage girl, that may not be of much help. Remembering those feelings (and how they were often OMIGOD MOM YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND ME), I’m not sure I’m touching the right keys here.
So, help this girl and all girls who are going through something similar, legion of warm, compassionate, caring Crunchy Betties.
What would you tell a girl who was being bullied by a group of other girls? How would you help her understand her own role of responsibility? How would you make her feel empowered AND good about herself, in the face of compassionless, humiliating mean girls?
THIS is your big-sister deed for the day.
Have you had a Millie in YOUR life? How did you deal with it successfully? What words can you offer to help a teenage girl through this situation?