Growing up, I wasn't the most popular girl in school. In fact, I was far from it. I developed much earlier than everyone else and some girls were just nasty spreading all kinds of rumors about me - because certainly having large breasts in 5th grade of course meant I was doing all kinds of things with boys that I most definitely wasn't doing (and mostly didn't know anything about!). Sure, the boys paid a lot of attention to me, but they were just curious and I didn't pay any attention to them. The girls, however, were vicious. I was teased and taunted everyday at least all the way through junior high. The rumors that made their way back to me were horrible and entirely untrue.
At the time, I would come home from school crying most days and not wanting to return. What I couldn't understand was why they were so mean to me. Just like the girls from the movie Mean Girls. Almost 28 years later, I understand that they were mostly jealous and the only way they could deal with it was to make fun of me. What I also know now, as an adult, is that many people, both men and women, have to tear others down in order to build themselves up. Their egos are so fragile that they must feel they are superior and the only way to do that is to make everyone else inferior.
About 5 years ago, I dated a guy who was a constant jokester. Sometimes he was witty, but mostly his jokes were mean in nature and belittling. And I was often the butt of them. I had asked him repeatedly not to make such biting comments about me (and others) because they simply weren't funny and they really hurt my feelings. I remember one day we were making plans to go out that night via instant messenger. In the course of the IM, he said something to me that was rude and completely condescending. When I called him out on it, he said he was joking, but I'd had enough. I wrote that I couldn't date him anymore because I was tired of him thinking it was okay to tear me down in order to feel better about himself. He told me my skin simply wasn't thick enough, but I didn't see it that way. For me, it was about respect, both my own self-respect and his respect of me. I was done and I've never looked back. I've also never let anyone speak to me that way again.
Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a friend who has recently become the target of some "mean girl" behavior. I know my friend to be one of the most integrity filled women I know and the lies that have been spread by people who don't even know her are vile. I reminded my friend that the person spreading rumors is really telling the world "I think I'm worthless and the only way I know to feel better is to attempt to tear an innocent woman apart."
It makes me sad to see adults acting the way 12-year old girls act. 12-year olds act that way because they don't know any better, but there's simply no excuse for it as an adult. The fact is that "mean girl" behavior says more about perpetrator than the victim. At some point, I always thought "mean girl" behavior would just go away because we'd all grow up and grow out of it. Unfortunately, it's probably been my biggest shock about being an adult - some of the "mean girls" never grow up.
Luckily for me, I know who I am and I'm comfortable in my own skin. I'm proud of my accomplishments and I'm even proud of most of my failings. I know who I love and who loves me. My feeling is that if someone needs to build themselves up by tearing me down, go right ahead. It doesn't really bother me one bit and it says far more about them than it ever will about me anyway. But I choose not to tolerate "mean girl" behavior by ignoring it and surrounding myself with people who are secure enough in their own right to celebrate the successes of others around them without feeling threatened.