Girls’ Studies: Mean Girls and Frenemies
This feels like a deeply personal post, and usually when I write something like this, I connect it to a book and I spend a few weeks or more crafting it into an essay with a purpose or a message. Today, I’m just answering the following questions for my class.
What group were you in as a girl? Who did you fit in with?
Did you have a frenemy? Do you continue to have frenemies?
What about crushes?
Respond to any (or all!) of these questions.
These questions are hard because of my perceptions of myself and the fact that I changed groups a few times over the years. When I lived in California, I felt as if I were friends with everybody, and when I returned to visit a year or so after having left, everybody remembered me as friend with a Mexican girl who didn’t speak English. They said I was her best friend, and I didn’t even remember her well. I remembered that I was trying to be kind and make her feel comfortable, and because my parents taught us a little Spanish at home, I attempted to use it with her.
When I moved to a Navajo reservation, I was a “smart” kid for a year. I ended up skipping to another grade for math and reading times, and then going back and forth between the two grades. My friends were the smart older kids that I met.
Once I settled in the rural town where I spent most of my schooldays, I had several groups. The one year that sticks out is sixth grade. That was a tough time for us girls. We had a large group in our class who all tried to hang out together, but inevitably, one ringleader would wreak havoc by starting secret clubs and leaving people out. When a new girl named Hallie moved it, she was shunned. She wasn’t well dressed or groomed and came from a rough family situation. I befriended her, but the ringleader told everybody that if they talked to her they were out of the group. I ignored her. The others obeyed, giving Hallie nasty notes and shunning her on the playground. She broke down and told our wise teacher, Mrs. Frazier, who stopped class one afternoon and called out the offenders one by one. She had Hallie out in the cloakroom (which led out to the playground; it wasn’t weird to be in there!) and called out each of the “mean” girls to speak about the situation and hopefully make amends with poor Hallie. As members of our group got called out, the whole class sat tense and silent, occasionally whispering or nudging us and saying, “You’re next.” They pointed at me. But I never got called out. I was the only one who didn’t get in trouble; I had been nice to Hallie.
I changed groups in junior high, again befriending new people who had moved in. We also began to have boys that were friends, which was fun. In my senior year of high school, I was with roughly that same group, expanded a little, when I ended up with mono. I missed several months of school and could barely function. My two best friends came over once, and when I returned to school, they had other friends. I felt left out. And then, one of them had a boyfriend for the first time. But trouble struck when he saw that I was being left out and befriended me. (I was seriously eating lunch with the guidance counselors everyday because I had no friends.) When this boy started paying attention to me, she, of course, was very upset, and I ended up dating him instead of her. I am sure this story has many sides, which you are not getting from me, but the narrative from the outside essentially runs like this: “I stole my best friend’s boyfriend.” That isn’t how I see it, but it certainly seems to have happened.
In a funny twist, I became closer to another girl who had lived near me since we moved in, and she would hang out with this boy and I. They ended up getting married! (We just passed him around, apparently.)
My experiences show the varied interactions that girls have with each other, and the complications that arise when boys are involved. I was never the mean girl, and I was never the popular girl. I was a smart girl and an awkward shy girl. I did date a lot, but I never hung out with the in-crowd. Since high school, I’ve felt free to become more than these labels of “shy” or “smart.”
Interestingly, nobody in high school labeled me as smart. When senior personalities for the yearbook came out, I was given “Biggest Brownnoser.” That still hurts because of how genuine I really was. Perhaps I should just be glad I got one of the personalities. I tried to be kind during those years, but apparently nobody saw it that way. They thought I got good grades for ingratiating myself with the teachers, but the teachers were kind to me and they understood me and they saw who I really was. They even ate lunch with me when my friends rejected me.
Do I still have frenemies? Yes, there have been some strange incidences with other women which I cannot fully explain. I had a best friend several years ago, but one day, she became angry with me (for seemingly no reason; I have no idea what really happened on her end), and she yelled at me and accused me of strange and horrible things. We never were friends after that. She started ignoring me, even when I tried to speak to her in public. (I wrote a little more about this experience here.) More recently, another woman accused me of embarrassing her publicly at our church, but I didn’t and I still don’t know what she thinks I was trying to do. We tend to try to avoid each other. These were uncomfortable situations, and ones that I can’t really explain. I truly try to be kind and nice to other people, but every so often, they will have an extreme reaction to me, and I have to assume that it is their problem and not mine. Maybe my perception is skewed, but I can’t continue to focus on people who end up causing problems in my life.
Well, that was a rambling post. I hope there’s something in there worth taking away. I do notice that my stories of friends tend to paint myself as a victim. Was I really? Or am I just remembering things conveniently? Perhaps we learned today that I might be an unreliable narrator.