I’m writing this letter not for myself, but for my two little sisters– 12 and 10– who probably know girls like you. Girls who push, yell, name-call, or worse, laugh and whisper. It’s a thing some of us do when we’re young. It’s something almost all of us are the victims of at one point of another, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
In elementary school, you were the girl who told me I could throw mulch at you. Well, I was six and had always wanted to throw mulch at you, so I threw mulch at you. Then you ran and told my favorite teacher, who scolded me. I cried on the playground while my velcro shoe-clad friends consoled me. Then we went back to playing cheetah and antelope.
But in middle school, that meanness morphed into something much more personal, sometimes humiliating. Then, it was my clothes that you criticized. I had my dad buy me the striped athletic pants that were so popular, but according to you, were all wrong. You made that clear when you so non-discreetly pointed out my faux-pas to your friend during choir. Instead of sticking out my tongue or rolling my eyes, I stared straight ahead, pretending I didn’t hear the mean things you said.
The summer between 7th and 8th grade, I grew. You noticed. On the first day of 8th grade, you had our whole math class convinced that certain parts of me were enhanced. Instead of the cute new shirt I bought during back-to-school clothes shopping, I wore a giant sweatshirt on the second day of school, after a long, tearful night of worry. It’s no wonder I spent most of high school wearing low-cut tank tops to prove to everyone that I was, in fact, all real.
What I didn’t realize then is that you were probably hurting, too. Whether it was neglectful or missing parents, a cruel older brother, or other circumstances I couldn’t have imagined then, something happened to you to make you mean. Nobody’s born that way. You embarrassed and hurt me from time to time, but you were the one that was truly hurting, though you hid it with the expertise of an actress. I was lucky enough to have two loving parents who were there to assure me that I was good, and nice, and pretty, and someone you were probably just jealous of. (I never quite believed that last part, though it helped me feel better.)
As upset as I sometimes was as a kid, those moments didn’t scar me for life. I remember them, but I’ve long since compartmentalized them. They molded who I am today– a sensitive, empathetic person– and I’m grateful for whatever lessons they’ve taught me.
What I ask of you– the mean girls of the world– is this: Be nice to my sisters. I can sympathize with you to a point, because I know there is a source of pain causing your harshness and callousness. But ultimately, I will defend those girls fiercely. I will be as fierce now as I was meek then, and I hope my sisters will be, too.