Wednesday, December 17

Mean Girls


I’m not sure if I ever wrote about it here before, but for years I didn’t mention the fact that, as a kid, I had been bullied.

And I’m not talking about a single confrontation between me and some mean kid that took place after school, no, I mean an ongoing, ridiculously prolonged, form of bullying between me and a group of older girls (two in particular) that took place before, during, and after school, and that lasted five years.

One of the reasons I didn’t talk about it is because I didn’t understand it. I’d done nothing I could think of to instigate their behavior except move to a new town, and arrive at my new school with a major stomachache and a bad case of nerves. But by lunchtime that very first day, word was out, and my new nickname of “Stuck Up B*&%h” somehow stuck. There was even a song created to go with it, one that made liberal use of my nickname, over and over again.

But despite the lyrics professing that I thought I was “sooo bitchen” I’m here to say I pretty much felt I was anything but. I may have lived in the biggest house on the street, but trust me, it was by no means happy inside. My parents were constantly fighting, on the verge of divorce, and my entire world was falling apart, making it hard to determine which was more miserable, being at home or going to school.

One of the other reasons I never talked about it is because I was ashamed. When a group of kids decide to outright reject you, without talking to you or getting to know you first, but merely deciding to hate you at first sight, it does more than just hurt, it makes you question your entire being, your self-worth. Besides, back then, bulling was relegated to something boys did. No one ever spoke about the propensity of meanness in girls. And believe me, there was nothing covert about what they did, it was right out there in the open, available for teachers and parents to see, but not once did anyone ever step in to stop it.

And though the taunting eventually stopped, the effects lingered for a very long time. And it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I read Rachel Simmons incredible book, ODD GIRL OUT that I could finally define what’d happened to me. It’s hard to describe the emotions I went through when reading the book, but it was definitely a cathartic experience. Just knowing that I wasn’t alone, that others had experienced the same type of thing, provided tremendous relief.

Not long after reading it, I wrote ART GEEKS AND PROM QUEENS, my book about bullying, conformity, and the insidious meanness of girls. And I thought I was done with the topic, having fully moved on, when the strangest thing happened just a few days ago.

One of my bullies sent me an e-mail.

She’d found me on a social networking site and contacted me. Telling me how horrible she’d felt all of these years, and how she’d never tolerate that sort of behavior in her own kids. And even though it would seem like I should be well past caring either way, I could hardly believe my eyes when I read it. That e-mail meant a great deal to me, much more than I was probably able to express in my reply.

So I guess these are my tips for Surviving Adolescence week here at The Cafe:

If you’re being bullied- speak up! Don’t suffer in silence; tell someone who can help you! And definitely get yourself a copy of ODD GIRL OUT.

If you ARE the bully- then STOP IT! Just STOP IT! Treating others poorly is one of the worst things you can do, and it is NEVER okay. The cheapest way to feel good about yourself is by bashing someone else. Find a better way to boost your own self-esteem.

Oh, and no matter how many decades have passed, a heartfelt apology goes a very long way.

Alyson Noel is the author of several novels for teens and adults. Her upcoming IMMORTALS series begins with EVERMORE on 02.03.09. visit: www.alysonnoel.com to read excerpts, watch trailers, etc.




28 comments:

Sara Z. said...

Great post, Alyson.

Alyson Noel said...

Thanks Sara!

Megan said...

This is an awesome post. Sometimes the meanness of girls can just seem so...random. I am actually working on a MG book showing the point of view of two enemies. It was inspired by some of my own experiences with middle school mean girls. Luckily, I haven't dealt with anything like that in a long time!

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Megan- Yup, middle school is like the pinnacle of meanness- you couldn't pay me to go back!
Best of luck with your book- the premise sounds great!

Gerb said...

Excellent post - and it hits really close to home. I was never bullied as much as it sounds like you were, but there were certain girls in HS who would make me reconsider my route than to walk past them in the hallway. I never said anything, either.

Alyson Noel said...

Gerb- Ugh. I know that scenario well. I wonder if those girls grew up to regret it? Or if they grew into Mean Moms instead?

Shalonda said...

Alyson, you and Megan are so right. I teach 7th grade and I see tears almost daily because of how terribly the kids treat one another. I do everything I can to eliminate these things at school, but with cell phones and the Internet, it is often beyond my control, which makes me sad and terrifies me for when I have kids in the future.

By the way, Art Geeks and Prom Queens was the first book of your's that I read. It made me a fan forever!

nova said...

SUCH a good post. How heartening to know that one of the bullies contacted you to apologize after all this time...

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

Great post Alyson! I hope there are lots of teen readers who take comfort in your words.

Alyson Noel said...

Shalonda- Wow, you have one of the hardest jobs I could ever imagine- though I suppose it's probably very rewarding at times too.

And yeah, cyber bullying- ugh. I can't even imagine adding that to the mix!

But I'm glad to know you step in when you can, it was completely ignored back in my day, so I'm thrilled to see all of this concerted awareness that's going on now!

And thanks for the Art Geeks shout out-- you made my day!

Alyson Noel said...

Hey there Ms. Green Bean- Yeah, I hope so to. My heart breaks for any kid going through this!

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Nova- I know, it was truly amazing, and so obviously came from her heart!

Diana Rodriguez Wallach said...

Your post is so true. I had a very similar experience in middle school. I don't even think my parents knew what was going on. Adolescent girls internalize a lot, which is why I think we still feel pain all these years later.

BTW, I felt the same way when I read "Odd Girl Out." (Did you know they made a Lifetime movie based on it?) Another good book is "Queen Bees and Wannabes," which inspired the movie Mean Girls.

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Diana- I'm so sorry to hear you went through that too- sucks didn't it?

I haven't seen the Lifetime movie, but I want to- and I definitely read QUEEN BEES AND WANNA BES, even went to hear the author speak on the subject, it was really good.

I'm just so glad people are finally talking and writing about these things, rather than pretending it's not happening like when I was in school.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sara Hantz said...

Alyson, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I wasn't bullied at school, but one of my children was... it's one of the hardest things ever to deal with for a parent.

keri mikulski :) said...

Wow, Alyson. What a wonderful post. I remember the bullying.. Especially in middle school. At times, the group of friends I hung with could get pretty nasty and I remember being the target ALOT.

But, what I really recall and regret is confronting girls because of my high school boyfriend. This is embarrassing, but I'll share.. In fact, this one girl just moved to our town when I did it (I heard a rumor she was trying to hook up with my BF) and a few years ago at a wedding she told me how horrible she felt when I confronted her because she was new. I completely apologized and felt terrible. I mean, this wasn't who I wanted to be - a jealous girlfriend. In fact, I never participated in anything mean unless it involved him, then the claws came out for some reason.

What did I learn from high school? Never go after the girls, just dump the guy. And every rumor has a reason. :) Now I realize HE was the one initiating pretty much EVERYTHING. :)

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Sara- I feel your pain, that's got to be so hard for a parent to watch their kid go through that!

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Keri- It's so weird how girls always go after the other girl when usually the guy's at fault (or at the very least doing nothing to stop it!)!.

I bet your apology really meant a lot to her.

Thanks so much for sharing that!

Amanda Ashby said...

Alyson - wow - that was such an amazing post. I was never bullied but as a mother with two youngs kids in school I'm so conscious of how kids behave towards each other and it's terrifying. There is already a major bully in my son's class and the worst thing is that the kid is 6 years old.

(btw, if you ever decide to write another women's fiction book it's gotta be about mean moms)

Alyson Noel said...

Amanda- Mean Moms . . .Ugh. They're everywhere aren't they? Or at least it seems like they are. I guess I just don't get it. Why can't we all just cute each other some slack, stop competing over all the wrong things, and try a little kindness instead? Of course I mean that as a metaphorical WE, because you and I would never engage in such things!

And a 6 yr old bully? Yikes. Makes you wonder what's going on in that house?!

Melissa Walker said...

Fantastic post. I was on both sides of this story in jr. high, and I feel bad about it still. I might just have an apology to write.

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Melissa- It's really brave to admit that. And believe me, an apology goes a long way.

Wendy Toliver said...

Wonderful post, Alyson. Bullies are a huge problem. My oldest son was being bullied by this kid twice his size (2nd graders) and since the bully's mom is a friend of mine, we talked about it and took my mom's great advice (she's a teacher) to arrange really fun out-of-school playdates for the two of them. Now the two of them are inseparable, and no one picks on the best buddy of the big kid. LOL

Alyson Noel said...

Wendy- Wow, what a wonderful, proactive way of handling that! I'm so glad it worked out!

Erica Orloff said...

Wow . . . I'm late to this party but . . .

I have one of my four who is different. Just not a typical kid--really gifted, "odd" interests outside the norm for kids of the same age. It's heartbreaking to see people treat someone like crap because he or she is different.

Growing up, I never, ever, EVER fit in. I appreciate my eccentricties now, but not then. Bullying is more pervasive than people think.

E

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Erica- Yup, bullying is every where, it's become an accepted part of our culture- FOX news or reality TV anyone?

I never fit in either, still don't! Too bad it takes graduating from high school to finally appreciate it!

And I read your blog enough to know that no matter what happens at school, your kids are sooo lucky to have a ton of love and support at home!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Great post, Alyson. Need me to kneecap anyone for you?

Alyson Noel said...

Hey Lauren- Hmmm, I'll let you know!