Cliques

My darling girl, the time has come for me to tell you about girls. Girls are complicated creatures – I know you’ve got that nailed, you are complicated yourself! Girls can be wonderful, loyal, warm, supportive, nurturing, caring, and funny. They can share everything with you and make you feel like the best person in the world. But they can bring you down with a word – no, a look – and they can destroy your confidence. If you let them. Mean girls: they can be total bitches.

I want you to be better than that. YouΒ areΒ already better than that, at the mere age of 8. I want to give you the tools to remain that way, and to make yourself impervious to the kicks they will dish out.

You are no stranger to the nastiness of the female sex. I mentioned it in passing to your head teacher. She replied with a sigh and a knowing smile of chagrin, “Year 2 girls. Every year has its problems, and in year 2 it’s the girls, beginning to get cliquey, and mean.” I gave you my best tips for dealing with the girl who told lies about you, the child who taunted you for some minor aspect of your appearance, and the individual who tried to split up your friendships. I was proud of how you handled it all, and between you, you girls sorted things out and are friends again. That’s how smart girls deal with their disagreements.

I was part of a disturbance amongst a group of girls earlier this week. We all enjoy the same thing – for the sake of example, lets say we all love rollerskating. Here’s how it went:

  • First, one of the older, more experienced girls said something about rollerskating that a lot of the others didn’t like. She wasn’t very diplomatic in the way she said it, and the others took offence. She was making her point about a brand of rollerskates that she thought weren’t good value for money. Some of the girls disagreed with her point of view. Some of them didn’t like the way she had made her point. People started to complain. A discussion broke out. I myself said “Really???! I’m amazed you can say that!”
  • As with all discussions, once the other girls noticed the argument in the corner of the playground, lots of them skated over to see what was going on. Some of them joined in. Some girls are better at arguing than others. Some managed to make their point without being offensive. Others don’t really care about people’s feelings, and just said whatever they felt like. People got cross. Some were just in it for the power trip of being mean about others, to bolster their own egos.
  • Suddenly, a few of the girls broke off into smaller groups and stopped arguing about rollerskates. They started shouting at each other about things they’d disagreed on previously. It stopped being about rollerskates, and became a bit of a slanging match. Some girls tried really hard to be polite, but lost their tempers and said things they didn’t mean. Others didn’t even try, and just stuck the boot in.
  • At one point a teacher wandered onto the playground and tried to calm things down. “Girls, what do we all love about rollerskating?” she asked. Most of the playground were drawn towards her, keen to have their say:
      • I love that skates are all so different!
      • I love that I’ve made new friends through rollerskating.
      • I love how my rollerskating has got so much better from all the good advice the other girls have given me.
      • I love that whenever I’ve got a problem, I can always make it feel better if I go out on my skates.
      • I love how there’s always someone up for rollerskating when I need to be with a friend.
      • I love that it doesn’t matter whether we like traditional skates or inline skates, what matters is how we use them.
  • It was a really nice interlude, and the teacher left us all to it again, hopeful that the distraction method had helped calm the waters of rollerskating.
  • But there were some girls who were still angry. Not only that, they weren’t thinking straight. Or they were just plain mean – keen for a fight, whatever the cost. Some girls just wouldn’t let it go until someone got hurt.

What’s the purpose of my retelling this tale for you? Well, life experience has taught me a few things about girls, and the best way to deal with them.

Girls come in all sorts of packages, some good, some not so good. Some are kind, others are mean. Some are friendly, some a bit cold. Some are supportive, others will do anything they can to bring you down, not because you’ve done anything wrong, but because they don’t like to share, they don’t like you having something they haven’t got, or they feel insecure around you. And there is the crux of the problem with girls: all of us started out decent, but life has happened to each of us, and we have shaped our actions and our words around what we have learned to expect from each other, not what is actually there.

I can’t give you the definitive guide, my love. You will have to work out how to deal with the girls you come across in your own life, but I can forearm you with the tips I have learned.

Tips for dealing with mean girls, from one who has dealt with a few:

  1. Tips for dealing with mean girls who call you names: a year or so ago someone called me a rude name online. I was hurt, so I asked her to clarify what she meant. She socked it to me good and proper. She made judgements about me based on a couple of words I’d used in a 140 character tweet. We have never met, and had not conversed before that exchange. I was tempted to tell her about my background, my achievements, my nature, so that she might have more respect for me. I stopped myself though, because this wasn’t about me, it was about her. She has no respect, nor a willingness to understand someone new in the playground. Instead, I did what I have always advised you to do. Just stay away from her.
  2. Tips for dealing with mean girls who hurt you: sometimes, I have found, people don’t realise they are being hurtful. With these girls it is best to speak to them privately. Get them on their own and calmly explain how they made you feel. I know you’ve done this on the playground, and it has cleared the air, cemented your friendship. Sometimes it doesn’t work, in which case you need to go back to tip 1.
  3. Tips for dealing with mean girls who taunt you: sometimes, even though you try to steer clear of them, they won’t let it be. They follow you around, tell their friends what they don’t like about you, or try to make your own friends stop liking you. These girls are more difficult to deal with. My advice is to always be the better person. Stay strong, don’t lower yourself to their level, don’t try to attack back, that will do you no favours. Let them see that you’re not bothered. Even if you are. Have a cry in private if you need to, or confide in someone you trust not to hurt you, then get right back out there with a smile on your face and ignore.
  4. Tips for dealing with mean girls who are mean through and through: this is the toughest one of all. Some girls are troublemakers. For reasons you can only guess at, they like to start fights. The best thing here is to make your point, strongly and professionally, with good grammar and intelligent articulation, then walk away. Don’t be tempted back there when they retaliate. Feel good inside knowing that you have had your say, and don’t need to say any more. Watch them get angry and smile to yourself, confident in the knowledge that you are the smarter person. Kind of like blowing a kiss in the rear view mirror to the guy who has road-rage.

Finally, if all of the above fails, use humour to your own advantage. I recently conducted a workshop session at a blog conference about how to be nice online. When I asked the assembled group if they had ever suffered nastiness online, so many of them nodded their heads. We talked about the best way to handle it. All of the above advice came up. But the one we all loved best came from Minty, a very cool and funny lady.

“When I get rudeness online,”Β she confessed,Β “I just change the subject. ‘I’ve got a lovely chicken roasting in the oven,’ I might say. It baffles them and they have nowhere left to go!”

But I think you’re already there my lovely smart girl. The last time someone made a rude remark to you in the playground about your appearance, you had this to say:

“Yeah, I know. But at least I don’t have an enormous nose. Imagine how hard that would be to sort out! Not that you have or anything…”

Keep it up lovely, I’m proud of you x