Every time I hear the Billy Joel song, “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me”, I cringe at the line when he sings, “if you try to be a straight A student, and you are, then you think too much!” That straight A student was me in 7th grade, when I was on my way to earning one of the top ten GPAs in my high school graduating class. I never thought much of it until I went on a sleepover at “cool girl” Kate’s house along with my best friend Toni plus a few other of the more “popular” girls in our grade. I’m not sure when things went awry but we were up late, blasting music (where were her parents? I’m not sure they were even home – oy) and seemed to be having a good time. Next thing I knew they cranked up the volume on that Billy Joel song and started screaming the “straight A student” line at me. It was the only time in my life I felt embarrassed to be smart. But, worse than that, I had never had a friend turn on me like that, so suddenly and so unreasonably. Really? You don’t like me because I get good grades? I’m not sure how I held it together. Thankfully, I had Toni there with me. We both wanted to go home — immediately. We stuck it out until 5am and at the first sign of daylight, we grabbed our sleeping bags and walked all the way home. It was a long trek back since Kate lived on the other side of town from us. But, we didn’t care. We wanted to get far away from those mean girls and when we made it halfway home, we started to giggle at ourselves. There we were, still in our pajamas, carrying all of our stuff, looking like we were running away from home, rather than our former bffs.
And now, thirty-two years later, I have a 7th grader, the same age I was when those mean girls teased me. Except my 7th grader is a boy. I’m sure there are mean boys out there too, but I hope and pray they aren’t nearly as malicious as those mean girls from my childhood. So far, all three of my boys seem to be under the radar from any serious bullying from their peers. On the rare occasions when one of my sons mentions an incident that so and so said he sucks at baseball or that he got picked last for the football game at recess, I go into protective mama bear mode. One time I walked up to a boy on the playground and practically threatened him if he didn’t leave my son alone with his taunting comments. The result? Well, let’s just say it didn’t work and the kid said “your Mom’s a freak!”
Since then, I have realized that my kids have to learn how to handle most friendship situations on their own. I can’t shield them from all the mean kids, just like my parents had no involvement with my sleepover trauma. I got through it and even laughed about it a short time later. Sure, the incident stayed with me like any other negative childhood memory, but I am now a 40-something woman with many healthy, female friendships. And maybe that’s what it takes — a few mean girls to teach you what a true friend is all about.