7th grade

Me, circa 1984

“Mom, what was it like when you were in 7th grade?”

“What was what like? Anything specific, or just…in general?”

“In general, I guess,” she says.

There’s much I don’t want to reveal about those years, so I pause and consider how to answer. What is she really asking? What is it that she really wants to know?

“Well, mostly I remember feeling scared all the time,” I say. “I was afraid people wouldn’t like me or that I’d say or do something stupid, that people were talking about me. I worried about what I looked like and what I wore and what people thought of that.”

“And I remember worrying a lot about friends. Are they are really my friends? Will they turn against me? Are they talking about me?”

She tells me she found out that one of her “friends” was talking about her, telling a mutual friend that she didn’t like Kelly and that Kelly was a bad volleyball player, etc.

I know the girl she’s talking about. Though Kelly seemed to think they were friends, I noticed the girl didn’t seem to pay any attention to Kelly or talk to her. It was pretty clear she didn’t consider Kelly a friend.

“I’m really sorry, honey,” I say. “Sounds like she’s not your friend. I’d stay away from her. You don’t want to hang around girls who talk meanly about other girls because they will talk about you when you’re not around them.”

I guess I’m relieved we’ve made it this far—almost to 8th grade—without any girl drama. Keeping her off of social media has probably helped. If we’re lucky, she’ll make it to high school unscathed. By mid-teens, girls are more equipped to deal with the emotional stuff, strong enough to stand up for themselves.

I may have grown up faster than my peers, but I vividly remember 9th grade being a point where I did not give a shit anymore. Words were just words and I could let them hurt me or I could choose not to. I started to see the mean girls for what they were (girls so broken in some way that they have to lash out and hurt others). I learned to deal with them, or in most cases, learned to never deal with them.

Ninth grade was the year I started to emotionally detach from my “best friend” who, by then I was smart enough to see, was never really a friend to me. The day we graduated, I cut all ties with her.

With twenty-five  *cough, cough* years perspective, I can see now that she was just terribly insecure. Putting me down, passively-aggressively insulting me, and controlling me (or trying to) was her way of feeling better about herself. But I don’t really know why she had to do that because she was thinner than me, prettier than me, cooler than me, had nicer clothes than me, and had many more boyfriends than me.

She had it all over me back then.

Though I haven’t seen her in decades, I know through mutual friends and Vital Statistics that she’s had a tumultuous life. I’m not surprised, but I’m also not comforted by it.

If I were, that would make me just like her.  And I’m nothing like her. Never have been, never will be. That I can take comfort in.


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