I've written about this before...but I need to write again...below is a letter that's pretty open, and probably pretty messy (emotional stuff always is). I hope it speaks to women everywhere, in some way, who have been bullied, even in adulthood, by mean girls.
Dear Mean Girl,
I’ve written about you before, in general terms. But today, I’m going to be more specific. I have to, for my own well-being. I need to have it be over, and maybe this will help me. I thought it was. I thought I’d put it behind me. But then, I was enjoying a nice afternoon with my family, when I walked out of a restaurant and saw you. I’m sure it would give you great pleasure to know that we spent the next ten minutes, trying to shuffle out the mall, unseen, and that I cried for hours. How awesome your power, that you sent me hobbling out of a mall, leaning on my cane, as quickly as I could go. That’s the epitome of a bully, right? Sending a cripple out of a public space, in tears, merely because I saw you? What glee you must have, knowing that happened.
So, I guess it’s not over for me. But, you shouldn’t have that power over me. Frankly, you shouldn’t be allowed to have this kind of power over anyone.
See, you are a bully. You are what I spent eight months, last school year, trying to teach my son that he could survive, and that wouldn’t exist when he was a grown up. How can I tell him those things when you made me cry yesterday? I forgot to tell him that bullies don’t really go away; they just change tactics. I forgot to tell him how bullies just get sadder and more pathetic, but that they still hurt. And, I forgot the part where no matter how much we profess that we “rise above” all of it, and claim our mottos about being done with “high school drama,” that it doesn’t hurt any less when it happens beneath us.
When you’re above the drama, or place yourself outside of it, it sounds great. But, it means one thing: you’re not in. You’re not inside on all the jokes. You’re not inside the plans. You’re not inside the invites. You’re not inside anything. You simply aren’t. And, no matter how old you are, you are always the same sixteen-year-old girl who wishes her bangs looked a little more like Julie’s. So, when I caught sight of you at the mall yesterday, no matter how proud I was that I never stooped to your hideous level of backbiting whispering about God knows what, I was that same sixteen-year-old girl again, the one who wished she was different enough to be the same, who wished she fit, somewhere, anywhere. Fuck you for that. I wish I had never wanted to be anything like you, to fit with you. (p.s. thank goodness I never changed my hair to be like you).
I ache for your daughter because I know that she’s learning how to be a mean girl. She’s learning the worst of woman-hood through you. She’s learning that it’s okay to exclude, without rhyme or reason. She’s learning the art of whispering and eye-rolling. She’s learning how to send girls home in tears. She’s learning cliques and queen bees. I hope you see this, and you probably will, because if I know one thing about queen bees, it’s that they derive their power from knowing that they’ve hurt someone. And I know you saw me, so you are going to check my social media for the next few days, just to see if I say something about you; you need to know if I’ve been hurt. I was; you won. So, I hope you do see this; I hope you see it for her sake, and I hope you at least learn a small fraction of what you should learn, so that she demotes from a potential queen, to a princess. Something less. Anything.
I want you to know some things. I want to speak for all women who shouldn’t have to feel this way, for all women who are bullied into silence and tears by other women: I want you to know that I saw you. I saw you. I saw you. I saw you. All the times you think I didn’t: I saw you.
Remember, the last time you were, apparently, pretending to be my friend, and you invited us over? I saw you when you thought you were sly, whispering behind my back, all night long. I saw all the coy eye-rolls, every time I spoke. I saw you. Worst of all, I saw you, when you discussed plans for the next week, and then glared, to make sure, that it was clear, that you weren’t supposed to indicate future plans were happening, not in front of me, because, heaven forbid, I might invite myself. I saw that look of terror that I might want to be included. The horror of having me around!
Imagine, Queen Bee, how you might feel, if someone made that face about the very idea of you having lunch with them. Imagine, if a friend, and I, were discussing lunch plans, right in front of you, and I shot enough daggers into her eyes to blind her, because the thought of also sharing a table with you, would be enough to induce vomiting. Because that’s the look you gave to our mutual “friend,” that night. Put yourself there, and picture it. Now, call yourself innocent, as you picture my tears that night. You don’t get to pretend that your hands are clean.
I want you to know the tears I shed for that night. I want you to bear responsibility, at least for a millisecond, in your mind, in some small dark corner of night, for that. I don’t expect you to admit it openly; but, I know your conscience will hold it. You did that. You. You stood in your kitchen, in your living room, and at your front door, and you hurt another person. You. No one else. You felt that, for some reason, I was no longer worthy of your friendship, and that it was okay to hurt another human being, that my feelings were not as important as yours. Ten years, our children had played together; our husbands had worked together; we’d celebrated birthdays and holidays; but suddenly, without warning, I was no longer good enough for your living room. I. saw. You.
Then, mere weeks later, we found out just how sick I really was, and my first brain surgery was scheduled. I spent nights curled on my bathroom floor, terrified I was going to die, leaving my child, my husband. I wish that terror on no one. You, as well as anyone, know that, in the military, when people get sick, spouses rally. Somehow, casseroles and babysitting arrangements just seem to happen. You lived less than ten minutes away and you didn’t even call. You didn’t send a card. You couldn’t even bother to send a text. I have received, literally, hundreds of cards, some from people I barely know. But, we didn’t even hear from the people down the street, that we’d known for a decade.
You did mention, in a passive-aggressive Facebook post, a year later, that you’d prayed silently for me though, so that’s nice. How warm. At least, I assume that you were talking about me. Maybe it’s another person you are being horrible to; who can be sure? You claimed that you do things silently, because you don't need praise. Frankly, you have no leg to stand on because I've not openly praised anyone who has sent me a card, letter, gift, or assistance; so, your need for silence to avoid public praise was simply ridiculous. It was an attempt to jump in after-the-fact, and pretend you half-cared whether I lived or died, but didn't actually. I. Saw. That.
I need you to bear responsibility for that hurt, too. I need you to imagine what it would feel like, to be that sick, and not to hear a word from someone you’d known that long, that lived that close. Pretend you are innocent all you like; you know in your heart that you are wrong. You know that, for some reason that you didn’t tell me about, you put me outside the friendship circle, and then dropped me. That’s why I was invisible to you, when I was sick. And, that’s why your “silent prayer,” which you know didn’t happen, (I like how you are comfortable lying to, and about, your God), seemed appropriate and acceptable to you, because you’d literally erased me from your life. The next time you “pray,” tell your God that you did that, admit it to him; you don’t have to admit it to me, but you know that He knows. Know your shame.
I didn’t lie to you. I didn’t sleep with your husband. I didn’t steal from you. I didn’t talk about you behind your back; but I’m guessing, based on the sudden change in our friendship, that there was a great deal of talking about me behind my back, amongst several people; although I have no idea about what.
Trust me, I’ve spent hour after hour trying to figure out what’s wrong with me, what it was that meant I wasn’t likeable enough anymore. What changed. Maybe, I never fit, and I just didn’t know it. Do you know what it’s like, to analyze what’s wrong with you, and why your friend suddenly doesn’t like you anymore?
No one should have to spend those hours, trying to figure out what their “bad” qualities are, the ones that make them not fit into a group of women, because all I could come up with were things like:
- I had a job
- My hair is too long
- My clothes
- I talk too loud
- I talk too much
- My hobbies
- I looked different in some way
- Was I too skinny?
- Was I too fat?
- I don’t complain about my husband enough
- I complain too much about X
- I complain too much about Y
- I don’t complain enough
- Should I get into crafting more?
- Maybe I should buy more of their MLM stuff
- I went back to school and got a degree
- I only had one kid
In other words, all I could come up with were the qualities that define who I am. What? Was? Wrong? With? Me? And, why were you making me question my worth? Why are you still making me question my worth? Why do you have this power over me?
I can bet that I’m not the only woman who has done this, who this has happened to. This shouldn’t happen, and women like you shouldn’t be the perpetrators of such hurt. You, and your kind, are only capable of it, because women like me, the hurt ones, cry in corners, or into our husbands’ arms, and don’t tell you what monsters you are. Or, if we do, you scoff, and pretend we are small, and our hurts imaginary. You, you are vile. Anyone who can make another question their own worth, especially when they do it with malice, is truly terrible.
Obviously, this had been brewing for a long time, and I had no idea because I am, and was, too naïve to know any better. I just skipped along, believing that people just like one another, that everyone is, generally, nice. I believed that friends stay friends, especially when there’s no reason not to. But now, I need all this pain to go away. I need to find a way to be brave enough not to hide when I see you. I need to be able to know that you are wrong, and figure out a way to feel it too. In my head, I know that you are as awful of a human being as they come, but when I see you, or think of you, my heart shrivels and the hurt is still raw. I don’t know how to make it feel better, except to put it out there. When you weren’t here, I didn’t think of you, and you weren’t a part of my existence. It was easy. But, now you are back, and I feel like you are around every corner, and point in fact, you are. I mean, you popped up already, at the mall just yesterday. And, your best friend lives in the house behind mine. I can’t live, knowing that I have to face you so regularly, until I figure out a way to get rid of this.
Because of our husbands’ jobs, we will be assigned together, probably for the rest of their careers; this won’t go away, and neither will you. I’m sure that, one day, there’ll be some mini-confrontation, where we’ll be in a room together, some ball, some party, some Air Force thing, where you’ll smile and make nice, and pretend nothing happened. “Oh, Rachel! What a nice dress! You look so pretty!” Fuck that. Don’t bother with that; don’t ever come near me. Ever. You don’t get to play pretend-nice anymore. If being sick has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no time, or worth, in “pretend” anything. I don’t care what general is sitting at our table, I’ll call you on your bullshit if you attempt something like that. So, unless you are approaching me to tell me that you are sorry, don’t bother approaching me, ever again.
You are the kind of girl (I have to stop calling you a woman now – because you don’t get the dignity of that title) that stopped aging at fourteen, and forgot how to be a real woman. Women are supposed to help other women. They are supposed to support each other, or get out of each others' way. The last thing they are supposed to do is tear one another down and treat them badly. You are the kind of girl who gossips and backbites, and is full of jealousy. You are nothing but a mean, nasty, bully and as much as I feel sorry for you, I can’t help but be full of hurt and sadness that I lost years on you.
What I want to know is this: what’s fun about what you are doing (or did)? Don’t you run out of things to talk about, when you gossip about others? Don’t you have enough to talk about with children, current events, and life, in general? Why do you need to hurt others to enjoy life? There’s so much to do, without being nasty to others. I don’t get it. I just don’t. Can’t you just have a nice lunch, or a nice afternoon without being mean? If you can’t, then you are hideous. At least I have an explanation for why your inside matches your outside, now.
I’d like to say that I will waste no more time, and no more tears on you; but I know that’s not true. The mean, and the bullies of the world hold more power than they should. You’ll make me cry again, just by existing. You’ve already made me question my worth, my existence, and who I am. But, I’m done with that; I already know that I’m infinitely better than you, in every possible way. Now, I cry for how much time I’ve wasted on you. Now, I cry for the sheer reason that you can make me cry. I cry for the weakness in me that isn’t gone yet. And, a great deal of me cries for how pathetic you are, for what a sad “woman” you are, that needs to exist, at nearly forty, as a girl, in order to enjoy her life. How very sad and empty your life must be to need to tear me, and probably others, down, for her happiness. I’m sorry for you, and many of my tears are for your pitiful existence. I hope that one day, you grow out of it and mature into a decent and mature woman.
For now: I vow to try to say that "you have no power over me," every time I see you.
P.S. Enjoy the knowledge that your hurt has lasted, while you can. One day, the tears will dry up, and you’ll be nothing but the memory of trash. You’ll be a blip on the radar, that we can describe as a girl we once knew who acted like a fool. Enjoy your moment while it lasts. You’d better hurry up, and find a new woman to trash, because my tears are drying up, and I know you’ll need new ones. You’re like a vampire that way; all bullies are.
P.P.S Your precious angel of a son broke an irreplaceable part off of a toy at our house once. I never said anything because we thought we were friends, and I didn't want to hurt your feelings, by suggesting that what I saw him do was not an accident. That toy was $200. I'll consider that debt outstanding, until the day I die.