We all know them.
Most of us have experienced them, whether from our childhood days or from right now in our lives as grown-ups—the Mean Girls.
They never change. They are forever stunted, stilted, parasitic—yet they continue to attract us, bewitch us, and ultimately get off on hurting us. That’s if we let them.
Confronting the Mean Girl is tricky business. On one hand, you don’t want to dignify their behavior by acknowledging them, but on the other hand, you really want to set them straight.
But first, one must understand the Mean Girl dynamic. It’s similar to your average, garden variety schoolyard bully. You’ve got your self-appointed “Queen Bee” who, by our age, we all know is pathologically insecure. She herself has most likely been the recipient of similar dealings—put downs, being dismissed, being belittled, either by a fellow peer, or worse, her mother. The modern day Grown Up Bully has always been who she was back in the day, only now, the stakes are much higher and the facade much greater.
She has so much more to lose. She has to work harder on appearances, on the optics of portraying that picture-perfect Pinterest/Instagram life. She’s busy fighting all the unending battles of aging, trying ever so hard to maintain her husband’s interest, raise the perfect kids, and keep the household running as effortlessly as she pretends it is.
Next in line, you have the sidekick, the “Toadie,” the less accomplished, less attractive, often over-looked, second fiddle, who is thrilled to be on this side of the fence (who not-so-secretly wants to be the QB but knows she could never ever fit the bill). She’s the Grover Dill to Scut Farkus…(go ahead, look that up). Or, you might be more familiar with the infamous Regina George and Karen Smith.
She is the purveyor of the QB’s dirty work. The front line worker, the heavy-lifter who will do almost anything to ingratiate herself to the Queen, for fear of losing any amount of social status or worse, being the beneficiary of the abuse.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent some time running lines in your head, or out loud, about what you’d say if given that perfect opportunity to shut her down once and for all. Truth be told, I’ve been the recipient of some Mean Girl antics over the years—and well, presently, that’s why I’ve taken some time to delve in a little deeper and try to understand the hows and whys of this now adult version of the Mean Girl.
In this version, their weapon of choice is usually gossip. Not just “so and so farted in math class,” but harmful stuff that could potentially grenade a marriage or a family. This method of gossip is quick and dirty and can be garnished in just about any way over a few glasses of Chardonnay.
Let’s just say we do stumble upon that perfect opportunity to shut it down once and for all, what do we do? Well, timing is everything. You see, the Mean Girls love an audience, be it a small crowd of their cronies or one or two neutral bystanders—so it would be prudent to make sure you’re in a social situation, preferably in the the same circle where they’ve been conducting their insidious business.
Be prepared—it’s likely they’ll skulk away under the pretense they’re too good to be anywhere near you, but we all know they’ll take leave because they don’t want to run the risk of losing their precious, perceived power over you. I mean, they really are cowards after all.
Remember, you may not be facing off with the the QB herself; more likely, you’ll be dealing with the second in line, the worker bee. The QB likes to set it all up from the safety of the hive, giving orders, weaving tales, playing the victim—this way, she can just sit back and send the drone out to do the dirty work, all the while watching it all unfurl.
So now you’re ready to square off with the runner-up. Ideally, you’ll want to ask a few questions, gather some intel.
Important note: Be your confident self! The very self they’re most threatened by. Stand tall and radiate, don’t back down. Be your authentic self. After all, that’s the whole reason you’re in this mess in the first place!
Perhaps you’ll want to lead in with a straightforward approach, something they’re not entirely used to. Aim straight for the crux—are they gossiping about you to bolster their own poor self-esteem?
Be forward, and simply ask if they’re gossiping about you to try and bond with other women. Is this toxic means of relating to other women a rouse to divert attention from their shallow pettiness? Do they fear they have so few positive attributes they simply must carry out orders from the QB or find themselves on the wrong side of her? It’s likely she’s been in this role so long she has no idea who she is outside of this dynamic.
You could remind her that we’re all grown-ups here and that our daughters are watching. We certainly don’t want to run the risk of raising yet another generation of insecure, hateful women now do we?
You could offer up some unsolicited, friendly advice and say that maybe if they spent a little more time building up other women, they wouldn’t be so consumed by fear and distain for their fellow sistren, which we all know reeks havoc on your complexion. And furthermore, jealousy and envy is never a good look for anyone, especially at our age.
It’s likely they are well aware of their shortcomings, and it scares the sh*t out of them. These women spread rumors about other women who appear to pose a threat to them. Interesting, isn’t it? These women use gossip to undermine the social appeal of their most threatening rivals.
The Mean Girls want you to believe they are in complete control and have the utmost authority on everything social, primarily everyone’s status. They can elevate or deflate your standing with a mere whisper. Let’s face it, the older we get, meeting new people and making new friends becomes increasingly more challenging. Finding out there’s a mean girl contingent in the mix is like discovering there’s a shark in your swimming pool mid cannonball.
These women gossip or spread rumors about some of us because they strategically target women who are appealing to men. Remember, the stakes are much higher and the façade much greater. We’re not on the playground anymore.
Bottom-line: they simply feel threatened and intimidated by us—we who are confident and comfortable with our sexuality, intelligence, and authenticity. They are dreadfully fearful of their husbands or partners being more attracted to us and losing all interest in them. It’s truly sad to know that some women choose to exist in such radical fear, so much so that they are compelled to engage in such destructive behavior. We can’t blame the patriarchy here. No, this is an inside job.
I suppose we should be flattered by them giving up so much of their time and effort attempting to deconstruct what makes us threatening to them. Who has the time and energy for that?
On closer inspection, it seems they are discontented with their own lives, and actually do have a lot of time on their hands. Too bad they don’t consider a more constructive hobby.
Or like, I don’t know, maybe get a job or something?