Rip her to shreds

Our attitude problem

Our verdict on Mean Girls: not mean enough! Oh sure, people got hit by buses, this karmic comeuppance only second in cinematic favor to dropping a house on someone. But I think they could have done better. They just needed to consult with Lambchop and me, the petty revenge specialists! I suppose you’ll all just have to wait for our screenplay. It’s Metamorphosis meets Heavyweights. Now we just need to round up Christina Ricci, Rachel Leigh Cook, and Steve Buscemi.

Oh, and how do I know from mean? The premise that Lindsay Lohan’s character was homeschooled all her life is a disturbing parallel to my own academic career. Except my parents weren’t farting around in Africa doing important research, they were living in a trailer in rural Virginia, cultivating conspiracy theories. If I’d had photographs of myself with elephants when I finally begged to enter “normal” school in seventh grade, I might have at least been perceived as exotic. My inner barometer that measures levels of crazy told me that I had to take the plunge into the real world eventually unless I wanted to end up like my parents, but I still wasn’t prepared for the shock.

I floated through the next two years, not particularly liking anyone. My best friend was the one black girl in the school, who pointed out that usually people call each other on the phone after school to gossip and make plans to do things on the weekends. The mind boggled!

In the course of those two years, students and faculty went out of their way to ensure I’d remain on the fringes. I was singled out for not being able to serve a volleyball or do a pull up, and my grades in English classes would be routinely announced by the teacher.  And some helpful compatriot forged and planted a note in my desk, retrieved it, and publicly read a grammatically incorrect paean of young lust towards a popular sort.

When teasing me for a non-existent crush got old, people delighted in pairing me off with the obvious latent homosexual boy. Another time, someone who would go on to be left back a year grunted in frustration when tests were handed back, saying “the only reason you get such good grades is because you’re so fucking ugly you never do anything but study!” While not true, these are things that stick. One sighs, one plots untimely deaths. That kid also eventually moved to Wyoming. I bet he died.

And so meanness begets meanness. By high school, it hit me that I didn’t have to take anyone’s crap. Had I been as hot as Lindsay Lohan, I might have had smoother entry into school. Instead I realized that it was no wonder they wanted to pick on me, I must have looked like Dawn Wiener! I set out on an aggressive campaign of dressing myself more fashionably and applying makeup. It was pure triage: my own mother never applied makeup, save for the occasional half-hearted swipe of frosted pink lipstick. She had allowed me to go off to school with a pony tail on top of my head and a deflated attempt at the then-popular poufy bangs. She saw no problem with shopping at Sears and JC Penney instead of The Gap. Also, as a former nerd, her idea of the way to popularity was “get good grades, and join clubs!” Yes, join a club. Like the debate team. Can you tell I still harbor vast resentment for lack of proper fashion and social knowledge transfer? I finally received a Vogue subscription when I was 14, after much agitation. Screw those off-brand white tennis shoes! I also started exploring my skill with creative tongue lashings, frequently practicing on family.

So that was high school.  I finally had a group of friends that I liked, and the others were afraid to mess with me. And that’s all that matters. The controlled baring of the teeth is a skill for life. So is telling people off so creatively that a crowd gathers and cheers.

In short, if you’re going to homeschool your kids, make sure you either do it all their lives, or make sure they have plenty of outlets for meeting people their own age. And make sure they are hot. I’m just kidding, but I’m sure it helps. As does not dressing them funny.

Kids can be vicious little bastards, but after diving into a tank of full grown sharks, I’d rather gently cut my teeth along with them if I had it to do over again. Sure, school work came easily, which is one thing frequently said in the defense of homeschooling. I was definitely more advanced in terms of reading skills and analyzing situations in an academic context, but in a social context, I was clueless. I spent hours bored as others struggled to grasp painfully simple concepts, but the tables were turned the second the bell rang and people began chatting and laughing. Things equalized by college, but by then I had plenty of mean under my belt and a carapace of ennui.

If I’d started school at the age of five, would things have been easier or harder? Would I have had a childhood full of birthday party attendance and afterschool playdates? Would I have been the one teasing the new kid in seventh grade? Or would they have sensed weakness from the very beginning, and circled like vultures? I know the answer is that my childhood probably wouldn’t have been any more normal, because my parents are simply not normal. They did not hold socialization in high regard, assuming that since my sister and I got along with other adults, by natural extension we’d do just fine with others our age. The mean girls did not get that memo.

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