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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Kid You Not: Kids (And Teachers) Are Mean

While looking for some good "bad TV" to watch ("guilty pleasures"), I chanced upon a film that brought me back to the good old days I was still in my khaki shorts: Mean Girls. I watched it for about 10 minutes before realizing something a friend told me also recently: Kids are mean, and always will be.

(Photo courtesy of

Looking back, I don't think anyone was spared.

And the more I think about it, it really had everything to do with our social interactions, our need to belong, and that innate human quality of just seeing the worst in everyone and pounding on that to make ourselves feel better. In short, it was a way of coping - although some seemed to "cope" better. I use cope in quotes because some kids used it - and still do - to attain a measure of power.

The "classification" of kids comes rather easy at that stage: We all knew "instantly" who were the jocks, the beauties, the nerds, the bulakbol (didn't care much for the academic subjects, just passing through), the over achievers, the ass- lickers. At a time when the search for identity is of paramount importance, it becomes imperative to know which "clique" you belong to.

I belonged to the somewhat nerdy, overachieving clique: my GPA was good enough to get me to the "honors class" but in a sea of "smart" people (and by smart, I mean the only measure was the GPA, nothing more) I would be considered an "underachiever", which I compensated for by being in so many clubs and organizations. Due to my obesity, I hated sports, and boy, did the P.E. teachers pick up on that, and proceeded to use the "weak kids" as comedy, asking us to do the most push ups, chinups, etc., much to the "delight" of the jocks, who, even at that age, could do one arm pushups and chinups.

Then there were the "princesses" who used their physical features to make every other girl feel bad about their less than perfect physical selves, and because they tended to socialize with boys who would "match" their stature in looks, they created a force field of sorts that seemed to say "only beautiful people need apply".

Teachers did help along with this process, by always making it known how pretty someone is, and when photos were to be taken, they always wanted to be beside the "good looking ones", treating it as some kind of badge. (Maybe hoping for beauty by osmosis?)

Teachers have their share of meanness, as well. I remember this particular teacher, who saw me reading US or People magazine, and it just so happened to be be opened at the "centerfold" - it was the height of Paula Abdul's career, and she had a slinky dress on and struck a "sexy" pose - she suddenly turned the magazine towards her and then looked at me and said, "Yes, you would be the type who would be interested in something like this." (Of course, that notion is idiotic for those who know me, but having a teacher say that to me was not pleasant.)

I was so glad when college came along: No more of the old cliques that I was used to seeing year after year. You could reinvent yourself, if you wanted to; or you could be more of yourself than you've ever been, without fear of reprisal or rejection.

Or so I thought.

It turns out, in life, there will always be those "cliques": the people who get everything they want even if they don't try/don't deserve it/are definitely underqualified; those who get ahead because they have mastered ass-licking into an exquisite art; and those who are just darned lucky to have all the chips fall in their favor.

The meanness that we all encountered when we were younger, that was just the dress rehearsal for what would come later. But, as adults, you don't have to take it lying down, or sobbing softly in a corner. That's the great thing I learned from some of those humbling humiliating moments: Kids who are bullies sometimes turn into adult bullies. And if you survived them then, there's no way to go but onward from here on out.

Bullying has a new dimension today, with the advent of social media. The methods may be different, but the story is still the same.

Chin up, eyes forward.

This, too, shall pass. May you learn the lesson - it will serve you well later in life.

1 comment:

  1. Beauty by osmosis does not work. Sitting beside the prettiest girl will prob just make them look less beautiful. It's more like ugliness by contrast