In junior high I was always looking to improve my status. Of course, my incredible shy demeanor did not help me whatsoever. I had made some resolutions at the start of eighth grade. I was determined to change how everyone saw me. My list was everything you would typically expect out of a thirteen-year-old girl.
- Change my look (to be the hottest girl in my grade.)
- Get a boyfriend (one boy in particular)
- Become popular (become friends with the highest ranked social clique)
My aspirations were pretty shallow, but I wanted them more than anything. After a disastrous couple of months in the boy department, I was ready to tackle other parts of my list. It was November and I was still reeling from Jack* leaving me broken-hearted at the Halloween dance. I had given up on him…for the time being. Every morning my best friend Anna and I would be in the eighth-grade girl’s bathroom applying all the makeup my parents never let me leave the house in. A bunch of girls in our class were huddled looking at one of the stalls. Someone had written something pretty vulgar about the eighth-grade class. While we didn’t have evidence, we could only assume it was the handy work of a few rotten seventh-graders.
As the bell rang, I started to think that this was my opportunity to make a name for myself. No longer would I be Anna’s* best friend or my brother’s little sister. I had to get revenge. Using a brown eyeliner pencil I stole from my mom’s makeup drawer, I wrote, “For a good time, give a 7th grader a quarter.” I felt a rush, but still played it safe by using something easily washable. It was a proud moment for me when the other girls applauded my efforts. This single act of spontaneous rebellion quickly escalated into a full on war with the seventh-grade girls.
Eventually, more girls joined in when some of the comments became more personal. Anna and I became known as local badasses and the go-to people in the battle against our younger foes. I had sparked a revolution and the attention was intoxicating. I never wanted it to end. So every day I would come up with a new clever comeback finally taking the war to the other side. I would be excused to go to the restroom in class only to use the time defacing the walls with negative comments. By the end of the week, both bathrooms were covered in lewd remarks. The school had to repaint the walls, and the principal was looking for the culprits. My shy reserved self started showing back up as I became more and more nervous of getting caught.
I wasn’t built to be criminal badass. The looming presence of certain punishment was too much for this awkward girl. Anna reassured me that they wouldn’t punish us that bad because so many girls had participated in it. I wanted to believe her, but I was too much of a paranoid mess to be completely free from guilt.
It only took a couple of days before someone cracked and named Anna and I the ringleaders of the whole operation. My parents honestly had a hard time believing that I could do such a thing. I think a part of them was actually kind of impressed, but they were mostly disappointed. My punishment was Saturday detention that ended up being exactly like The Breakfast Club. No seriously, but a story for another time.
Being a mean girl was never in the cards for me. I don’t like girl on girl crime, but when I was thirteen it was programmed in my head as the easiest way to hurt someone. We give these words too much power. I think back to junior high and think about all the times I used horrible words to describe a girl I didn’t like. I cringe at the thought now, but I know I grew up not knowing any different. In a perfect world, girls would have stopped calling each other sluts and whores long before I was in junior high. They would stop using each other’s “faults” as a way to get ahead or make themselves feel better. I hope that one day we can get there. That all girls will realize the power their words have.