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Posted at 10:32 AM ET, 02/18/2011

Mean girls: What happens when they grow up, and other ruminations

By Katie Rogers
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Look familiar? (AP Photo/ Michael Gibson)

"She's fabulous, but she's evil." - "Mean Girls," 2004

Plenty of attention has been given over the years to the mean, this mysterious creature that terrifies and intrigues young women everywhere. So embedded is she in our cultural zeitgeist that some of her more famous incarnations are almost lovable. There's Heather Chandler, the evil, doomed ringleader in "Heathers." There was the conniving Christian character Hilary Faye in "Saved." And, most recently, there was Regina George, ruler of the cafeteria in "Mean Girls."

But all too often, the examination of the mean girl is left in high school. What happens post-graduation? What happens when mean girls grow up?

Laura Sessions Stepp writes about the important but less movie-friendly phase of the mean girl's life: how she acts once she matures. Stepp presents the argument that maturity, the economy and changing college and workplace environments lead to less competition. Women start becoming more inclusive. In other words, her reporting shows that a young woman who would've once identified as "Alpha" starts to identify more with the "Gamma" way of life: Her sense of self becomes guided by her own internal beliefs, not by social hierarchies. (View photos related to the story.)

That's nice and all, but I wanted people I actually knew to serve as judge and jury.

I threw out the question on Facebook and Twitter before writing this post: "What are the 'mean girls' from your childhood up to today?"

The answers (the ones I could publish, anyway):
"Nothing spectacular."
"Hating on me."
"Pregnant. Married. Stay-at-home moms. Not that there's anything wrong with that...."

The answers were more bitter than I expected, but my theory is this: We all learned to cope with a mean girl -- and if we were the mean girl, let's just say there was always someone out there who was worse. If we're lucky, we come out of it okay. And these days, when those questionable friend requests pop up on Facebook, we oblige. Because the one unspoken truth about all of us, whether we're mean or nice, is that our curiosity about one another is always stronger than any grudge we hold.

What happens when mean girls grow up?

Have you made peace with a mean girl? Were you one in a former life?

Laura Sessions Stepp will be online to take questions and comments today at 11 a.m. Eastern time. Tell us your story or send her a question by using #meangirls on Twitter or by posting in the comments below.

@washingtonpost Sadly, some mean girls never grow up, they just put on suits. #wpchatless than a minute ago via web

@washingtonpost Mean is not a food group it is a personality. Without intervention, of course mean girls grow up to be mean women .less than a minute ago via web

@washingtonpost agree on the mean girls into adulthood. Unless some sort of soul searchng lesson is discvrd, id b amazd if there was chnge.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone


By Katie Rogers  | February 18, 2011; 10:32 AM ET
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Comments

I was the victim of a mean girl in 6th grade. I lost all my friends in one day because of her. It had a profound effect on me and I carried anger and resentment for her into adulthood. I found her on Facebook and decided to send her a message just to say hello. She never responded, but it helped me to move on. I'm no longer angry with her, but I wonder about her and hope she has matured and using her leadership skills for more positive purposes now.

Posted by: mon4nne | February 18, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

As a child going through school two years younger than my peers, I endured 8 years of mean girls in private school, then found myself friends with one as an adult. The ones I knew as a child are now married, divorced, have kids, some can't keep jobs, one went the other direction and has married her job.

The one I met as an adult sounds like she was in my position as a child, and to react, developed a passive-aggressive mean streak as an adult. It's an interesting thing to watch, especially now that I'm 4 years removed from the situation and can see it without being in the middle of it.

Posted by: sbeck2 | February 18, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I don't know and I don't care. "Mean girls" I ran into at school were treated with distain. They are really too insignificant to bother with.

Posted by: hebe1 | February 18, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

All the mean girls that attacked {physically and verbally} my daughter in HS have all failed out, were kicked our for drinking, didnt make it away from the pack or never made into college .
The main pack works at a local Steak house together waiting tables. Some even have criminal records
My daughter is in her third year of a very difficult to get into college. She is excelling in her grades, her sport and her new life. God bless America.

Posted by: captains2012 | February 18, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure she was the republican VP candidate in 2008.

Posted by: wireman65 | February 18, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Ann Handley explains what happens when mean girls grow up:

Sarah and Me: Junior High with Sarah Palin
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ann-handley/sarah-and-me-junior-high_b_132630.html

Posted by: franklinmjohnson | February 18, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

The girl who was mean to me throughout high school (we graduated almost forty years ago) asked to friend me on Facebook about a year ago. I asked why, since we had never been friends. Her reply indicated that she saw our high school years very differently than I did. I accepted the request and have since come to see her in a somewhat different light. It was nice to let go of that anger.

Posted by: DMD77 | February 18, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I admit to a little schadenfreude when I consider the post-HS experiences of one bullying queen-bee classmate. She went to work as a nanny for a local family and started an affair with the husband, who promptly left his wife for her; their marriage later fell apart in dramatic fashion, including a late-night 911 call when he pulled a gun on her. (Of course, that last part was all shared on Facebook. You stay classy, girlfriend.)

Among the other girls in that crowd, my school's equivalent of the Plastics, was one of my cousins. That made HS ... interesting. But time heals almost all wounds. I would say that in the past few years I've had positive interactions, either in person or via social media, with the majority of the "mean girls" and bullies I went to HS with. Of course I'm not BFFs with these people -- I reserve that distinction for the small group of classmates I was and remain close friends with -- but, you know, eventually people grow up and learn to appreciate their shared history.

Posted by: gmg22 | February 18, 2011 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Oh, boo-hoo all these people who are still feeling victimized by so-called "mean girls" after 20 or 30 years - get over it!

I attended a large high school in Texas, we had almost 600 students in our graduating class of 1979 and it was impossible to be BFFs with everyone.

Posted by: jayn-1961 | February 19, 2011 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I can sypathize with all of the victims of abuse. It's unfortunate that the abuse seems to last for many years but it is true. I experienced mean natured abuse from both male and females in high school and college. I always wondered, what the heck did I do to you that you would treat me so badly? What? No facebook account, yet for me, for those tormenters to friend me. I just don't care to see them or talk to them yet I wish the well. Occasionally, I might run into a former tormenter but do my best with body language to say that I've not forgotten the spirited meaness inflicted on me.

Posted by: CliffMcC | February 20, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

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