I can't remember who passed me the note, but its impact was similar to a swift blow to the stomach with a pick axe. "We don't want you to sit with us anymore" they'd all signed it. As I read the words the blood drained from my twelve year old face, I immediately felt ill. I quickly stuffed the note into my pocket, I wanted it to disappear. It was lunch time, where was I going to go? Who would I sit with? The dread sat in the bottom of my stomach, it grew with each second that passed, tick, tick, tick. I made my way to the library, I walked with purpose, like I had somewhere to be, people to see. I couldn't let anyone know I was alone, friendless. I needed a friend. Who was going to be my friend?
It was my turn to be to dumped. Next week it would be someone else's. I spent my time with a group of girls that turned note writing into a sport. Each week there was a new drama. Who had a bra? Who liked who? Which team did you get in to? Who would be the Captain. The wrong jeans, the right top. While standing in line to hand something to a teacher, one of the girls gestured to a boy lying on the floor reading a book "look how he's clinching his bum cheeks together" everyone giggled.
I fluctuated daily between kid and teen. One weekend I'd be riding my bike to the corner store to get an ice-cream, the next I was laying on a towel sunbathing at the local pool talking about boys. So much of what I did depended on who I was with. In the old language I would have been called immature, in this era I would be counseled, there would be conversations about providing me with the "necessary tools" to come up with "strategies"to make "smart choices".
It's not about mean girls, it's about a particular age and a particular time.
It doesn't matter how much we change the words, the lessons are still the same.
I picked up the first little traveller from the school dance last week, it's her second dance, she has the cutest sweetest friend that she goes with and I love LOVE the conversation in the back seat on the way home. The first time I picked them up they were giggling, I had to ask.
"OH MY GOD Mum! It was so funny! We were all dancing! And then the music changed! And a slow song came on! And then people started pairing up!"
All of this is told to me within fits of giggles.
"So, what did you do when people started pairing up?" It was one of those questions that I wasn't sure I wanted the answer to.
"WE JUST RAN!" they both said in unison.
This is the fun part, the part where you dress up, where you giggle and eat popcorn and have sleepovers and listen to the same song one hundred times in a row. And then you go to soccer practice and instead of just handing out coloured bibs to identify teams, someone yells out "can we pick our own teams?" And you find yourself standing alone, the last person to be chosen. Don't cry, don't cry.
Instead of telling me exactly what happened she complained about her lunch box. Later that night, when I asked again her bottom lip began to quiver. As she relayed the story, my eyes began to fill with tears, I didn't have any solutions. All I could say was "that's completely shit and I so wish you didn't have to have this happen to you." And then I told the truth. "It might happen again, it might happen next week, but this will make you stronger. Years later when you start work and you either do or don't get the promotion, you'll handle it that little bit better. You'll be tougher because of this." I'm not sure if she believed me.
This week they chose the teams on their own again. Her name came up early in the procedure. I walked by the field, pretending it was a coincidence, she was laughing with a friend and gave me an absentminded wave.
I've listened to "This American Life"in the snow, the swamp and the desert. I first discovered it in Canada. I'd get caught up in a show on a drive to the supermarket and end up having to sit in the car park for the next 30 minutes because I couldn't bear to miss the end of the story.
Here's their take on Middle School, if you have a child anywhere near the age of 11 onwards you have to listen to this. For those of you with younger children, this quote is for you;
"The terrible twelves are a complete analogue to the terrible twos, they're just not as cute"
Take a listen:
Can you "take" a listen? Maybe have a listen?