Four Former Mean Girls Tell Their Side of the Story

Spoiler: they’ve grown up a lot since high school

10.03.16

Disclaimer: For the purpose of this story, all names have been changed. Interviews have been edited and condensed.

At some point, everyone has been the Mean Girl. Perhaps more seared into your brain, though, were the times you were The Target.  As all stories go, there are so many layers. A million sides. But not everyone tends to share theirs. We spoke to four former Mean Girls — all decidedly good humans now. Below, their reflections, regrets and what they’ve learned.

Rachel, 28

I was just home for a wedding where I saw a bunch of my high school friends. We were reminiscing about high school and were like, ‘We were terrible. What was wrong with us.’

There was this one girl in particular, Dana Smith.

She was so nice. Quiet. Runs the other way when she sees us now. She was in and out of our group but we always felt like we had to invite her to things because she was a friend of a friend.

For senior year homecoming, I was allowed to have people at my house before and a sleepover after. We didn’t want her to come for whatever reason. Someone had the idea to use my mom as an excuse; we decided we would tell her that my mom was only letting me have four people over.

One of my friends was in charge of telling Dana. Dana cried. She went to homecoming with some random person — I don’t think she really had anyone to go with — and we went with a group. Whenever she saw my mom after that, she was afraid to say hi. I finally told my mom what we did, and she was so mad at us. “I cannot believe you did that,” she said.

We all feel so badly about it now. The girl who actually broke the news to Dana is haunted by it. She was one drunk one night and sobbed about it. She wants to message Dana about the whole thing but she doesn’t know what to say. She doesn’t know if it’s worth it, if Dana cares anymore or if it will bring up hurtful stuff.

There were a couple of times I realized I was a sucky human back then. My mom once said to me, “What happened to my sweet daughter? You’re mean now.” I knew she did not raise me to be this person. I lost one of my best friends for a while because I was straight-up mean to her.

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My friends and I have all changed. We’ve all grown up. You asked me what the endgame was in not inviting Dana, and I have no idea. I guess it was power. Teenagers suck. We went to a really tough high school and maybe we felt like we had to assert ourselves. This is going to sound like an excuse, but I was going through things in my own life. My parents were getting a divorce. I was in an abusive relationship. Everyone’s got something going on. People who act nasty like that — it tends to come from a place of pain.

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Because I was class president, I was part of the planning committee when my class was gearing up for our 10 year reunion. There was a Facebook group for it, and I was in it, and there were all of these terrible messages about me. I didn’t even know I was mean to the people who wrote them. That hurt.

I’ve moved on. I’m done with that whole part of my life. But if I could go back in time, I’d tell myself that one night in the scheme of life doesn’t matter. Just invite her.

Eve, 27, NY

I transferred from a co-ed school to an all-girls school in 9th grade. My new school had a combination of “lifers” — pre-K to 12th grade, girls who started in middle school and girls who started in 9th grade, like me. It was a really small school. Everyone knew every single person in their grade.

I made a group of friends right away. It was like puppy love, where you want to spend all of your time together, do everything together, talk on the phone together. We mostly kept to ourselves; we had a lot of the same nerdy stuff in common.

That spring I made varsity for a sports team even though I was a freshman. I was the youngest person on the team. All of the juniors and seniors started inviting me to parties, so I began hanging out with them. Suddenly I had a whole new group of friends, really pretty girls who partied a lot and were kissing boys. They had cars and would drive me around. I wasn’t sure how I wound up in their group, but I did. Then in the fall, I kind of started breaking up with my other friends.

Instead of talking about it, a Cold War started. It reached a head my junior year when I was on AIM talking to a girl who was part of my first friend group. She was kind of popular, too, but a different group. She was still friends with the other girls, and she and I weren’t really friends. She always hated me. She saw me flirting with her brother freshman year and was like, “You’re such a slut, stop talking to my brother.” So we were fake friends. I was talking to her on AIM and complained about another girl who used to be in that first group of friends. I complained about how she always seemed to be playing the victim, and how I was sick of her. Well. She printed out our conversation and showed it to the girl who I was talking about. That girl then showed our headmistress. She said I was a bully and felt threatened by me — I never threatened her.

They called my mom and said I couldn’t come to school the next day. I had to speak to the school psychologist and the headmistress. She made it seem like I said I was going to beat her up. I was like, yes, I said those things, but I am not dangerous. Then someone showed my headmistress my Webshots account. It was all photos of us drinking on the weekend or before dances. Ugh. So then the school said I couldn’t come back — because of the drinking, and because other girls said I was a Mean Girl.

Granted, I was not super nice. Once I hit a level of confidence, I was not very friendly and at an all-girls school, everyone was friendly. People knew who I was, I stood out because of how I dressed — super fashion-y. I got a lot of attention that I didn’t ask for but that I didn’t hate, either. But a lot of people hated me.

I was eventually let back into school. I had to write an apology note to the girl and assure her that I was not dangerous, that I had no ill will toward her. Of course I frosted her out after that. Then senior year we had a come-to-Jesus moment. She said she was sorry and I said I was sorry.

My life turned out fine, but it was scary to see how vindictive girls can be, and it was an exercise in how all of this came around to me — getting in trouble, getting kicked out — because I wasn’t nice in the first place. It was my own undoing.

I think that, especially when you’re competing in a small community like high school, you try to find something that you’re good at and gives you confidence. I never felt like I was good at anything despite playing on varsity teams, getting straight A’s, but it didn’t matter. I was so insecure, and my meanness was a manifestation of that. I wanted to be included so badly that I was willing to act out. It was a kill or be killed mentality. I was going to try and win first.

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When I started interning for a publication — my dream internship — that promoted feminism and positivity and the importance of supporting one another, I realized that I was the opposite of everything it stood for. It changed me. Having an outlet that you can get your self-worth from that has nothing to do with other people is so important. It’s important to have something that makes you feel good and special but doesn’t require validation from others.

If I could tell my former self or young girls anything, it would be that everything feels like forever when you’re in high school, and it’s not. You’re going to live a very happy adult life one day.

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You can also make the choice not to be mean. I am bothered by the fact that I’m going to go to my high school reunion this year and run into people who I may not know I was mean to, but the things I said or did have stuck with them all these years later. I just read that something negative takes half a second to imprint on your brain. But something positive has to be repeated for 15 seconds over and over and over. If I called someone ugly, that stuck. They’ll never remember the time I said something nice. That’s so sad.

Jane, 30, NY

I very much hurt guys when I was in school. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a sociopath because I didn’t feel bad about it. I couldn’t relate to them caring, and I didn’t know what to do with them. I’m sorry to James Griffin. To Kyle. To Max and Tom. And Marvin. Fuck.

I told one of them that I didn’t have room in my parents’ car to take him to an afterparty for the middle school dance because I figured he wouldn’t be invited anyway.

But he was.

He spent the night drinking alone under the giant trampoline.

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When he first asked me to the dance, I said no. My sister watched the conversation and made me call him back. I was the only one going with a date, because we were seventh graders in an all-girls school. I ran away from him the whole dance. I still feel bad about it, but it’s so much worse because back then I had ZERO empathy.

There are just specific moments in life that make you cringe. Like when I was taking the bus with my dad from South Station to Falmouth and I told him we could buy the tickets on the bus, and I already had my ticket, but it turned out that couldn’t buy them aboard that time, so he had to run back to the desk to buy his. He wasn’t back in time, and I DIDN’T STOP THE BUS OR GET OFF. Who am I? What kind of monster does that? And I am so close with my dad. I don’t know what happened. That makes me sick to my stomach every time.

Kirsten, 29

I was a mean girl at a very young age. I was unaware of people’s feelings. I was comfortable and had a lot of friends. We all grew up together, so it was easy for us to be a clique. I’ve always been a leader, too. I had a strong personality from the time I was six years old and would impose my point of view on everyone else.

Our group was mean to other people and to each other, but back then I think we thought it was just playful. We would push one girl away for a week, and then it would be over.

There are a few people that come to mind who we made fun of. One girl was super developed for her age; she had boobs before all of us did, had underarm hair when none of us did. I seriously can’t remember what we said but we made fun of her. There was another kid who was really tiny and got bloody noses out of nowhere. All the time. We’d make fun of him, throw paper or erasers at him in class. Our school was tough, so I don’t think we thought we were being bad in comparison. But when we look back on what we did now, it’s like, “Fuck, that was really mean.”

One girl started dating a guy who I was in love with, and because of that, I hated her. I was so jealous of her. When they broke up, I made her life a nightmare. I told everyone to stop being friends with her. She hated me. Her mom hated me. What’s funny is that two years later we actually became good friends. We just…grew up and got over it. But I regret it.

I think I started to change around age 15 when I moved to a new city. Suddenly, I was away from everyone who I grew up with and became the new kid. Everyone was like, “Who the hell are you?” It took me a while to fit in and make new friends, and I hated that year so much. It was very hard to not be the cool girl anymore. It was hard to not fit in. All you want when you’re that age is to be cool.

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But you evolve. You grow up. You become more aware of how other people feel. You start feeling things that you haven’t experienced before, like rejection. You know how they say you don’t know what a broken heart really feels like until you’ve had yours broken? You don’t know that you’re a total asshole until someone else is a total asshole to you and makes you feel like crap.

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I would not wish any of this on anyone. If it were my kid being bullied? Listen, it’s a tough world out there, but I would stand up for her. It’s hard because you probably want your kid to have friends and be social, but I wouldn’t want her to change who she was. And if I were to talk to mean girls right now, I’d tell them to think about how they would feel. Put yourself in other people’s shoes. If something doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.

That kid I told you about, that small kid who got bloody noses all the time, he’s really successful. He owns a bunch of companies. I don’t know if he’s still getting those bloody noses, but whatever. Everyone grows up.

I think behind every mean girl there is a nice girl, by the way. I wasn’t allowed to go out without adult supervision back then, but all of my friends were, so on weekends, I stayed home. I would play World of Warcraft with my neighbor. So. You never know.

Feature photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Dani Heifetz

    Wow. This was amazing to read (and just in time for mean girls day!). I know logically my high school self isn’t my permanent self, but as someone finishing out high school it’s really awesome to read that you all feel you have changed for the better 🙂

  • Julia

    a few years ago, i had a super eye-opening moment when i ran into the “mean girl” from my jr high at a party and struck up a conversation and she COULD NOT have been any cooler and nicer. a few days later, i was babysitting some jr. high aged girls and they seemed so so young to me. because they were! they were children. not to say that mean girls get off the hook and her “bullying” pales in comparison to what people go through today, but it made me rethink my opinions on that group of girls who i was sure still were horrible people today.

  • dk

    This was a very interesting read. My high school years are also around 10 years back and I guess I was lucky in that I didn’t go to school in the U.S. For me, the mean girl has always been an inherently American concept. I visited a high school with ca. 2000 others and never experienced or knew of such viciousness.
    Those essays read to me still mean and entitled. Honestly, I am shocked that none of them said that she would slap her younger self.

    • Anni

      This is super interesting – I didn’t grow up in the US either, but there was no mean-girl cliques even in your high school? I feel like the american idea of there being “the most popular girl in school” is a bit of a non-reality, but I think the social pressure of just being a girl in a friend group is pretty universal.

    • Kelly

      I agree with your latter point — 1-2 of these very much read as a little mean, a little entitled or possibly a little like the author feels as though they were a victim in some way, perhaps because they weren’t congratulated for the times when they weren’t unkind? I’m not sure that I’m articulating this well, so I’ll speak more from personal experience: as someone who floated through high school between “cool” and “less cool” groups of friends, I was largely happy but also felt conflicted and jealous at times. I remember days where I’d have had a perfectly happy time but, at the end of the night, would find myself sitting in my room and agonizing over the fact that, for whatever reason, I didn’t seem to be able to just be “cool enough” to belong in the “cool” group full-time. Some days, I took this out on other people and exerted what little “cool” power I felt I had, more in quiet, manipulative ways than in outwardly cruel ways (which are just as terrible if not worse!) — and all I know now is that looking back on those moments makes me feel nothing but sick. I don’t think about the times I “may have been nice” to certain people and am sad that they may not remember those moments, rather I feel sad and horrified over the one time I may have been mean. And because of that guilt, I would absolutely apologize, and even have apologized, to those I’ve seen since. We do grow up and ideally we change for the better, but recognizing our shortcomings and recognizing the role we play in others’ lives is a big part of that in my mind..

      • I so agree as well, reading these stories was very uncomfortable to me. Felt like they were trying to excuse their behaviour? Lots of peoples parents’ get divorced, bad shit happens to everyone, it is not an excuse to take it out on other people. I did have experience with mean-girls though, and mean-boys. I don’t think that they are “nice people” underneath it all. I don’t think they ever will be.

      • Amelia Diamond

        Hi Kelly, wrote this to Amber down below who seemed to echo your second point:

        I/we don’t condone bullying or mean-girling. It’s terrible. The effects are lasting. These interviews are in no way intended to glorify, minimize or excuse the behavior. The women I spoke to spoke to me because I asked to get inside their younger selves’ heads. And also, I thought that maybe mean girls could read this and go…okay, wait. Doesn’t have to be like this.

        We hear a lot about the targets, and I think all of us can relate to having been a target at some point. What I wanted to do was try to understand WHY they acted the way they did. That’s always my thing when someone’s really awful to me: “But why? What was the point? What events in your life caused you to be like that toward me?”

        They were all remorseful of their actions and confused about their younger selves. That doesn’t absolve pasts or erase pain from those bullied. But they’re also so much older. These specific women are different people now; they can’t imagine being the way the used to, which I personally find comforting and…gratifying? — to know that people CAN and DO change.

        • Kelly

          Hi Amelia — I understand and wholly appreciate what you were trying to do in interviewing these women and writing the piece itself (I was excited to see the story pop up!). I also agree that knowing people can and do change is a comfort, and that this type of self-reflection is a sign of personal growth and change to a degree. But where I struggled in reading some of these responses was understanding with exactly WHY the women were feeling badly as they reflected on their younger behavior. Because in 1-2 instances, it reads far less like the women are upset at the realization that they’d hurt another person/other people and more as though they didn’t like to remember/see their younger selves and know others might also remember/have seen them as “Mean Girls.” That realization, being honest with yourself, it can all be really unsettling, no one ever likes to feel like another person might be justified in not liking them, but.. Is that’s what’s important here? Like I said above, I may be struggling to articulate myself, but I hopes this shed more light!

  • J

    There was a group of girls in highschool who were a year older than me and bullied me relentlessly. They were jealous of me and constantly made me feel inferior and made my highschool years hell.

    So, it was one of the best feelings ever when one of them recently ran up to me in a bar to say hello and told me about how she always lurks my instagram nowadays and how my life “is soooo cool!!!!” HA.

    • Greer Clarke

      Somehow the top mean girls rarely end up being the successful ones in life (and isn’t that the best revenge for all of us).

  • midol

    Oh I’m glad to write this. It’s theraputic truly! I mean-girled in school – an all-girl school. I was awkward and unhappy and insecure as a beacon for mean girls. After I left, I measured myself constantly against how the mean girls would perceive me. They remained my imaginary judge and jury. I thought if I could go back to high school, I would get it right. *Be* right.

    Having a daughter re-introduced me to that dynamic. All those mother and baby groups! All those girls, the subtle comparing and creating cliques and tribes again. It made me so anxious. I desperately wanted to be accepted and “in”.

    Until the beautiful moment when I realised I was utterly utterly bored. And absolutely not a joiner. The mean girls were usually part of a clique that was intent on maintaining the status quo. And that being in-with or accepted or even acceptable was really not what drives me. The people I am drawn to are those who break the mold. They’re my heros. Not the most-popular girls I had inadvertently idolised (as my masters). And so the spell was broken.

  • Urgh well this made for some VERY uncomfortable reading 🙁 just sounds like a load of excuses for being a bully and not a lot of concern for the people they hurt. People that could have experienced horrible mental health issues and trauma because of what people did to them. Yup, I’m probably bitter ‘cos I was The Target, as this article puts it. I went through bad shit too and I would never have used it as an excuse to be mean, even when I was a teenager! I don’t think I’ll ever understand bullies.

    I appreciate that these women shared their stories, I can’t say I understand them at all though. Being bullied really stays with people, they might carry those scars forever, how anyone could choose to do that to another person I don’t understand.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hey Amber! (I’m going to copy this above too so that the woman’s response you commented on can see my response too) So, point blank: I/we don’t condone bullying or mean-girling. It’s terrible. The effects are lasting. These interviews are in no way intended to glorify, minimize or excuse the behavior. The women I spoke to spoke to me because I asked to get inside their younger selves’ heads. And also, I thought that maybe mean girls could read this and go…okay, wait. Doesn’t have to be like this.

      We hear a lot about the targets, and I think all of us can relate to having been a target at some point. What I wanted to do was try to understand WHY they acted the way they did. That’s always my thing when someone’s really awful to me: “But why? What was the point? What events in your life caused you to be like that toward me?”

      They were all remorseful of their actions and confused about their younger selves. That doesn’t absolve pasts or erase pain from those bullied. But they’re also so much older. These specific women are different people now; they can’t imagine being the way the used to, which I personally find comforting and…gratifying? — to know that people CAN and DO change.

      • Lauren

        I don’t think people change, just their environment did. For example: the mean girl who had to move to another school ended up becoming a different girl not a cool one and tried to fit in, but if she remained in her old environment she would still be wanting that sense of power.

  • Anonyco

    This reminded me of a quote from Gone with the Wind: “You’re like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry he stole, but is terribly, terribly sorry he’s going to jail.” I got the impression that all four of them regretted having to look back and realize how awful they were, not the hurt they caused people. And maybe I’m being unsympathetic, but I’ve gone through plenty of shit in my life (just like everybody else) and have never used it as an excuse to treat someone poorly; because I believe your behavior only reflects on you.

    • pamb

      FTW!

    • Exactly!

    • Kate

      Exactly. Smacks of sorry/not sorry. In my experience mean girls just become mean women. They just tone it down a bit so they can keep getting away with it.

  • anon

    I am a former mean girl. In junior high, I was part of the most popular and mean, vindictive, bitchy group of girls. As just one example, for a few months I tried to quietly manipulate my friend into developing an eating disorder because I knew it was her one weak spot. It was truly sickening and we were all terrible to one another, and everyone else.

    Looking back, the other mean girls in my clique all came from dysfunctional backgrounds, myself especially. It’s not my place to make generalizations, but from my anecdotal perspective, the meanness definitely stemmed from a poor home life. We all were deeply insecure and lacked a sense of empathy because we did not have caring and supportive families to foster healthy emotional intelligence in us. It’s taken me a lot of treatment and therapy to be able to see it from this perspective, but as a (reasonably) well-adjusted adult, I’m convinced that many of these behavioral problems that show up in teens come from problems at home. Bullies who exist in the form of “mean girls” are just one manifestation of this.

    At the end, I decided I didn’t want to be mean anymore, and I stopped having any friends at all, because everyone else hated me. Then I dyed my hair black and became “weird” — I’ve been both Gretchen Weiners and Janice Ian. That’s life, I guess.

    • Greer Clarke

      That was very wise

  • Lisa

    Thank you for publishing this. We need more honest and vulnerable content in the world.

  • Mallory Harmon

    It is so important to take other people’s feeling in to consideration. I think as kids or even teenagers, we can’t really understand that our actions have repercussions, or we don’t understand the hurt we cause others. As adults, we are able to look back at those times in our life and realize that our actions were not okay, hopefully, we can and will teach our children to have more empathy than we may have had.

    • Kate

      Some kids do this naturally and some need to be taught. I work with children and every few weeks I have to round up a bunch of bitchy brawling five year olds to remind them that they have to treat people they want to be treated. When I do this, sometimes I can see lightbulbs going off and it’s like they really get it, they just never thought of it before. You have to say “how do you feel when other children won’t let you play with them?”. Others know but don’t really give a shit, but they can learn if you keep drilling it into them. It’s deeply shocking that some parents haven’t taught this and that it’s left up to me. If parents and early teachers keep reinforcing empathy with kids, we’d have fewer mean girls and better humans in general.

  • pamb

    My Mean Girl story: I was a very naive 17 year old. One day one of my best friends started saying her jeans were tight, she was gaining weight but wasn’t eating more, her period was late, etc. I must not have been paying attention to what she was trying to say, so a mutual male friend told me she thought she was pregnant, what did I think she should do? I was shocked, watched her carefully but didn’t say anything to her (I don’t know why). At our English class end of school party, she and another good friend admitted that they were trying to get me to think she was pregnant. Wasn’t that funny? They both had a good laugh in front of me.

    Turns out, it was a test, because they thought I wasn’t a good friend. They were trying to get me to spread the rumor that she was pregnant, and I’d be exposed as a bad friend when word got out (the male friend told me they were SO PISSED that I wasn’t gossiping, actually proving myself to be a good friend.)

    I remember thinking “thank God we are graduating and I never have to se you again.” And I never did. I gave the male friend hell, but stayed friends with him for a while.

    I can see either of them being interviewed for this article and not really apologizing or caring, as I found most of the girls above doing. Finding out that people still hate you because you were mean to them and saying ‘whatever, I’ve moved on’ isn’t the soul of empathy. “Our school was tough” isn’t an excuse either.

    The previous article is all about being surprised that people have no empathy for Kim Kardashian. But if you have no empathy for your fellow man, how can you have it for a celebrity? Interesting juxtaposition.

  • marie a

    Yes, bullies are often acting from a place of pain because they are weak and less mentally-equipped – it does not necessarily mean that they are going through more than other kids. Everyone goes through shit, and most of us are smarter and kinder than to resort to bullying. I was lucky enough to never be bullied, but I was also lucky enough to learn empathy early on. People who are bullies are less secure, less evolved and worse-off than those around them – so they try to bring others down to their level. If you have grown as a person, you would not make excuses, you would simply cringe and apologize for now you have grown intellectually/emotionally and understand the unfair harm you caused for your own pathetic/ineffectual ends. If you were truly sorry and understood the harm you caused, you would also probably put some energy into initiatives that make sure children are better mentally-equipped than you were, so they don’t need to resort to bullying.

  • BK

    This article speaks to me so much. I’ve been Mean Girl-ed a lot in my life. In primary school I would get comments from other kids about being fat or ugly or a ‘try hard’, which hurt me. I wasn’t just quietly not invited to sleepovers etc – girls made a loud point of publicly telling me I wasn’t allowed to come because I sucked so much. I spent most lunchtimes alone in the library and my stomach would clench in fear whenever the door opened because I thought it was someone coming to ‘get’ me. I remember coming home from a school aquatics camp in year 7, and mum asked me how it was, and I just burst into tears and ran into my room and cried and cried for hours, because the least horrible part of the whole trip was on the bus ride, when somebody had told me they’d hoped I would drown during the camp. Also one kid always used to spit at me whenever I walked past.

    Bearing all of this in mind, when I Started going to high school I resolved to never be a loser ever again. I made myself be chatty and funny and be smart but not too nerdy. I made friends! I got by fine. When I think back about my childhood at primary school, it’s achingly clear to me that those kids who were tormenting me had terrible torments of their own – parents who were alcoholic, had substance addictions, were abusive or just simply didn’t care. I was targeted because I was different and they could see it – I was brought up well by two excellent parents, and had a bright future ahead of me. Those mean kids pop into my head sometimes and I wonder if they ever think of how they use to act and feel bad about it. That these former Mean Girls feel bad about how they acted towards me makes me feel warmer towards them. I could tell that all of their confessions were mature and heartfelt, and that their remorse was real – re the comments below about people being “actually” sorry or just sorry that they were identified as mean – it’s all gravy to me. Acknowledging your wrongs is the point and if they’re capable feeling retrospectively bad about it, they’re probably much nicer now. I hope that they haven’t just seen the error of their ways but are living to atone for it too.

    • Midol

      I don’t know if you share the same perception, but I was mean-girled and an outsider in school. It took me a long time to realise as an adult that I AM different. I’m a freak and an outsider, and it’s great. I create things and write and talk and I’m passionate and dynamic. But the saddest thing is that my experiences in school made me think that the most important thing was to fit in. Be part of the gang. Tyranny of the majority.
      I mentioned above that habing a daughter re-introduced me to that dynamic, and I realised that tedious it is. Yes, I’m definitely different from the norm – a total dreamer. I was an easy target for bullies be I was different. I just wish I could have understood that 20 years ago.

      • BK

        I learned exactly the same thing! It sounds like a complete cliche but people who think differently/are generally different make the masses feel uneasy and like they need to stop them somehow. An equally strong element is the child/teenager’s desire to fit in at all costs. After I got through my early years and made friends throughout high school, I still always felt like an outsider and honestly speaking, I still do. The difference is that now I’m okay with it.

  • Ciccollina

    I was bullied throughout my schooling and I have to say, while it wasn’t pleasant, it just made me into this don’t give a f***, self-sufficient weirdo. I think I never really looked up to the “cool girls”, I thought they were kind of pathetic, so it didn’t hurt me as much as it baffled me. It genuinely surprises me when people say that these things have given them life-long scars because if anything, all the shit I went through made me into a very tough cookie.

    • Midol

      Yeah. I learned that too, but much later :/

  • Lyndsay

    I like and admire your aim with this, Amelia/MR – and I do think the subjects are looking back with some level of critique. They’re pretty objective about what they did and the pain they’ve caused, and they all seem to be living with what they’ve done, which I for one think is the most just thing that can happen.

    I have a question for you all: How to deal with mean-girling as a well-adjusted adult? Long story short, my professional dynamic has changed a lot recently and, yup, you’ve guessed it – mean girling is happening. I’ve so far resisted the urge to just scream oh my god stop it stop it stop it, or end it in less ethical ways (ie. targeting the weaknesses, which drive the average mean girl, which would make me the mean girl AND then create a vicious cycle of meanness), but. You guys. I can’t. For some context, I work at a company with low job security and very few opportunities for advancement. I get it, in a way. But. BUT! Send help.

  • laszloooo

    Yeah these people sound like they are still mean…

  • ApocalypsoFacto

    I was not a “mean girl” but I had a friend who was very mean, and many times I sat silent while she bullied a couple of kids we knew. I didn’t join in or encourage but I didn’t stop it either, because I was straight-up afraid of her. She would do this thing where she would grab the back of my arm and twist the skin – it hurt like crazy and left bruises. She would also tell me I was useless, she was the only person who would ever be my friend, etc. etc. She was one of those people who outwardly was every parent and teacher’s dream – high-achieving, polite, well-spoken, put-together – but I feel was basically a sociopath. If she sensed weakness, she would attack, and unfortunately a lot of the more awkward kids in middle and high school became her targets. She could freeze you out and get others to freeze you out and you wouldn’t even know what had hit you – she did it to me more than once. I still feel very bad about the times that I didn’t intervene when she was going after other people. The most I ever did was say “come on L, let’s go do something else.” I never stuck up for the other person or told her off for being such a witch. She ended up in a pretty miserable existence, and I hope the people she bullied know that and feel some satisfaction. I haven’t spoken to her in 20 years and hope I never run into her again. I still have nightmares about her. To all the people I didn’t stick up for – I’m really, really sorry. 🙁

  • Peter

    This brings to mind the episode of 30 Rock where Liz returns to attend her high school reunion and discovers that everyone hates her because she was so mean when she’d always seen herself as a lovable nerd.

    Kelsey: Hey Liz, how’s the telescope?
    Liz: I don’t know Kelsey, how’s your mom’s pill addiction?
    — “Reunion” (Season 3)

    I was mildly bullied in high school, but I think because I was *funny*, those who bullied would let me off the hook… And I wasn’t class clown, goofy funny. I think I developed kind of an acerbic wit from an early age as a defense mechanism and people who were not quite as snappy with the comebacks were a little afraid to mess with me. Maybe I was more of a Liz than I realize.

  • Jill

    I echo those who have said that the mean girls’ stories don’t necessarily sound like they’re super-remorseful …there’s a lot of excuse-making in those interviews. I was bullied by mean girls in junior high. Called out for my breasts, invited into a clique for what I later found out was just a reason to then push me out of it, kicked out of a slumber party for refusing to try smoking, blah-blah-blah. A lot of crap went on. I was a shy kid who had moved across the country and started all over again in a new school and making friends…I guess I was ripe for the picking (on). Two things I learned from it: 1. To be my own person. That I wasn’t going to live or die by someone else’s judgement of me. That, in retrospect, was exceptional helpful to learn at a very early age. And 2. When I got to high school, (a high school where I started all over again with no friends, as my mother didn’t think our district high school was good enough so I went to school across town), I tried my own mean-girl stunt with another girl…and I hated myself for it. To this day (and I’m in my forties now) it’s one of my single biggest regrets – and it taught me, fast and hard, that I never wanted to be deliberately hurtful to someone again. It was an exceptional lesson. I didn’t really get a sense of any of that from those mean-girl discussions shared in this post. 🙁

  • Meri

    This is a topic that still angers me a lot even after more than 15 years have passed since I’ve been relentlessly bullied throughout primary and secondary school. I was a shy, quiet kid who did really well at school, got good grades and was loved by teachers. I never was mean to anyone at all and I’m a very easygoing person. I came from a good family. All of this seems to have been enough for the mean girls to get triggered into a bullying spree. There was nothing wrong with my appearance but since they could not really attack anything else I got bullied for being fat (which I was not) and for being ugly (which I definitely was not). Because of being considered ‘uncool’ by the ‘cool’ I had very few friends and although I loved school in terms of learning I used to dread going to school because I would get tormented everyday. I never reacted by telling on them or even reply to them. My approach, and it worked at the end, was to snob them, ignore them totally like they were talking to a ghost, to air or to a fly. I never showed them I was scared or intimidated, though I was. I cried but never in front of them. By the end of it they got bored of bullying me without breaking me down and just said I was a snob. However, I wanted to get rid of them so much that I made sure the college I went to after that school was one where none of them were attending – which was not difficult since few of these girls actually managed to pass any exams. The problem is they instilled in me something negative. I knew only kindness and respect from my family but what they did to me instilled in me a sense – not a deep or negative as hatred – but still of not wishing them well and I am ashamed to admit that I view them as a lot less than human and I have absolutely no empathy for them. How could you harm someone without this person having done anything to you? I was plunged into anorexia for a while because I was already thin and they made me believe I was fat and when I was skeletal they still called me fat. Why on earth would anyone do that???!!! I got over all of it and achieved all that I wanted in life… I actually exceeded my own expectations but the experience lives on in my memories. I’m not sure I would accept any apology from them. I would never actively be a mean girl to anyone or to them but when I see what my adult life is like and what there’s is (a total mess) I’m not sorry for them. You reap what you sow.

  • Garbage

    I wasn’t a mean girl most of the time, but I had some brief moments, and they were, BAD. Chief among them me treating my best friend like absolute shit because I was bi as hell, had a crush on her, and was in turbo-denial about being bi as hell. Terrible. Still feel awful about it even though I’ve apologized and she’s forgiven me.

  • Sam

    I was the Dana in that first scenario. The girl who did that was the queen bee of our group and would also nitpick my appearance (e.g. “You have man eyebrows,” or, “your nose is too big”). She (and others in our circle) would also find ways to tell people at school in our small, Christian, Republican white bread town that I was gay (I’m bisexual but I could never come out there) which led to some threats of bodily harm by fellow students. If you didn’t have a boyfriend, everyone at school assumed you were gay and would attack.

    Years later, this woman wondered why I didn’t go to her wedding and why I won’t add her on social media. I guess she really had no idea what she did. Call me petty but I want nothing to do with her.

  • Katie

    I was bullied relentlessly by a group of girls in 8th and 9th grade, to the point where they physically hurt me and I had to file charges. Back then, I was a nerd with excellent grades: the perfect target. They never apologized. I saw a psychologist for a while and in the end it only made me stronger and determined to fight against injustice in whatever shape or form. Anyway, I recently learned that the former leader of the group now works at McDonalds. Talk about karma.

  • taracita

    “At some point, everyone has been the Mean Girl.” Gonna have to disagree with you on this. This is just making excuses.

  • I’ll never understand the highschool behaviour you see in american movies, because we never had that where I’m from in EU. Worst case scenario, you would be excluded from a group of ‘cool people’, but jaysus, no one would secretly plot to ruin your life and push you into an eating disorder. (One of the comments below). Another thing which never made sense to me was seeing movies where students who had good grades are made fun of as ‘nerds’ or whatever. Like, these people are going somewhere in life, wtf have you got to laugh about? 😀 Also the fact that some people come from shitty homes and they act out their insecurities on other people in school is such a piss poor excuse, sorry. I’ve known plenty of people from shitty homes who weren’t bullies.

    • Tatiana

      My sister grew up in the Soviet Union and I grew up here… it was a completely different ballgame. My husband grew up in Spain and totally doesn’t understand cliques. This does seem to be a uniquely American behavior.

  • Amy Lines

    These are just bullies re telling the tale, really uncomfortable to read and just makes the reader feel terrible for the people these girls hurt. This article could have been written differently I feel, less of the detail about they actually did at the time and maybe more about how they are different now.

  • Mariana

    Interesting reading. I used to be a bit of a mean girl but not like the bullies nowadays. Nowadays bullies have all the social media they can use to keep on bulling even outside of school.
    I think, from personal experience, that a lot of mean kids are just stupid and that there are no particular reasons why they hurt other kids. I had absolutely no reason to be mean and still I picked on some “weaker” kids all the time, pointing out their ugly clothes, lack of personality or bad grades, just because. Then thank god i grew up and by the age of 17 I completely changed my attitude, some of the kids I used ti pick on before are now my friends.