(and the world in general)
It’s been ten years since I was thirteen years old, and I think we can all agree middle school was actually miserable for everyone. It’s the worst time in your life. Everyone is just getting past that elementary school mentality of “we’re all friends” and is starting to find out that there are certain people whose friendship can be more beneficial than others. Factors like how much money someone’s parents make and what kind of shoes you wear start to matter. Sometimes someone won’t be friends with you just because you don’t have blonde hair. You’re going to learn all kinds of brand new insults. Four letter words will enter your vocabularies. The whole class isn’t invited to everyone’s birthday party anymore. And, especially if you’re a girl, you will be introduced to the social politics of Girl World.
It’s a harsh world out there. I get it. Seventh grade was maybe the most dramatic and turbulent year of my life — and I still lived in a world where there was no social networking and text messages hadn’t been invented yet. But it was still tough, because instead of Facebook, there were AIM chatrooms, and instead of text messages, there were notes passed in class.
The very worst day of seventh grade for me started when I walked into math class and found this gem waiting for me on my desk, torn from the back of someone’s notebook and written by girls who I considered my best friends:
The point I’m trying to make isn’t that I’m trying to talk about something that I still hold a grudge about or that still upsets me. In fact, now it makes me laugh and I can kind of see their point. I don’t remember what I could have done to provoke them, but knowing me, I certainly wasn’t blameless. As an (for all intents and purposes) adult, I totally get why this happened. I understand the teenage need to survive socially, and don’t blame these girls at all – what would get them through that day was saying a few nasty things about me, so that’s what they had to do. I totally get it. And I’m glad it was me, someone who could handle it and come out relatively unscathed. I have no bad feelings toward those girls in my adult life, and in fact, I made up with one of them afterwards and still remember the times we had fondly (god, I am an adult…) and I am so glad for her happiness.
The thing is, of all the good things that might have happened to me that year in seventh grade, the day I found this list is the day I remember the most. I can remember what I was wearing, I can remember what we had for dinner that night, I can remember how hard I bit my cheeks trying not to cry when I read it in class. And even though I should have just thrown it away, I held on to this note. It’s been ten years since this list was written about me, and it hurt me so deeply that at 23 years old, I still have this piece of paper. I’ve moved twice since then and did not lose this piece of paper. And when I decided to write this blog post, I knew exactly where to go to find it.
One day when my future kid comes home from school crying because of something someone said about her, I’m going to pull this out and show her. And I’m going to say, “see, even though Mommy is really cool right now, and drives a hover car and owns her own hover house and is a world famous writer and eats dinner with Oprah and Tina Fey every Sunday, girls were still mean to her in middle school!”
My next worst day I remember was on my birthday in eighth grade. I had woken up to my traditional First Birthday Present – a new outfit and my very first cell phone! I was beyond excited. It was a black and white display Nokia looking thing and my parents had even bought me a phone case with Spongebob Squarepants in his underwear on it. I was the second of all my friends to have her own phone, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I had a sleepover with my friends planned for the next day, and life was good.
My first class was Spanish, and I was partnered up with a stick skinny girl who had always been friendly to me. We sat on the floor in our groups, and she poked my stomach and said, “Aw, you have a cute little fat roll.” You know, as everyone does when they sit down because that’s the way skin works. But I didn’t grasp that idea then. Never in my career as a 90 pound 14 year old had I ever thought the word “fat” about myself before, but after that day it was really hard not to.
I guess where I’m going with this is that you should treat everything you say as something that someone will remember about you ten years later. That one thing you said to someone else on a bad day, the few words you wrote down in a note that you passed to a friend – chances are, they’re gonna carry it with them. Is that the memory you want people to have of you?
So my plea to you, preteens of America, is to please just freaking be nice to each other. Even if you’re not a preteen, just be nice to everyone. You don’t know what someone’s going through. You don’t know what their story is — even if you think you do.
You will never regret being nice.
And by the way, I am perfect, and I am a princess, so you were all wrong at least about items 6 and 7.