Remember when you were in high school and there was at least one group of mean girls?
A clique, a tribe, whatever you want to call them, they were mean to everyone who wasn’t in their own little group. They were the same little girls that made your life miserable in grammar school too but, as they got older, they got more skilled at being mean, and more clever about pretending they weren’t.
Jump forward a few decades. You’ll find they’re still there but, instead of being the “Queens of Mean” at school, they’re now the “Crafty Crones” of the women’s club, or the garden club, or the book club, or the congregation, or the workplace — especially the work place.
They never say anything mean to your face. (Remember, they learned better than to do that in grammar school.) It’s all very civilized. No one gets in your face. No one gives you a hard time. They just make innocent comments to other people when you’re not around — little jibes about the quality or quantity of your work — nothing major, just little barbs that sting. And they speak to you in an “oh so sweet” yet subtly condescending manner during meetings. At best, they forget to invite you to lunch, though, they remember to invite every other woman in the department. At worst, they destroy careers.
My first encounter with the mean girls came about when I was ten. We’d moved from a city to a rural area a couple of years earlier — I was still the new kid. Our school had eight grades in four rooms and only about 8-10 kids in each grade. Recess was in two periods with grades 1-3 going first and then grades 4-8 all at once. The boys played sports and the girls mostly just walked around — watching the boys.
On this particular day, I had worn a new outfit — a matching skirt and shirt. The skirt was a reversible wrap-around with khaki on one side and a calico print on the other. The shirt was the same print. I usually played softball with the boys (probably my first mistake) but, on that day, didn’t want to muss up my new clothes so had been wandering around by myself. I was a bit of a loner even then so remember being flabbergasted when a few of the “girls” asked me if I wanted to walk with them.
We meandered all around the playground, finally winding our way near the road in front of the school. Before I knew what was happening, I’d been pushed into the ditch and my skirt wrestled off me. I looked up to see the backs of those girls running toward the building waving my new skirt like a banner. I still had the shirt and, fortunately for me, always wore a slip so was decently covered as I walked back to the building.
To make this long story short, I found my skirt wadded up in a corner of the girls restroom, I ended up in the principal’s office, and the girls had to apologize. Afterwards, they left me alone most of the time and I had great fun playing softball and touch football with the boys but there was always a bit of “whispering” and “looks” and “giggles” every time I came near the girls.
It’s gotten better over the years but it’s been a slow process. Still somewhat of a loner, I’d rather interact with people one-on-one than in groups. I can do meetings and group activities with the best of them but, if I have my druthers, I prefer being around other people in small doses. I’m not sure if I’m really an introvert or just conditioned to it. I know it takes me a long time to become comfortable with even small groups and I usually hang back to get the lay of the land before I join in.
I used to think that, once I got older, all the silly girl-rivalry would stop and all the women I’d encounter would become friends. Very unrealistic. Life just doesn’t work that way. Friends come and go depending on what’s happening and where we are in our lives. And, if we’re lucky, some remain friends for a lifetime. That’s as it should be. I am blessed to still be, if not close friends, at least friendly with some of the girls I went to high school with. My closest friends, though, are my two sisters.
So what about the naughty little girls that played naughty little games and the mean teenagers that played mean tricks? Well, they grew up to play the game of crones.
Webster’s defines a crone as “a withered, witch-like old woman.”
Sort of fits, doesn’t it?