Were they always so mean?
One of my earliest memories of elementary school was when a group of 3rd grade girls walked by me in the hallway, stared at my inferior 2nd grade-self and called me a slut. I couldn’t tell you who my teacher was that year, or anything I learned for that matte but I’ll never forget that feeling of confusion and hurt. When you’re seven years old, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re not a slut. The 80’s were a different time. If your parent’s didn’t have HBO, you really had no idea what sex was or what a person did to become a slut. It’s not like now where most 7 year olds know more about sexting than I’ll ever comprehend.
I remember telling my cousin and her friend, Jen, about the encounter. I looked to them because they were also in 3rd grade and clearly knew a lot more than I did about this whole “slut” thing. I remember Jen telling me to call them a “hoe”. My cousin looked at her as if she were crazy and exclaimed that no one knew what that meant. Jen insisted that it was the new word for slut. In retrospect, Jen was damn right. Who knew both a 3rd grade white girl and Eazy-E would be so cutting edge.
The next day when the mean girls passed me in the hall, they once again proclaimed “slut” and I uncertainly mumbled “hoe”. (Note the singular usage towards a group of three girls- I obviously didn’t comprehend the need to pluralize “hoe”) They just stared at me and didn’t respond. At that point, I didn’t know if they were surprised that I knew how to speak or if they were just as dumbfounded at this new word “hoe”. Regardless, they never picked on me again. I had found a voice.
My father once told me that I should never start a fight, but if it happens, to make sure I was the one that ended it. I’m proud to say that never, ever have I ever gotten into a physical fight with someone. I mean, I traded blows with my brother, but who hasn’t? Somehow through elementary school, middle school, high school and college, my big mouth has always gotten me out of trouble. I guess I should thank those little hoes for teaching me how to stand up for myself.
This has always been in the back of my mind. When I became a parent, I began to worry. Who was going to be the first kid to call my Hayden a name? Would she know how to react? I see it on the playground often. The older kids will start pushing, calling her a baby, and I bite my lip in rage while she smiles and moves aside. Let’s be honest, I want to grab their parent and use my big mouth to tell them to get a grip on their asshole kid- but alas, I’m a grown up and somehow that’s no longer acceptable.
Recently, there’s this story about a father in Shelton, CT who allegedly hired a 17 year old girl (paid her a whopping $21) to beat up his daughter’s bully. Now, my first reaction was probably similar to yours- What parent in their right mind would possibly do that? But then his 15 year old daughter detailed what this bully had done to her- She had spread rumors throughout the school that she was pregnant. Random boys would come up to her and rub her belly and ask her how far along she was- This bully tormented her, called her all kinds of names, and had other students behave the same way towards her. She was so embarrassed and distraught she wanted to switch schools. $21 to see this bully get punched in the face doesn’t sound so horrible anymore, does it? I probably would have paid a lot more than that if some loser kid put my Hayden through that ordeal.
Another friend of mine texted me recently to tell me about a twelve year old girl who randomly locked her and her three year old daughter inside of a bathroom when they were on a ferry. Her daughter was scared while she banged on the door until someone let them out. I calmly asked her if she called that twelve year old a little cunt, she replied no, there were too many people around.
This comes with a double edged sword as far as I’m concerned. The real world outside of the classroom has plenty of mean girls (and boys!)- Children need to learn how to deal with them just the same way adults need to. Yet, there needs to be some guidelines now that social media has taken hurtful words to a whole new public dimension. Do I have answers? Absolutely not. I'll leave it to Lady Gaga to figure out. What I will do is give Hayden the same advice a wise old man gave to me though- never start a fight, but if one should happen, makes sure she’s the one who ends it.