A few weeks ago I went out to dinner with some old friends. Real old. Like, nursery-school old. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we chatted about the kids. You know, the usual. When we got around to the reminiscing portion of the evening, a particularly unflattering story about me came up. One in which I, for no apparent reason other than that I was in sixth grade and you do some really stupid shit when you are that age, went up to a friend at her locker and said “f*&% you.” Out of the blue. Like I was asking her for the time. Or telling her that I really liked her Cavariccis. (As if. They weren’t popular until we were in seventh grade. I just like talking about Cavariccis.)
Let’s dissect the situation for a moment, shall we? Okay, this was middle school, a time where fickleness is king. You’re dating (and by “dating” I mean calling each other on the phone every night and saying absolutely nothing and sitting next to each other at the lunch table in much the same fashion) David one day and Jeff the next. You’re best friends with Tracy on Monday and Dana on Tuesday. Your group of friends singles out one of its own to be super-duper mean to each week (it happened to me, too), giving you the freedom to drop the f-bomb on one of them out of nowhere. It was like Nagasaki, but with EG Socks and Scrunchies. Horrible. This is someone I’ve been friends with since we were three years old. Who did I think I was doing something like that to her?
I’ll tell you who I was … I was a “mean girl.”
Before Tina Fey wrote a kick-ass screenplay. Before Lindsay Lohan gave a stirring performance, did all kinds of weird stuff to her face, got an ill-advised dye job, and then completely lost her shit. Before anyone even knew the name Regina George and put a name to this phenomenon, there were mean girls. Cavegirl Regina was telling others that they couldn’t come into the “cool cave.” Elizabethan Regina was making fun of people’s petticoats for being SO last season. Polyester Regina was shunning her friend for getting the Dorothy Hamill Wedge after she had clearly stated that SHE was going to get one. And Totally Awesome Regina demanded approval rights over her friends’ Cabbage Patch Kid name changes (Lisette Fanny -> Allyson Michelle, anyone?), lest they be asked to find someone else to play with on the playground.
So with all of the Regina Georges in the world and throughout time (including, well, me), my question is this: how do I avoid raising a Regina or even a Regina disciple (a “plastic” for you Mean Girls devotees)? Is there any way around it? Or by virtue of the fact that Livvy is a girl, is she predisposed to mean-girl-ness? I mean, my parents are, like, really nice people who did a pretty good job raising my brother and me. (To this point, when my mom found out about the f-bomb I dropped on my friend, she slapped me across the face and grounded me until further notice. She doesn’t put up with bullshit. Go on with your bad self, Phyllis.) And yet, I had my mean-girl moments. The thought of my sweet little Livvy doing what I did doesn’t even seem possible, but perhaps my mom thought the same about me at that age. And the thought of someone Regina George-ing her? Watch out, New-Millennium Regina, because you’ll get more than a slap across the face from this mama.
There is a woman at my gym who, much like myself, frequents the Zumba classes. She magically seems to show up in each and every class that I am in. The difference between her and me, however, is that when I come into class I follow the proper etiquette and find a place behind whomever is already there. I, like most people, like being toward the front so I can see the instructor, and so I get there early to get one of these coveted spots. If I happen to be running late and am stuck in the back row with a limited sight line, so be it. It was my fault for not getting there earlier. But this chick comes into every single class late and promptly takes her place right behind the instructor. Doesn’t matter if the class is jam-packed and someone else happens to be standing RIGHT THERE. This is so not okay!! Did she pay extra for a special no-etiquette membership? Is she a descendent of the Newtown Athletic Club gods and therefore this is her birthright?
Whatever the case, last week I had had it up to here with her and decided to take a stand. I had my prime spot behind the instructor (got there 15 minutes early, mind you) and told my friend Alysha that if No-Etiquette-Zumba girl showed up and tried to stand in front of me I was going to do something about it. Class started and there was nary a NEZ is sight. About five minutes in, however, the door swung open and in she strutted. My anxiety was at a 10 and my stomach was in a knot. This is where it will end for you, NEZ. As NEZ dropped her stuff and began looking for a spot, I smiled at Alysha, squared my shoulders, and with the utmost confidence and swagger took about three steps forward, leaving her absolutely no space to slither into. Perhaps a bit defeated but not wanting to deign to stand in the back, she still managed to sneak into the second row. Directly in front of someone else, natch.
NEZ, you are on my list. And should you try to stand in front of me or mine in any gym class henceforth, I will bring a world of verbal pain upon you so severe that you won’t know what hit you. Because, remember, no matter how grown up I seem, I am a still mean girl who has no problem dropping f-bombs for, at least this time what I deem to be, an appropriate reason.
Robin Raskin lives with her family in Bucks County. She blogs Thursdays on Be Well Philly. Catch up with the series here.