This morning, Kait and I were discussing things like the egg-throwing scene in Never Been Kissed…
and the reasons for WHY people pick on other people… When she was a little girl, in kindergarten actually, there was a girl in the school who, I guess, could be considered the “cool girl.” Ironically, her name was Josie and she thought she was all that AND a bag of chips, far from the Josey-Grossey in the movie clip above. Hard to imagine for 5 year olds, but it was so true. Eventually, we learned that her home life was horrendous and a lot of her bravado was to cover up for that fact – and, my experience has taught me that that is more often than not the truth for most bullies – but it didn’t make it any less painful for my daughter who simply wanted to be liked by Josie.
Josie wielded a power over my daughter’s tender heart that scared the crap out of me. Josie was there only a couple days a week, but I could tell when she had been because my usually sweet little girl wasn’t so sweet on the days that she had been dealing with the pint-sized terror. On the days that Josie wasn’t at school, my Kait would play with a little girl, Katie, who looked eerily similar to Lil Orphan Annie, with straight hair. Katie was another gentle soul like my Kait and when the two of them were buddying around, there could be seen butterflies and rainbows all about them. They were like two innocent cherubs who giggled and played together without a care in the world, never ever thinking about being anything but friends.
Then… enter Josie.
On the days Josie was there, she would snub Katie and reign over Kait with the all-too-well-known taunt common to every bully: If you want ME to be your friend, you CAN’T be friends with her.
Josie was powerful. I’m not sure why my Kait wanted to be her friend as I witnessed her continually be verbally and emotionally abused by this little girl. And, frankly, it is a pattern that has scared me to my wits end as I’ve watched my daughter grow up and continue to attract girls who treat her like crap in the name of friendship. I’m afraid that my example has somehow taught this beautiful daughter of mine that it’s okay to allow others to walk all over her, abuse her and treat her like garbage. Ugh.
At any rate, each day that Josie was there, Kait would acquiesce to her demands and Katie would end up crying until, after several weeks, the teacher sat me down and told me all the 5-year-old drama that had been going on, in full gory detail. My heart clenched as I heard Kait’s teacher say, “Your daughter is being purposely mean to Katie.”
After that talk with the teacher, I sat my Kait down under the apple tree at the school at a plastic picnic bench that was designed perfectly for tots her size but made it so my knees were under my chin. In the beginning of our conversation, she seemed to have no remorse for her actions and that terrified me. Then, we continued talking. I asked her if she remembered in that movie Josey-Grossey – because that’s what she thought the movie was called – when Josey was all excited to go to the prom and they threw eggs at her.
Her eyes grew wide and she said, “Yes. That was ve-wy mean.”
“How do you think Josey felt?”
Kait thought for a moment. “She cried. She was probably sad.”
I waited for a moment as I watched her think about the movie. She added, “Yes. She was ve-wy sad because those kids were ve-wy mean to her. Why were they mean to Josey-Grossey?”
I went on to explain how kids pick on other kids that are different than them. Then I said, “You know… when you are mean to Katie so that Josie will like you, you’re being just like those kids who were mean to Josey-Grossey.”
That hit home. Kait’s eyes grew big and wide, filling with tears and she said, “Oh Momma… I don’t want to be mean like that.”
It was on this day that I began a small experiment with my Kait. I talked to her about how I go to work and that is my job and suddenly I had this brilliant idea that she could have a job too. So, I gave her her first job: to make sure people are well loved. A couple years later, there was an addendum added so now her job is: to make sure people are well loved, starting with Kait first.
So today, when we got talking about this scene because the song from the scene was playing on my pandora.com radio station, we delved in a little further and she asked the same question that she asked about Josey-Grossey so many years ago, “Why were they mean to Josey?” (She doesn’t call her Josey-Grossey anymore. Somewhere along the way, she realized Josey-Grossey was a name they used to make fun of her and it was mean. So now, she’s just Josey.)
That question has always stumped me because I don’t know why people are mean to one another for the sole purpose of being mean. I shared with her my oft-repeated tale of my lifelong best friend and how kids had picked on him when we were in elementary school. And then I shared with her a story that I’ve shared once before and it makes her giggle.
See… when *I* was younger, I didn’t get along very well with my brother and sister. My sister is five years younger than me and my brother is almost seven years younger. They had each other as buddies and I was usually left out in the dark because I didn’t fit in well. I was the older sister. I think, somewhere, older is supposed to translate into cooler also, but that didn’t work for me.
At any rate, when we got tired of one another, we fought like cats and dogs. It was in my family home that I learned to wield my razor-sharp tongue that I bring out when I am on the attack. Some of the stuff that has come out of my mouth over the years when I have been on the defense has been reprehensible – horrible things said that I can never take back and create such gaping, bleeding wounds that I fear that person may never recover. And, at times, our relationship does not recover because of the horrible things I have said. So, I keep a close reign on my tongue and these days it rarely is unleashed.
However, back then, I had no control on my tongue.
On one particular occasion, my brother and I were arguing. He had just recently gotten his braces and he was one of those lucky lads that had the entire head-gear system to boot. It made him a perfect target for when I was mad. And so in the middle of this argue-fest, I yelled at him the worst name I could think up in a moment of hasty anger, “Yeah, well! At least I’m not Bucky Bucktooth like you!”
But he topped my insult. “Yeah, well, at least I don’t have thighs like Jabba the Hut!”
Straight for the gullet on that one. Both of us.
This morning, as I shared this story, she said, “But that doesn’t even make sense, Momma. You were tiny back then.”
“Yeah, I was. But I didn’t think I was. And he knew it. I knew he hated his head-gear. He knew I hated my thighs. And we went for it. We used our vulnerabilities as weapons.”
Kait and I both laughed at the absurdity of the name-calling in that argument. Today it is funny. Back then it was cause for all-out war. We both were injured fatally in that battle and it took a long time for either of us to recover and forgive. We laugh about it now whenever we bring it up, but back then it was far from a laughing matter.
And, after all this time, even though I can laugh now about that experience, I still struggle with coming up with a solid answer for the question: Why are people mean to one another simply for the sake of being mean?