Confronting the Mean Girls

Toga Dance 1986
Toga Dance 1986

Recently as I’ve been writing my memoir, I have to confront some things in my past and I noticed that I had been bullied a lot.  Not just in junior high or high school, but also in my adult life and mainly by women.  Boys are mean, girls are ruthless and they run in packs like hyenas preying on the weak.  I never really thought of myself as weak, particularly not now. But I was different.  I was a farm girl that went to school with the rich kids, I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. and milk the goats and my parents were attentive and strict.  It didn’t help that my mother made some of my clothes, in particular my underwear, which was very comfortable, but they were Granda undies and made of a hideous material.  My mother had a bolt of underwear material that had purple carnations all over it and due to her propensity for thrift I had about 20 pairs of Grandma underwear made out of this material which was fine until I had to dress for gym class or get changed for basketball.  I can still their voices, “Geez TippyToze don’t you ever change your underwear?” 

I remember my first mean girl experience, it was in Brownies.  I was going to day camp and in the morning I had made a friend and we were hanging out.  But then this other girl convinced her I wasn’t cool and I remember putting yellow flags on this string to designate the boundaries of the camp, my former friend and her new friend were working together and they kept looking over at me, whispering and giggling.  Mean.  In third grade I lost my best friend Jan, because I was no longer cool enough, she, Sonja and I had been friends, they also started calling me a long-legged Moose.  In fifth grade I was teased by the basketball team because I didn’t have the right type of shorts.  I wore my favorite shorts to play basketball in, they were candy-striped with big flowers on them with a zipper and a button.  Jan was also on the basketball team, but we were long past being friends and now she was part of the group that made fun of me, but it was o.k. cause Kira was my best friend in 4 – 6th grade.
In seventh grade I was invited to Krista’s birthday party, which was a slumber party and all through the night Amy and Suzie made fun of me, all I wanted to do was go home, but I pretended to be asleep and ignored them.  They weren’t very attractive girls, but we were all in band together.  I always wanted to belong, but I never quite fit in; sometimes I had a best friend to hang out with, sometimes I didn’t, like 7 – 9th grade I didn’t really have a best friend, but I tried to hang out with Anna and Nancy, but three’s a crowd.  I did o.k. in high school, I was friends with Leslie and Kimmy and a c0uple of other girls from different schools.  Then I went to France my junior year, I fit in perfectly there, but when I came back senior year I got dumped by Leslie, she was boy crazy and boys had become more important to her than me.  After Leslie dumped me I hung on the fringes of the popular crowd, but they never really accepted me, evident in the fact that the morning after the all night graduation party, everyone was going to Table Rock to watch the sun come up.  At that point I was with Holly Medlin and Kris Erwin and we were being driven by a junior Jay Gustafson.  I had to go to the bathroom and there was no toilet up there so I asked them to wait for me.  They didn’t and thus ended my high school career.   I was excited about college, I had been accepted to Pacific University, had a small basketball scholarship and I couldn’t wait to leave high school behind I was ready for a brand new start.
It was a nightmare!  I ended up being right across the hall from five sophomore girls who the administration of the school had given the moniker The Freshman Five.  The first friend I made was Jamie Howard, my mistake was in not attaching myself totally to her, but instead trying to make other friends that were more part of the “in crowd.”  I made friends with Becky and Laura and with them came Janet who was grossly overweight, but she seemed nice.  Then came Anne and Randy, so there were six of us.  And at first things seemed good then, my “friends” stopped knocking on my door on their way to meals.  When Anne and I had basketball games Janet and Randy would announce loudly that they were going to watch Anne play basketball.   Slowly my five friends became friends with the freshman five, now the sophomore five. 
They weren’t my only friends, I still had Jamie and I was part of the political science group, who were nerdy and fun, but then it wasn’t that they just weren’t my friends, they started doing things to me.  Not Becky, Laura and Anne, but Randy and Janet and three of the freshman five Kathy, Timisue and Francie.  They would do the traditional look over at me and then whisper, spread rumors.  But the big blow was when my group of “friends” Becky, Laura, Janet, Randy and Anne, pledged the same sorority as the sophomore five; they did it without telling me.  Sororities at Pacific weren’t live ins they were more like clubs, but it hurt.  And after my so-called friends were sorority sisters with my tormenters, Timisue and Kathy caught me alone and told me that I better not even try to join their sorority, because I wouldn’t get in.  I told them that I didn’t have to buy my friends.  Then I went back to my room and cried.
It got better when I started dating Jim, who lived and worked at the fire station and didn’t go to Pacific, but after he and I broke up my sophomore year I felt isolated.  I hung out some with my freshman roommate and her friends, but looking around I didn’t feel like I had any friends.  I still talked to Becky, Lora and Anne,  but we didn’t really hang out.  The final straw was right before Christmas 1987.  I was in my dorm room with the door open and my ex-friends walked by with their new friends, they were on their way to have their gift exchange together before they left for the holidays, a party I had been invited too the year before.  As she walked by my room and glanced in, Randy, announced loudly what they were doing.  I remember crying as if the world was going to end.  I had knots in my stomach and Ifelt so alone. 
After Christmas I returned early, packed up all my stuff and transferred to University of Oregon.  I left no forwarding address and told my mother that if any of my so-called friends wanted to get in touch with me, that she was not to give out information on where I was.  Becky wrote me a letter apologizing and she sent it to my mother.  Years later I reconnected with Lora, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and  Anne and we made peace, they said they didn’t really realize what was going on until I left school. 
At University of Oregon I met Jane, who had gone to Pacific at the same time I had, she had even been part of The Freshman Five, she said she also left Pacific because of them. 
I know it seems odd that more than 20 years later; looking back on it, it is still painful and weird to some people that these issues still come up for me from time to time.  But I was driven out of school by mean girls and it was at University of Oregon that I had my crash and was injured.  Was it their fault?  No.  Would it have happened if I would have stayed at Pacific, who knows.   Crash and all, leaving Pacific was the best choice.  But the answer that still looms for me is why?  Why did I deserve to be treated that way.  So 24 or something years later I asked one of the mean girls, she wasn’t the meanest, Kathy was only mean, Timisue was meaner and Janet, Randy and Francie were meanset.  So I asked Kathy: 
“I’ve always wanted to say this to you . . . Kathy Walters, You were so cruel to me at Pacific University, you and Francie, Timisue and then Janet and Randy. I don’t know what I did to you to warrant being treated the way you treated me, but you guys were the reason that I left Pacific and even with becoming disabled I don’t regret that decision.

I know you are married now and have children, and I wish you the best, but what I truly hope is that no one is as mean to your children as you were to me. I hope that for all of you including Francie. Because no child should ever have to go through what you guys put me through.

I hope you’ve grown up and you’re no longer the mean girls, because I assure you I have grown up and had I known then what I know now, I would have been much better at defending myself against you. But at least now when I talk to high school students I can share that experience and help other young vulnerable girls deal with the same situation.

Sincerely,

Tiana Tozer”

And this was her response . . .  I’m glad you had an avenue and a chance to get that off your chest. I am sorry you carried that around with you for so long. I hope it was theraputic for you. As you know, almost every story in life has two sides and different sets of perception. What I remember of you is that you were a shameless flirt with Dan while we were dating. What I couldn’t understand is why a girl who wanted to be “friends” kept flirting with my boyfriend. I always felt that you were trying to prove you could get him. Of course in hindsight he wasn’t worth worrying about but I guess that is all part of growing up.
I don’t recall being mean to you I just recall not being friends with you because I didn’t appreciate how you acted. Being mean and not wanting to be friends are two different things. I had no idea we were a part of you deciding to leave Pacific. That would have never been my intention. It sounds like we have both grown up a bit but I don’t hear in your email that you are accepting any responsibility in anything. What I truly hope you stress to high school students is that communication goes a long way. I had no idea you were hurting and you had no idea you were hurting me by flirting with Dan. Again, I guess that is what growing up is all about. Having said all of that, I am truly I affected your life in such a negative way. I had no idea. I’m sorry life threw you a curve with the accident. It sounds like you are making the best of it by reaching out to high school students. That is cool. I wish you the best and hope this response gives you a little insight in to me because I was never a “mean girl”.

Kathy”

Not bad, but anyone who knows me, knows that at that age I had no idea how to flirt and it made me mad that she could justify her actions, because she “thought” I was flirting with her boyfriend.   My response, I told her the truth, that I didn’t know how to flirt and that even if I did I wasn’t at all interested in Dan.  I told her that I cannot accept responsibility for a perceived slight on your part that simply wasn’t there.  And I also reminded her of the sorority incident.   I wasn’t going to take responsibility for her  feeling like she  could treat me like that.  I don’t think I’ll hear from her again, but I would be curious to explore the situation further who was influening her, why did she feel that way? 
Do I feel better.  Yes, I’m glad I told her how I felt, but looking back on it I should have just punched her in the nose, or probably not her, but Janet, that would have put a stop to it and gotten the adults attention, because when I told the sorority advisor about it, she just didn’t care. 
I asked my Mom about that type of behavior and why some girls exhibited it and other girls didn’t. Her response, “I wouldn’t let you behave that way.” 
What is scary though is most of the mean girls who tormented me in college are now parents and I wonder what they are teaching their children?  I hope they have grown up, but from all accounts I’ve been reading and my own experience I know that there are adult mean girls.  How do I know?  I’ve met them.  And I think its time all the not mean girls unite against them on all levels.
But if there are young girls out there reading this who are targets, hang in there.  For the most part you will move on with your life and be successful and when you go back to your high school reunion, the mean girls will be right where you left  them, reminscing about the glory days.  While for you the best is yet to come.  Trust me.
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