My niece Madison is almost 7.
She’s scary smart and drop-dead gorgeous. And I’m not just saying that because I’m sometimes her favorite Aunt.
She is in first grade and is having her first broken heart caused by (here’s a surprise…) MEAN GIRLS.
This makes Aunt Kimmy want to kick some first-grade bitch ass, but, as a former child-welfare lawyer, I’m categorically against violence against children, supposedly. So I’m going to do what I do and write her a letter instead:
Dear Madison Grace,
I know you’re only almost-7 years old, but there are a few things I think you should know right now, sweet pea.
The first is that you are smart and beautiful and sweet and kind and complicated and a great organizer of hand sanitizer bottles and a happy dancer and a kick-ass Chinese jump roper and a picky dresser and an independent artist and a feisty athlete and all sorts of other amazing and wonderful and complicated things.
Everything that you are makes you worthy of love, Madison. And here’s something else that you might not understand until you are a LOT older, but I wish you could understand today: Even if you were none of the things that you are today, you would still be worthy of love. You are so loved, just because you are alive.
The bad news is that girls are mean.
Boys can be mean also, but girls seem to have been born with the innate ability to be exquisitely mean, especially to other girls.
Sometimes they don’t know they are being mean, but, unfortunately, most of the time they know exactly what they are doing.
I am also a girl, Madison. And as much as I wish it were different, I know I’ve been a mean girl at times. Not in first grade. In first grade I was an outsider, so I was the one the girls were mean to. Actually that was the case pretty much until I got to high school. Before then I was always the new kid, I was taller than all the boys and most of the girls, I wore huge thick glasses and had stringy horrifying hair and a big gap between my front teeth and my clothes were weird. (I blame my mother for almost all of these things, by the way, even though that isn’t fair, you’ll blame your mother for a lot of things that aren’t fair either also, sweet pea, trust me…) My point is that I have a LOT of experience being the target for mean girls. Then one summer I “blossomed” and got contacts and figured out how to fix my hair (kind of) and I got my teeth fixed and then all of the sudden I wasn’t an outsider as much. In fact, all of the sudden I found myself kind of “popular” and then guess what, Madison? Then the other girls who were still outsiders (for whatever reason Madison) were mean to me.
It’s weird, Madi. Because other than the stuff on the outside of me, I was exactly the same person.
It makes me sad to think about it, but what makes me more sad, Madison, is that I’m 47 (a really big number, sweet pea) and guess what?
There are STILL mean girls.
There were mean girls in college, mean girls at my first job in marketing, mean girls in law school and SUPER MEAN GIRL LAWYERS at my first job at a law firm. It’s crazy, Madi! Then I had a baby and I had to go back to work (which broke my heart and also saved my life) and the other mommies who didn’t have to go back to work were mean to the mommies who did have to go back to work?!? Then the girls who didn’t have babies were mean to the girls who did have babies because they thought the girls who had babies didn’t have to work at being a lawyer as hard as they did. Crazy, right? And now I’ve had a career full of mean lawyer girls and I kind-of moved to this new town in Mexico, where everything seems perfect on the outside, but really, Madison, the truth is that there are still mean girls, even here. Older, more sophisticated and tan mean girls.
I realize that this may seem to be a depressing story, but I was saving the really good news for last, Madison:
Not all girls are mean. And some girls that who seem to be mean, really aren’t. And you’re going to have some awesome girlfriends. And those girlfriends are probably going to save your life one day.
Even though it doesn’t seem like it now, Madi, you’re going to have some awesome girlfriends. Trust me on this, honey — you will have some of the best times of your life with your girlfriends.
Your girlfriends are going to change throughout your life, baby girl, and each one is going to teach you something amazing.
The girls who don’t want to play with you in first grade might be your very bestest of friends in the fourth grade. The girl who steals your boyfriend (note this, sweet pea: no girl can “steal” a boy, it turns out boys sometimes go where they think the most shiny toys are, they can’t help themselves…) in middle school might be on your basketball team in high school and turn out to be the only person who understands your abiding love for Justin Bieber (besides your sometimes-favorite-Aunt Kimmy :)).
For every mean girl you run into, Madison, there is another girl out there who is going to adore you just the way you are and be thrilled to be your friend.
For every girl who says “you’re not invited to my party”, there will be another girl who says “teach me how to dougie, girlfriend!”. For every girl who laughs at your outfit, there is another girl who says “here, try these shoes with that skirt”. For every girl who is jealous because you’re so pretty and smart (and, sadly, there will be a lot of those, Madison) there will be other girls who know that being pretty doesn’t change the fact that life can be hard and being smart is not always the best thing for your social life. For every girl who snickers at your broken heart, there will be another girl who says “he wasn’t good enough for you!”
And even though it may seem impossible to you right now, believe me when I tell you that you already have some of the best girlfriends ever — your mom (she is a girl too!), your grandma, your other sometimes-favorite-Aunts — we are all girls who love you no matter what.
So, here’s the deal, Madi. Try to forget about those girls who don’t want to play with you today, even if it makes you sad. (It’s ok to be sad, sweet pea, as long as you know that, in general, being sad about other people’s behavior usually doesn’t change anything). I know if you look around you will find some other girls who do want to play with you, but just don’t know how to ask. Find those girls and be silly and sweet and happy first-graders.
I love you Madison Grace (with the beautiful face!) and I will always be your girlfriend. Like it or not… 🙂