Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Mean Girls

When I was a young girl, my grandmother told me — and showed me by example — to always look for the good in people. What she didn’t mention was how hard it would be to find in some cases. I can’t tell you how many friendships I’ve let my alter ego, Miss Pollyanna Give Everyone a Chance, talk me into — and leave me wondering how to get the hell out of.

Let’s start with the mean girl in fourth grade. What I saw: She bossed around all the other girls and basically ran the playground. What I told myself: Oh, I bet she’s nice once you get to know her. What happened: She wasn’t nice at all. She belittled me in front of my other friends. She talked about me behind my back. She snubbed me whenever a better opportunity came along. She told other girls not to be friends with me. Basically, she was a total brat. Honestly, “brat” is not the “b” word that comes to mind here, but I can’t call a fourth grader that, right?

Fast forward to adulthood: The mean girls grew into mean women and became “meanie moms.” If you are a woman with children and say you don’t know a mom like this, I’d say you either live under a rock or are from some other highly evolved planet. I know for a fact you’ve never participated in a play group.

My kids are almost teenagers now, so I’ve had my share of miserable meanie mom moments. Over the years I’ve learned that the best strategy is to listen to your instincts and don’t get sucked in — or at least keep any required contact to a minimum. What you don’t like upon meeting someone will come back to haunt you in the end. Every. Single. Time.

Thanks to Miss Pollyanna, I’ve had to learn this the hard way. It might have been an easier lesson if my little-girl self had taken heed of one of Nana’s other favorite sayings: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Do you have any “meanie mom” stories? I’d love to hear them.

And She Told Two Friends …

At the risk of sounding like a total dork (believe me, I know it wouldn’t be the first time), Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my heroes. If I were planning a dinner party of famous people I admire, living or dead, she would be sitting right next to my father or possibly Jimi Hendrix. I am quite certain Mrs. Roosevelt would provide some interesting table talk, and I’m guessing she wouldn’t miss a beat when my dad told an off-color joke. I think they would also be able to relate when it comes to Mrs. Roosevelt’s famous quote: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” My dad didn’t have much use for gossips or busybodies either.

My two heroes (sorry, Jimi) came to mind recently when my husband told me some unfortunate news about an acquaintance of ours. I have no plans to repeat it because it’s not my story to tell. Frankly, knowing it makes me feel sad and a little dirty.

I’ve also learned firsthand that gossiping has a tendency to come back to bite you in the butt. I truly believe that if you spread the word about someone else’s misfortune and take even the remotest pleasure in his or her pain, you had better watch your back afterward. It’s called karma, and it’s a bitch.

My own admittedly lame justification for occasional gossip is that I only talk about mean people who do crappy things because they deserve it. I’m not sure what gives me the right to determine their fate, but that is how I rationalize my bad behavior. In my defense, I don’t shout anyone’s story from the rooftop. It typically goes no further than my husband’s ears because it doesn’t occur to me to tell anyone else.

Mrs. Roosevelt would be happy to know that, unlike me, her potential dinner companion (my dad, not Jimi) never spoke ill of anyone, even the people he disliked. I assume he figured their unpleasantness spoke for itself. Plus, he always had great stories and ideas to share, so there wasn’t much room in the conversation for idle chatter about others.

When it comes right down to it, gossip stems from boredom. And, honestly, if you can find enough time to be bored in the juggling act of work, marriage and parenting, I’d like to know your secret. I promise not to tell.