Diary’s Facebook status on Friday, when it was apparently hacked by a woman in Canada
I bet you got pushed around
Somebody made you cold
But the cycle ends right now
‘Cause you can’t lead me down that road
~ Mean, Taylor Swift
Okay, so let’s just say that I know this kid. She’s twelve and trying her damnedest to navigate middle school. And she’s awesome. But not mine. No, definitely not mine. Let’s just say she’s … in Canada.
And let’s just say that said kid keeps butting heads with another kid in school. A kid who gets his jollies out of seeing just how much he can get away with. A kid who makes a daily project out of getting a rise out of someone else, no matter what it takes.
Let’s just say that said kid does things like waiting until the teacher’s back is turned and then whispering “Psst … F&*% you,” to
my .. er … the other kid.
And, before you say, “Oh, maybe he liiiikes her,” let’s just add that said kid also says things to other people like, “You’re an ugly loser. Why don’t you just marry your ugly gay loser friend and get it over with.”
And let’s just add that even if he did like her, I’d be hell-bent on making sure that she knew that a boy telling a girl to f&*% herself is not an even remotely acceptable way of displaying his affection for her. Oh, wait, not me. I mean to say that I’m sure that’s what her mom would be. Ya know, the lady in Canada.
Because she’d want to make sure to stop that whole ‘if he’s mean to you he must like you’ thing in its tracks because, well, what the hell kind of message would she be sending her kid otherwise? Hey, look for the ones that treat you like crap, sweetheart, because they must really LIKE you! No. Just no.
But anyway, let’s just say that this kid (the girl) was on a mission. And let’s just say that, although she was really, really hurt by the other kid’s words, her mission was to forge a relationship with him because, in her words, “If I can make him understand how hurtful he’s being, he’ll get that you just can’t treat people like that.”
And let’s just assume that her mom (ya know, the lady in Canada) is at once proud as hell and completely appalled by her daughter’s tenacity. Because she’s old enough to have seen this movie before. And to get that some people are just mean. And that no matter how hard you try, you can’t change them. That some people simply get their kicks off of making other people feel like crap about themselves. That whatever their reasons — fundamental insecurity, self-doubt, a history of rejection or abuse, or maybe just good old-fashioned, unadulterated mean-spiritedness, they just are what they are. Mean.
And let’s just say that the mom has heard enough now to know that this isn’t a battle that her daughter can win. That she’s told her (in her unmistakable Canadian accent) to focus her attention on the people who treat others with care and respect. And she’s made a point of adding that it’s really important that she understand that that doesn’t mean just HER or people like her with care and respect, but EVERYONE whom they encounter.
Those are the people to surround yourself with, she tells her. Not the ones who will always tell you that you’re right, but the ones who have enough respect for you to tell you when you’re not. (That part undoubtedly confuses the daughter, and the mom concedes that it’s only tangentially relevant but a really good lesson, and says, just listen up, kiddo.)
He’s doing it for a rise, she explains. For attention. Ignore him, she advises, because if he gets neither, eventually there will be no more oxygen to feed his flame.
But the mom is torn. Because she gets it. Because she too has engaged mean throughout her life. She too has doggedly held onto the belief that if she can make people understand how hurtful they’re being, they’ll get that you just can’t treat people like that. Because somewhere down deep, she too believes that maybe, just maybe, if he had a REAL friend — not the kind who cheer him on in his shenanigans, but the ones who show him why that’s not real friendship — he might finally engage in some self-examination. And if he did, he might not be mean anymore.
She aches for her daughter because she gets how hard it is to concede defeat. She knows how much it hurts to walk away feeling like, by giving up, she’s not only allowed the mean to continue, but has tacitly contributed to it in some way.
But she knows that sometimes, there’s just no changing mean. And the only thing you can do is walk away. Because really, in cases like this one, it’s by giving it attention that you feed the flame and only by walking away can you help to starve it of oxygen.