We rush into the nastiest bathroom at Waccamaw High School.
I’m furious because they laughed at me. The means girls — my friend group — they laughed as I stood up to them for talking about my friend behind her back.
The whole incident is a blur. I hope it’ll come back to me later.
I’m past the point of tears. But my friend — still crying.
A teacher follows us into the bathroom because we stormed off from the mean girls’ table, visibly upset.
I tell her what happened.
I tell her I finally did it. My ninth-grade, unsure-of-who-I-am-yet self just stood up to the mean girls at the lunch table where I used to sit — the table my friend and I stopped sitting at a week ago with the girls who we thought were our friends.
“F*ck ‘em,” the teacher tells us.
I’m 14. And I don’t hear that word much. But I knew what she meant.
Behind those two screw-what-they-say words, I knew the teacher was telling us we are worthy of a friend group who respects us, who is honest with us and didn’t have to talk badly about us. We are worthy of being in a friend group that wasn’t a constant competition to be part of.
The hardest part — that friend who I stood up for went back to the friend group months later, and I never talked to her again.
Girls can be mean. Really mean. We all can be.
It took me until after college to realize I had points in my life when I had been a mean girl sometimes, too.
But it didn’t take me long to realize those mean girls weren’t the type of friends I wanted.
And it didn’t take me long to realize there are mean girls everywhere, no matter how old you get.
It wasn’t the first time one of the girls from a certain sorority at my college had pushed me while walking past at Pub House, the bar that was torn down and now where a shiny Starbucks sits.
But it was the last time I let it happen without saying anything, taking action.
So I take to Facebook — what else would a girl who wants to call people out do?
I write about being tired of that sorority bullying my friends and that hate never wins. And I use the sorority’s name in the post, too.
The funniest part — I’m a legacy of that sorority.
A few days later, I’m contacted by the dean’s office.
I freak out because I’m about to graduate and part of me worries these girls have come up with this elaborate story to get me in trouble.
I walk into the dean’s office, my heart beating.
But I had nothing to worry about — it was the best conversation I could’ve hoped for.
It’s like she said without flat out saying that she understood my side.
I could tell she knew it was silly, high school-like drama — drama I knew I was too old for.
She didn’t want me leaving the university, graduating in bad spirits.
And I didn’t.
Great things happened to me before I graduated, things two years later I started to realize happened to reassure me the mean girls were calling me a whore just to be mean and pushing me around to belittle me.
I presented my undergraduate research project at a conference — a project on discrimination against women in the workplace. And I won my first ever award — the Terry Plumb Journalism Award for general reporting after covering a range of topics during my internship at The Herald in Rock Hill.
The great things were a push of encouragement, a you’ve-got-this reminder as I went into my first job as a journalist.
Now having shared the two worst bullying incidents I’ve been through, and if you mean gals have even read this far or at all, I’d like to thank all of the mean girls.
Thank you for making me strong enough to push through the hurt of your meanness.
Thank you for bullying me so in turn I could be my own advocate, telling myself and encouraging myself that all you said bad about me wasn’t true.
Thank you for being the subject in this it-was-hell-but-it-gets-better blog — a blog I hope will touch others who have struggled with the same things.
Thank you for doubting me because it feels so great to prove you wrong.
And most of all, thank you to my ex-friend group who abandoned me in ninth grade because you taught me how to be an independent, real, down-to-earth person. You all taught me what kind of friends I do want and what kind of friends I don’t want. You taught me to be a person who understands what really is key to making a quality life — humility, understanding and listening others’ brokenness, accepting people as they come.