To the Trendy Boys Being Catty

There was a story circulating Facebook a little while ago about a woman who had given a note to some mean girls she had overheard at a Starbucks. I read it, as well as all of the armchair quarterbacks chiming in on whether or not they would have done the same, and who the hell was this woman, anyway?

Well, she happens to be an author of a book about middle school relationships, and has developed a curriculum for social leadership in schools, so she kind of knows what she’s talking about. I knew plenty about middle school girls being mean, from my own experience, and from teaching middle school for so many years. I did not chime in and become yet another judge like so many choose to do these days. I read the story, thought about it, and moved on.

pexels-photo-87835Last Friday, The Man, The Boy, Grammy & Poppy, and I went out to eat as we are wont to do at the end of the week. We decided to go to a place that is a bit trendy, but also has good food, reasonable prices, and is a favorite among the hipster-ish crowd in the area, small though it may be. The Boy likes it because they have a tabletop multi-cade video game that he can play, and in fact chooses to eat at that table while he’s playing. As we’re eating and enjoying each other’s company, I watched The Boy get up to get more lemonade. And I watched as two boys waiting in line watched him, as well. They seemed to make particular note of his footwear (crocs), and begin making comments to each other.

As I said, I spent many years teaching middle school and high school aged kids, and as a teacher, you get a sixth sense about when food fights are about to go down, when a young couple has broken up, and when someone is getting talked about.

In the article I linked above, Michelle Icard, the woman who “spoke up” at that Starbucks had this to say to critics who questioned why she told the girls they were “pretty”:

“I think it’s an important part of the story,” she said. “I think that’s a way a lot of girls hide their bad behavior, by fitting in perfectly physically.”

And Heidi Stevens, Chicago reporter adds:

“I think that’s true of grown women as well. Heck, men and boys too.”

I know that’s true of boys, too. Down here, it manifests itself in wearing the right shoes (and shin-high socks, apparently).

Did I say anything to the boys? No. They were with their parents, I hadn’t heard anything concrete, and this is the South, after all. One of the boys was wearing a Coors Light ball cap, after all. I doubted Mom & Dad would be too receptive to whatever I had to say. If I had been alone with The Boy, I might have gone over to them and said, “I noticed you admiring my son’s crocs – they’re hard to find these days!” or something along those lines. But I was with my family, and they clearly wanted me to focus on something else.

I can only be thankful that The Boy was oblivious. And I am more certain that this cattiness crosses gender lines, and needs to be addressed more often at home, at school, and by perfect strangers at a Starbucks.

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Middle School Reflections

We went to lunch at the beach on Saturday after cleaning up all the chunks of drywall left by the drywall hangers at the new house. We ate outside at a picnic table, and were talking about The Boy being almost done with middle school. The Man and I both agreed that not too many people would like to re-live middle school, and that he had much to look forward to in high school.

“Why don’t people want to go back to middle school?” The Boy asked.

“Well, I can tell you that kids were kind of mean to me when I was in middle school,” I said. “I don’t have very many good memories.”

“And I don’t have too many memories of it at all,” The Man said. “Nothing really great happened.”

The Boy took a moment, and then said, “I think it’s different now.”

“It is?” I asked carefully.

“The kids at my school are nice. There aren’t too many mean ones. I have good memories of middle school,” he said.

I touched The Man’s hand and gave him a look. He raised his eyebrows back at me.

That is something that every special needs parent wants to hear. That her child has good memories of middle school, and judges his classmates to be nice people.

Just a bit of dust in my eye…

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