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Los Angeles, CA--"When I began junior high, I was shy, naive, and nerdy. I loved school. I enjoyed math games. I completely failed to notice that the other girls were not wearing plaid shirts and corduroy pants like the ones that my mom picked out for me. "As a result of these 'unfortunate' circumstances and my obviously sensitive nature, I was tormented mercilessly by a small set of the girls in the seventh grade. Most of the other girls --- the vast majority, who didn't actively harass me --- would not be seen talking with me. No girls came to my rescue. Some of the boys ignored what was going on and still tried to treat me like a human being, but at some point it became too difficult even for them. "The nasty girls used their social status to pick on easy targets. When they were bored, the worst girls would trick me by asking me apparently friendly questions then making fun of my answers in front of the class." In a recent blog comment, scientist Betsy Barton, one of my favorite readers, described the hell she endured at the hands of other girls while in junior high school. A cousin of mine had a similar experience, one which she still remembers quite well today. I asked Betsy to write a more complete description of her experience, and it appears below. I shuddered reading it, to be honest. My daughter is a little young for this--she's in 4th grade. Still, I can't help but wonder if this extraordinarily happy and well-adjusted little girl is going to be out through the shredder in a few years because she's wearing the wrong goddamn clothes or shoes, or isn't as sophisticated and manipulative as the other girls. Which I'm sure she won't be. Know what else scares me? I can't protect her from that stuff. Ouch. If other readers have had similar experiences--or contrasting ones--I'd be interested in your comments. What Happens to Junior High Girls? By Betsy Barton In a recent thread, a frequent commentator "Roy" said something that brought back a flood of painful memories from my junior high years. Roy said, "Destroying a person's reputation is a very common passive-aggressive tactic that girls learn how to use fairly early in life, and typically it starts during their adolescent `girlfriend wars' when they employ it against their rival females. "Starting rumors, social ostracism, shunning, shaming, using friendship as a weapon, getting a third party to do your dirty work, making false accusations -- these are all tools in the psychological arsenal -- which are refined and perfected to be used later on in relationship wars with men." I think Roy's comment is a great description of a small subset of the nastiest girls I knew in my youth. I do not know what their motives were, I only know the consequences. And I am starting to understand --- thanks to Roy --- just who those girls grew up to be. When I began junior high, I was shy, naive, and nerdy. I loved school. I enjoyed math games. I completely failed to notice that the other girls were not wearing plaid shirts and corduroy pants like the ones that my mom picked out for me. Worst of all, my mother was a substitute teacher --- and later a full-time teacher --- in my school. As a result of these "unfortunate" circumstances and my obviously sensitive nature, I was tormented mercilessly by a small set of the girls in the seventh grade. Most of the other girls --- the vast majority, who didn't actively harass me --- would not be seen talking with me. No girls came to my rescue. Some of the boys ignored what was going on and still tried to treat me like a human being, but at some point it became too difficult even for them. The nasty girls used their social status to pick on easy targets. When they were bored, the worst girls would trick me by asking me apparently friendly questions then making fun of my answers in front of the class. One very popular girl from another part of the school would cackle out my name from across the lunch room. My old group of close friends began to reject me. They did not tell me not to hang out with them. Instead, they whispered to each other and then made up little "songs" to sing at recess that were supposed to give me the hint that I shouldn't be there. I soon dreaded school. I wish I could say that I turned things around by realizing that these girls were immature and insecure and that I didn't care what they thought. Unfortunately, I instead did what most girls do --- I learned to act cool. I slowly learned to hide the fact that I cared about school (except in algebra class, where the temptation was much too great.) I learned to make disrespectful comments about teachers and to act dumb to get people to like me. The acting lessons eventually worked. My old friends took me back and even the cool girls began to accept me. As junior high turned into late high school, I slowly gained social "permission" to be more like myself, although parts of this recovery process are still going on for me. The book "Reviving Ophelia," by Mary Pipher, is a detailed description of the unfortunate transition that girls make from excited, adventure-seeking pre-adolescents to quiet, suppressed products of intense peer torture in their teens. In retrospect, the book has feminist overtones that put too much blame on society as a whole and not enough responsibility on the predatory "nasty" girls that are allowed to exist almost everywhere. I guess these nasty girls are analogous to the worst bullies among the boys. Anyway, it would still be great to see a similar book written for the boys-to-teens transition in men, if it has not already been done. I don't know what happened to most of the of nasty girls in my school. By the time we entered high school, I recall that at least one of them had already taken to smoking and pursuing more "exotic" boys at the (very) wealthy prep. school in our neighborhood. I'd love to think the worst ones ended up miserable, but --- as Roy suggests and I am starting to suspect --- they may well be the ones who have turned those tactics against men.

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