Mom's Note to 'Mean Girls' in Starbucks Is for Every One of Us

Mom and parenting expert Michelle Icard is making headlines for her viral Facebook post about how she reached out to remind a group of teen girls about the importance of being kind. It was a powerful gesture and the message was right on. But we should also take a long, hard look at what causes our girls to feel and act like this in the first place. They live in a world that is anything but kind to them.

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Icard says she saw a table of pretty young girls sitting at a Starbucks. The kind of girls she always wanted to be. She was horrified as the girls sliced and diced and talked smack about a list of classmates for being lame or giving bad gifts. All awful things that I'm sure any of their mothers would have been horrified to hear them saying.

Here's her initial post about the encounter.

She was so bothered by hearing the girls being so mean and "petty," she went back to the Starbucks and left them a handwritten note reminding them that being pretty on the inside is more important than outer beauty. Which is so true.

But how often do our girls actually see evidence of that?

So, yes, Icard is right and she caught those girls being catty and they should be nicer. Agreed. But as I read about the whole encounter, I couldn't shake the feeling that Icard was making an awful lot of assumptions about the girls, and projecting her own childhood letdowns onto them.

It's hard to be a girl in this world. Especially a teenage girl. Every message you receive tells you nothing matters more than being pretty, that the only measure of your worth is outer beauty and popularity, which -- just based on Icard's description -- were major topics of convo around the "Mean Girls" Starbucks table.

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And what is it that drives all of us to lash out and start trashing other people? Feeling crappy about ourselves, of course. The way those girls, icky or not, were coping with and trying to navigate their teen years was to sit around and convince one another that they, in fact, were better, were less lame, and gave better gifts than other girls they knew. That's not to say it's right, or a good look, or what is healthy and helpful. I'm saying it's a reaction to the environment our girls are born into.

They aren't born mean; we've made them that way. And why wouldn't they be? Let's really think about the messages they get from every direction every day.

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Be pretty, but not vain. Be sweet, but not fake. Be sexy, but not sexual. Be smart, but not too smart. Be ambitious, but not aggressive. Starve yourself to fit into the narrowest of definitions of how society defines beauty. Remember your place. Don't forget that your opinions aren't as important as a boy's. Be sporty but not so athletic that you're manly. Your makeup matters more than math homework! Blah, blah, blah.

Our girls are trying like maniacs to thread the needle on just about every aspect of their girlhood, all while having practically zero idea of what any of that actually means. So maybe we can forgive a momentary bitch fest among friends that I have a hard time believing every other woman in the world hasn't bested in terms of straight-up trash talk at one time or another in our lives. And none of us would want to be judged solely on an overheard conversation among confidants on a bad day. Amirite?

Just a little perspective.

Icard talked a lot about how pretty the girls are. And I have no doubt they are. But I would bet every last quarter at the bottom of my purse they don't feel that way about themselves. I bet if you asked them whether they think they're pretty, they'd talk about losing weight or bad hair or some other such nonsense with no basis in reality. I'm sure they could come up with a list of girls longer than those they look down on who make them feel like total losers. Just like the rest of us.

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Our girls are a reflection of their world and we have to remember where "Mean Girls" come from in the first place. They're girls just like the rest of us, trying to prove they have worth. Trying to find their way. It's our job to help them. I genuinely believe those girls will never forget the lesson Icard taught them that fateful day in a local Starbucks. I also believe that those girls, like the rest of us, just need a hug and a little reassurance.

But you know what I think they need most of all? An army of women working to help fight for a society that tells our girls their kindness has as much value as their outer beauty.

Because when it comes to that message, Icard's going to need to write a hell of a lot more cards and buy a whole lot more mini Frappuccinos to push back against everything else our girls are told they should want to be. And that's the real cruelty.

 

 

Image via Michelle in the Middle/Facebook

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