“Mean Girls,” the hit 2004 movie starring Lindsay Lohan and written by Tina Fey, recently celebrated its ten-year anniversary with lots of fanfare. The stars posted Instagram photos, did the talk-show circuit and fueled rumors of a reunion. Numerous sites devoted space to then-and-now pictures of the cast. And of course, fans couldn’t help but speculate what the fictional “mean girls” might be up to, a decade later.
I don’t spend any time thinking about the lives of Regina, Gretchen and Karen (the evil “Plastics”) because, hello, they’re made-up characters. But as far as the real-life mean girls I have known, I have a pretty solid idea — they get old … and they stay mean.
My unscientific research about what happens to mean girls has been confined to observing them as I’ve gotten older. Initially, I thought — and was comforted by the notion — that once us kids were done with school, the whole malevolent thing would go away. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The bitchiness, the gossip, the betrayals, the superiority – these qualities are not traded in for a high-school or college diploma. Nope. When school is out, mean girls are simply let loose into the wild.
As adults, mean girls torment their prey with a variety of maneuvers now perfected and customized for grown-up life. For example, when they land a mate, they are cruel to singletons. They expertly use their nuptials as a way to make other women feel bad. Selecting bridesmaids brings them back to the good old days of junior high school, when they gleefully excluded people from various groups, cliques and clubs.
After the wedding comes baby, who is also used as a stealth weapon towards other women. Conception on the honeymoon, incredibly easy conception, we’re-more-in-love-than-you-are conception — basically it’s a conception competition, and the mean girls are in it to win it. Same goes for their birthing story. Any given mean girl might have spent hours in hard labor, bursting every capillary in both eyeballs before begging for an epidural, but the post-birth photos that make it to Facebook will be sanguine, smiling and just this side of perfect — just like the retelling of the story.
Do they soften up when they become new moms? No, they do not. Their child’s annual birthday party is really a celebration of being able to write up a guest list, in which best-bestie-BFFs are invited and other moms are excluded. It’s the mean girls way. It doesn’t matter if the festivities take place in a football stadium where there’s room enough for everyone. Some families must be left out. Because otherwise, where would the party committee's joy come from?
Mean girls continue to discover new ways to make other people feel like crap throughout the years. This, not surprisingly, extends right into their kids reaching adulthood. If, say, your daughter has been drifting a little ever since she graduated college, you can bet any mean girl will ask if Lola is still “finding herself” before mentioning how her Sophie recently made partner. When Sophie gets married, the mean girl will weigh the pros and cons of inviting you to the wedding. On the one hand, there’s the continuous joy of exclusion. On the other hand, the mean girl wants Sophie’s happiness and the impending conception of grandchildren to be smooshed in your face like extra-creamy wedding cake.
My unscientific research has uncovered some other important information about mean girls, and not just that they attempt to perpetuate bad feelings until the day they die. Mean girls in the movies are all about being the girls with the most cake — the ones with the best hair, best bodies and best boyfriends. In real life, that’s not always the case. Real-life mean girls aren’t necessarily about how good they feel about themselves — they’re about how bad they can make you feel about yourself.
And that’s where we non-mean girls are in luck. When you reach a certain age, when you’re comfortable with who you are, you stop giving a shit about what mean girls think or do. In fact, you stop being friends with them because you realize that they’re not really your friends.
It’s like Lindsay Lohan’s character says in the movie: “Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter … All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.”