You know how when you're little and a girl's mean to you, your parents tell you all sorts of reassuring reasons why: 'She's insecure; she's just jealous; she's threatened by you, etc., etc.' And you try to take comfort in this, though it's hard to fathom why a cheerleader would feel threatened by a girl who wore her pants up to her armpits and had glasses so thick her eyes nearly disappeared behind them. But okay, if it's due to jealousy, then...maybe she wishes she too could read in the corner of the playground during recess and had arms so long that she didn't know where to put them.
But at this age when a girl isn't nice, it's different. Meanness takes on different shades of gray as an adult, and like a star, it can be difficult to see when you look directly at it. It isn't as straightforward as when you're young, when it's simply, 'Get off my monkey bars.'
There's one such girl here in London, part of a book club that I used to go to. Her mean is sly, the sort of thing where if you tried to describe it to someone, you'd come off sounding paranoid and crazy. For example, we'll be in the middle of a conversation when a mutual friend will come up to join us. Instantly she'll turn to them, cooing wildly and affectionately and asking them all about their day, putting her back to me and leaving me alone with my unfinished story: '...so...yeah...I thought the play sounded...interesting...' She also likes to exchange looks with other people while I'm talking, like, 'Are you HEARING this?' And just last week, I was telling her about an episode in which I couldn't get on the bus because I didn't have enough fare, so I joked that I 'shed a little tear then decided to top up.' She responds with (after exchanging a glance with someone): 'You CRIED?!' 'Um, no. I was kidding.' (Another exchange.)
See what I mean? I sound nuts. And the worst part is, she's absolutely the most wonderful person with everybody else; she's adored and adorable, spirited and fun. Everybody is constantly exclaiming about what a joy she is. So it's not like I can say anything to anybody without coming off like a complete loon.
Alas, we're thrown together often enough, I've just got to deal with it. And heck, maybe I AM just being paranoid, and I should give her the benefit of the doubt...we can all be rude if we aren't paying close enough attention...
Though I AM pretty good at the monkey bars.