Gretchen:  “That’s so fetch!”
Regina:  “Stop trying to make fetch happen!  It’s not going to happen!”
– “Mean Girls” (2004)

Bear had a Mean Girls moment this week that brought my own middle school memories roaring back full force. Apparently reading assessments, extracurricular activities, and puberty aren’t the only things making an appearance earlier these days.

Queen Bees and their reign of terror have come out swinging at the elementary level, and it’s no less ugly now than it was back in the ’80s.

This week has had several teachable moments already which, frankly, I could do with less of as we head into December.  I get the necessity, but if we could just ease up on the frequency for a bit…

Yeah, that’s probably not gonna happen.

So Bear got home on Monday distraught about a couple of things that had happened at school that day. Cue hugs and talk time.

It was a cold and rainy day (goodbye, beautiful 70 degree weekend) so the kids had indoor recess. The fourth grade teachers sometimes take an interesting approach to this, occasionally combining efforts for the grade level: one room has games, one room has dancing, one room has crafts/drawing, that kind of thing.  I think Bear stayed in her homeroom that day, though, seeing as I’m familiar with the cast of characters.

In a nutshell, Bear approached a group of four girls gathered at some desks.  While she was there the Queen Bee would stop talking periodically, turn to Bear with an obnoxious wave (picture closed fist raised, fingers flapping  up and down twice) and say “buh-bye.”  One of her minions chimed in, mimicking the gesture and corresponding attitude, until Bear walked away.

(I just need a moment here while I squelch the urge to smash some girl’s face into a desk.)

For what it’s worth, I pegged this girl for a Queen Bee the first day I was in the classroom.  Heck, I had a strong suspicion last year when she showed up in one of my review groups with a bestie by her side and just a little too much sass for her own good.  We got that straightened out pretty quick.  But I digress.

Queen Bee T practically screams diva.  (If you’ve never survived the teen years as a girl, or raised one yourself, you might just have to take my word on this.)  She exudes an air of confidence and authority, someone who is completely sure that whatever she says is accepted without question.  She’s controlling of the girls around her and derisive of the boys.  Her every word is calculated to achieve something in her favor.

If this sounds a bit like the tween version of Mussolini, well…that’s not an inapt description of Queen Bees.

Queen Bee T started the school year with two minions.  (A THREESOME of girls.  A blind man could see what was coming down the tracks.)  The three of them were perfectly in sync: hairstyles, spirit days, coordinating when they’d wear their matching t-shirts to school.

But sure enough, come October’s awards ceremony, I looked down from the bleachers at Bear’s class to see the inevitable.  Queen Bee T and the chosen minion sat side by side, identical t-shirts on, matching Halloween headbands adorning their pretty blond hair.  The ousted minion sat about six spaces away, talking with the kids around her.  Bear said she had no idea why the two girls started excluding the third, just that one day she wasn’t part of the group.

Mean girls are a tough business.

So Monday afternoon I asked Bear how she handled the recess episode, and she said she walked away because she didn’t want to play with Queen Bee T anyway.  Which I think is true because Bear’s a pretty no nonsense girl with a good head on her shoulders.  But she is, after all, a girl…and how people treat us isn’t easily brushed off.  Especially not at nine years old.  Which is why her eyes were a little watery and her body got all tense while she told me the story.

We talked about Queen Bees and their minions.  Why they act the way they do, and if a real friend would treat you that way.  How to handle it when you find yourself confronted with this kind of dynamic.

And we talked about how hard declaring yourself Queen Bee makes your life.  You have to worry about what everyone thinks of you.  If you’re considered pretty or funny or popular.  If you’re wearing cool clothes, and if other kids are following your lead.  It’s like claiming a title you have to be willing to defend.

None of which sounds like something a fourth grade girl should have to worry about.

Forty is the new thirty.

Thirty is the new twenty.

It sure would have been nice if we’d managed to keep the girls in elementary school, well, young for just a little while longer…