A great friend of mine, with whom I shared the lurching stumble through secondary school, was telling us a story the other day about an unexpected run in she’d recently had with our year’s superbitch.
And I mean superbitch. Not in the traditional bullying sense, for she was no great physical presence and was far too into her looks to risk them in an altercation, but in the Mean Girls brand of obnoxious knobbery; she’d get people’s names wrong on purpose, she’d laugh at the dress sense of girls less economically privileged, she’d whisper and glint and coerce and sneer – she was a nasty piece of work. Insecure, now that I look back on it. Possibly there was something horribly wrong with her, but certainly, at the time, she was wedged into a nasty rut and seemed in no hurry to let an adult conscience prise her out.
Anyway, my friend was surprised to get an email from her a couple of months ago. They hadn’t been at all friendly in school – my friend was a teacher’s daughter, and bound by that into acting with respect for her educators, meaning that she got no respect herself from the likes of Superbitch and her equally empty-headed minions – so to hear from her as an adult was unexpected, to say the least. Superbitch dispensed with pleasantries after a couple of lines. A buddy of hers was doing the same course as my friend had recently completed, and she was wondering if my friend would send on her notes, essays, and other study materials, kthxbye.
“Can you believe the nerve!” my friend spluttered, over a glass of wine (which was kind of messy, as you can imagine). “Ten years out of school – and God, did she make my life a misery when we were in school – and she thinks I’m going to go out of my way to help her and her friend that I’ve never met because she can’t be bothered doing her own course work?”
“I see she hasn’t changed,” said the more sophisticated of our gang, whereas I registered my disgust with a mature, “I would have sent her a picture of my arse.”
“I don’t know,” said our resident devil’s advocate. “I would have sent on the notes.”
In unison, “WHAT?!”
Could we really believe our ears? Was someone actually suggesting cheek-turning here (and not in the pictures-of-arse sense)?
“I would have done my best to help her,” said our (contrary) Good Samaritan. “I would have given to her what I could, knowing that I was the bigger person, and that I was mature enough not to base my reactions on ancient history.”
There have been plenty of times in my life when I wished I could go back to secondary school, just for a couple of days, with my adult outlook and sharply-honed sense of right, wrong, and revenge. I fancy I would have the place fawning over me within an hour. I’d tell the mean girls exactly what I thought of them. I’d stand up for the poor souls who were bullied incessantly just because they were meek and sweet-natured. I’d tell the loudmouth mucksavages that no one thought they were heroes for making substitute teachers cry. I’d tell my friends that no matter how things seemed at fifteen, the world was a much bigger place and we would shortly be much better people for living in it, that there would be adventures, and laughter, and love and loss and exams like we could never predict.
But perhaps I was wrong. Maybe it is pointless to harbour ridiculous fantasies of putting everything right when my adult self knew there was very little wrong in the first place. Maybe the last step towards adulthood, maturity, contentment was realising that the superbitches were but blips in an otherwise successful school life.
We were all silent for a moment.
And then someone said, “Fuck that. You treat people like shit, they will have no inclination to bend over backwards for you. That’s life. That’s a lesson worth learning.”
What do you think?