Dear Mean Girls,

Thank you for making me an outsider. The view from here is so much more spectacular than you will ever be able to imagine.

To all the Carlas, Julies and Sues out there, I want to let you know that the kids who did think I was interesting enough to be friends with, are the best. My worldview is so much larger because of the Trinidadian, Guyanese, Greek and Chinese foods I ate in their parents’ homes and out of their lunch bags. My body dances on it’s own whenever it hears Southern Baptist Gospel, Island Reggae and The Blues. Through discovering the beauty of other cultures I have gained a love and appreciation of fine lines and vibrant colours and the joy that they can bring to a home. I am part of a diversity based on mutual respect, and not taking oneself too seriously. If I’d had to ‘like’ only mainstream pop music, food and clothing, I’d have never learned to recognize innovation and talent (something the mainstream generally fails to see). And face it, Mean Girls are, if anything, mainstream and status quo.

As an outsider, I did not peak in high school. Instead I have excelled in one way or another in each of the decades that followed. Hallelujah.

As an outsider I learned that being accepted as we are is a gift and a relief. It let’s us be who we are and not as others or society tells us we should be. It teaches us to worry less about fitting in and more about speaking our truth.  It is both freeing and empowering (though sometimes scary).

It took some time but I also learned that kindness often follows acknowledging that someone other than ourselves is now in a situation where we’d once been. These are the great moments in life where we get to choose whether we will support those who are hurting or add to their burdens, the way the Mean Girls did back then and unfortunately, still do. You see Mean Girls, I now know that you chose to be mean.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I’ve learned from not being part of ‘in’ crowd is it costs us nothing to be kind. It actually makes us more powerful when we choose to be kind (and not mean). Anyone who has been on the receiving end of kindness will vouch for this.

I do not know why some girls choose to manipulate and humiliate others. I do not know if it’s due to their own deep insecurities or if they are, in lashing out, exorcising the demons from their own lives. I do not know if they believe that possessing the power to hurt and wielding it is a worthwhile endeavour. I do know your actions taught me that simply because one can do something does not mean one should. There are bigger questions that call to be answered before choosing how we will act. Questions such as “who will benefit from our actions and who will lose? Will the loss cause greater pain than the gain provides pleasure? Do I want to be the person whose gain causes pain for others? Is there another way?”

The truth is many feel threatened by the power of kindness. After all what can you do when someone chooses to treat you with kindness and not be impacted by your particular brand of nastiness? What can you do when someone chooses to smile and not take part in your game? It is kindness that strips meanness of its power.

Thanks Mean Girls. From you I learned to step back, to try to understand and assess the context of a situation. Your misbehaviours gave me a point of reference from which to build my own core values and yes, they include being kind, innovative, and solution oriented. I value the voices of others; they teach me. So, truly, thanks for being so awful. I’m a much happier person today because of your insular and petty actions. Yes, that’s a bit of a dig. I may be grateful, but sweethearts, it was what it was.

*Note: the names Carla, Julie and Sue belong to three extraordinary women whom I dearly love and greatly respect. They have all granted me permission to use their names. I see no point in shaming the Mean Girls from my high school days. Hopefully, they’ve confronted their past behaviour and have become kinder people. Besides, we all remember who they were. We always will.