While dodging mean girls between English and chemistry class can be the norm in high school, facing adult bullying is an entirely different experience. Here's how to tell the difference between true friends and grown-up mean girls.
In high school, my fictional heroines were the Great A's: Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables), Andie Walsh (Pretty in Pink) and Angela Chase (My So-Called Life). These smart, strong redheads shrugged off the hierarchy of teen popularity and existed- miraculously, it seemed-outside the orb of prom queens and football heroes.
Despite my dream to be the brilliant misfit (who, of course, won the heart of the hottest boy in school), I was more like another "A" character: Amanda Jones (Some Kind of Wonderful), the all-star follow-the-leader girl with the diamond earrings-and popularity- loaned to her by the notorious queen bee.
If you remember high school, you remember the queen bee. You might have hated her, plotted to usurp her or dreamed of being her. Either way, you knew the one crowned "most popular"-though it's less likely that she knew you.
I was in my queen bee's inner circle, proud to have been chosen, ever conscious of the sweeping room for error. When I left the West Coast to attend university in New York, I felt free-I learned how to forge friendships based on something other than status. Then, in my late 20s-when I thought I was well past my Some Kind of Wonderful days-I found myself under the sway of a group of grown-up mean girls.
Thin, rich and beautiful, they were like exaggerated versions of my high-school friends-except that they measured worth by job title, not honours standing. With their designer handbags and doctor boyfriends, they embodied everything that I thought a successful adult should be.
Never mind that I had a career, a boyfriend and a supposedly healthy self-image. Suddenly I felt 16 again. Within a few months, my friends controlled both my life and how I thought about it. In one breath, they made fun of my relationship and trivialized my job; in another, they told me that they loved me.
Is your social circle comprised of true friends or mean girls in disguise? Keep reading for more friendship advice on the next page...