Book Excerpt: 'Mean Girls Grown Up'

Remember those awful girls who ruled the high school cafeteria? Well, they didn't disappear -- they just grew up. You can find them in the workplace, houses of worship and the local PTA. Their snide comments sting just as much as they did years go.

In her new book, "Mean Girls Grown Up: Adult Women Who Are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees, and Afraid-to-Bees," Cheryl Dellasega explains how to deal effectively with these troublesome women. She empowers her readers to improve the relationships with the women in their lives.

Below is the first chapter of "Mean Girls Grown Up."

Part One: Relational Aggression 201

TheWho,What, and Why of RA

You've always been there, even in

Kindergarten, pushing my face into

a can of worms on the playground.

In grade school, calling me a witch

and telling me you'll burn me

at the stake at recess.

In middle school, you didn't want to

be my friend, you said I was weird,

too smart, too serious.

High school moments of pure hell,

of National Honor Society,

leads in school plays. Kisses of death.

In college, I kept to myself,

stayed clear of your jealousy,

alone with my own self-loathing.

In the real world, at every job,

you've always gone out of your way

to hurt me.

Aliza Sherman, "Take Me Down"

Chapter One: All Grown Up and Ready to Sting

Adult Female Aggression

Mean girls grow up to be mean women, make no mistake about that. -- a woman caller to a radio talk show on bullying

What is Relational Agression?

It happens when you least expect it: the sudden, painful sting that hurts deeply, because you thought you were in a safe place, with other women and immune from harm. A word, a gesture, or some other seemingly innocuous behavior can be all it takes to wound in a way that hurts more than any physical blow. This is female relational aggression (RA): the subtle art of emotional devastation that takes place every day at home, at work, or in community settings. Unlike openly aggressive men, women learn early on to go undercover with these assaults, often catching their victims unaware. Many carry this behavior into adulthood.

What Is Relational Aggression?

RA is the use of relationships to hurt another, a way of verbal violence in which words rather than fists inflict damage. RA seems to peak in the early teen years when girls use a variety of behaviors that wound without ever pulling a punch. Word wars are often dismissed as "just the way girls are," or "she's just jealous." Whether or not you're a mother, you probably understand these scenarios intuitively: the girl who gets excluded from a crowd she previously belonged to; the newcomer who fails to be accepted by other girls no matter what she does; the girl who is somehow different and targeted for that reason; or the popular Queen Bee, who buzzes from place to place spreading discomfort and manipulating others with her words. Sounds pretty juvenile, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, some women never outgrow these behaviors, turning into adults who slay with a smile and wound with a word. The mean girls of middle school may change into grown-up "shrews," "witches," "prima donnas," and "bitches," but underneath, the same game that started in grade school is still being played. In and out of the workplace, as individuals and in groups, these women continue to interact in aggressive ways reminiscent of high school hallways where girls jockeyed for social status.

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