"Every girl in this school wants to be someone else."
- Bridget, 13
Let's face it: For tween girls, middle school can be a total war-zone. Between issues with bullying, body image, boys, friends and "frenemies" -- not to mention puberty and fighting with parents -- daily life during that awkward transitional period between elementary and high school can feel like it's filled with landmines. These pre-teen struggles are the subject of The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle School, by Haley Kilpatrick and Whitney Joiner, a new book that speaks honestly and unapologetically about what girls today really face in their pre-high school years. In the following excerpts, real teenage girls look back on their most turbulent times and the difficult experiences that changed them forever.
A Reformed 'Mean Girl' Tells All:
“If you didn’t have the cool clothes, I didn’t want to be friends with you. I’d be like, ‘Why are you wearing that?’ I remember turning 13 and getting a Coach purse and matching wallet; I was like, ‘I have a Coach purse. Why don’t you have a Coach purse?’ At the time it made me feel cool to be in power. Looking back on it, it hurt a lot of girls.
At the time, I was thinking...
“I took comfort in the things I had. By showing them of, I hoped that other people would like me too because of it. I really wanted to fit in, so I felt that if people saw that I had nice things, it would help me to fit in more."
In the end...
“I lost a few friends in middle school due to the bragging thing. One day, a girl gave me a note in between classes, telling me that she thought I was very stuck up and that I always flaunted the diferent things I had. She was like, ‘People aren’t going to like you because of the things you have; people are going to like you for you. I like you but we can’t keep being friends if you look down on me because I don’t have as much money as you or have the things you do.’ At the time it really hurt me, but it was an eye-opener that I needed to become more humble. I went home crying to my mom and showed her the note. She said, ‘They weren’t giving you this note to be mean, but to be helpful. Maybe you should take it as constructive criticism –– something you need to change.’”
– Kendall, 18
How My Friends Affect Me:
“This is something we’re doing now”
“In the middle of seventh grade -- once the girls started to realize there were only a few attractive guys, and we were all going after the same ones -- people became more conscious of what they were eating. Everyone wanted to be thin and wear a two-piece bathing suit. During lunch, a lot of my friends would be looking at the calories on a pack of crackers, and it made me uncomfortable, but it was like, 'Oh, that’s something we’re doing now.' So I started looking at calories, too. When I was with my parents, I’d eat whatever I’d want, but when I saw my friends eating really small portion sizes, I felt like I’d be the outcast if I wasn’t doing that.”
- Britney, 16
My best friend's issues rubbed off on me
“My best friend went through a period where she needed to have lighter hair, be thinner, shorter, and she started acting dumb on purpose. I knew it was a phase, and at first I let her go through it, but then I noticed I was reevaluating me too: Is how I look bad or different or not normal? I joined her in, ‘Oh no! Do I need to change and dye my hair?’ and saying I didn’t know things, when I did. Finally I realized that wasn’t what I was. We both came back to our senses.”
- Brooke, 14
Just-Been-There Advice: We Dealt With It, Too:
“I had no idea that my friends were talking about me behind my back, saying, ‘She’s ugly’ and ‘She’s so weird.’ I was heartbroken when I found out. An acquaintance told me they were talking about me, and at first I didn’t believe her. I was like, ‘Oh, that’d never happen.’ But then I walked into the bathroom one day, and the girls were standing there talking about me: ‘Why does she always go to tutorial in the afternoon?’ ‘I don’t know how to get away from her; she’s so clingy.’ I was shocked. I didn’t say anything; I just turned around and walked out, and I was like, 'Okay, I’m done.' For the rest of the day, I felt stunned. I was thinking, ‘Wait, are they right? Am I really clingy? Do I really not have any friends?’ I started questioning myself. I felt like I’d been betrayed. I couldn’t let go of that feeling; I saw them every day, so I was constantly reminded. I started hanging out with another group.”
- Britney, 16
“A friend of mine got mad at me for standing up for myself, and she stopped being friends with me. That’s when I knew that she wasn’t a real friend and I couldn’t trust her. It was the first moment I ever remember doubting or questioning my friends. I’d always been so trusting, and the realization that not everyone is going to be completely trustworthy was weird. That’s when I started to realize that everyone wasn’t nice. It took a big toll on me. I feel like it changed me as a person. I started to see there was bad in the world.”
- Haven, 16