Cafeterias will always smell like Comet and last week’s lasagna

in Cherimie Crane/Contributors by

By Cherimie Crane Weatherford

With a name like Cherimie, hair like a horse and a face sprinkled with freckles often hidden behind less-than-fashionable spectacles, my younger days weren’t necessarily coated in rainbows and butterflies. Lace-trimmed smocked dresses couldn’t hide my two left, and all too often dirty, feet, my fire-driven tongue or odd fascination with anything deemed off limits. My early school years were nothing more than an induction into a world less than wonderful.

Learning early that some things are meant to be experienced, not necessarily enjoyed, was a valuable lesson, just as learning a smile isn’t necessarily sweet.  Obviously, times change, schools evolve and programs improve. However, two things shall forever remain constant in the halls of formidability — cafeterias will always smell of Comet and last week’s lasagna, just as mean girls will always exist.

It is possible I could proclaim bullying of sorts, but relying on current buzzwords to depict epic battles of inner strength seems more fitted for daytime television than real life. Having grown up a bit differently than most, elementary and middle school years taught me that not everyone is walked to the bus stop by a 400-pound pig and being the best isn’t always preferred. Oddly enough, the adored adage of treating people as you want to be treated proved to be somewhat of a fallacy. I suppose I learned long division somewhere along the way, but the real lessons never had correctable answers.

Living from bell to bell, my days were focused only on survival of sorts. Physical harm was never an issue. Spending my weekends chasing cows and climbing Mississippi pines, I was far better prepared for physical combat than the mental twister of middle school female feudalism. Fortunately, it didn’t devastate me that I wasn’t often invited to their parties, sleepovers or playground gatherings. For me, that meant wearing something ridiculous, sitting in the corner wishing my feet were muddy. What was heartbreaking, however, was the overwhelming sinking feeling of never quite fitting in, being accepted or being able to share my truly fascinating pig stories.

Females begin the unspoken, undisclosed rules of engagement very early in life. Apparently, some are born with the ability to mingle amongst meanness while others spend the better part of their lives and much of their energy on understanding, avoiding or analyzing what causes such woman on woman crime. War is hell, or so I have heard, but if it were founded and strategized around the mean girl concept, hell may just be a welcomed alternative.

My heart breaks for the young girls of today, not that their challenges are much different, but often they are much more public. Knowing that my daughter will someday be faced with this epidemic makes it all the more real. Unlike many of the sicknesses lurking in schools, this has no immunization. There is no answer in a book, no theory applied will stop the tears shed or the days ruined.  The best anecdote is a sordid sense of humor mixed with a superior sense of self, no matter how peculiar.

If your world is invaded by this green, misguided menace, just know that it does get better. Their words will hold less meaning, their sneers less venom and all too soon their persona of perfection will fade, leaving only an emptiness of envy and a wake of years wasted. I have gone on to do things of which most of those girls will only dream. My awkwardness is even found to be an asset to some and my freckles have faded.

You will survive the bouts of mean girl battles with an insurmountable inner strength. It is perfectly OK, even preferred, to be different. Being the best is not a weakness and being walked to the bus stop by a 400-pound pig may one day make for a great story.