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Nasty Girls
Alice Wong
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All names have been changed.

At the end of 8th grade, my classmates and I hung around after school signing each other’s yearbooks. After my classmate Diana signed mine, I noticed she’d written, “Thank you for getting me into the gossip group.”

I was shocked. I felt horrible. I didn’t want people to associate me with a group labeled “the gossip group.”

But, the sad thing was, the girls in that gossipy group had been my closest friends for much of junior high. I don’t know which I felt worse about—that I’d been part of their clique or that they’d kicked me out of it.

I met the members of my clique—Maggie, Marsha, Kayla and Bethany—in 6th grade, the first year of junior high school. They were friendly and outgoing, and they helped me meet some new friends, too, which I liked since I was shy.

I was also naïve and thought everyone was kind. I thought my new friends were funny. They talked to me about their problems and I confided in them. They seemed to fill all the qualities I was looking for in friends.

My friends were also striving to be popular, and as the semester progressed, they got what they wanted. People in school knew who they were. For me, being part of a popular group was OK, but it wasn’t as important as being accepted by a group.

But during that year, I also began to notice changes in their personalities. They seemed to think that being popular meant putting everyone else down.

Kayla was the leader of the group. People wouldn’t know whether or not the rest of us agreed with what she said because we were robots; we went along with her even if our own opinions were different.

One day, Kayla pointed at an 8th grader in the hall and commented loudly on “what a big nose” he had. The group laughed, but I didn’t. I thought it was rude.

image by Karolina Zaniesienko

Another time, Kayla kept pointing at some guy and laughing. I didn’t see anything funny about him, but the rest of the clique did. They noticed his crooked teeth. They tended to notice all the little things about a person, things I didn’t focus on when I saw someone.

They loved to label people “dorky” or “geeky.” They gossiped about how people acted or what they’d heard about them through friends and acquaintances.

I often thought about what would happen if I told them how I felt when they were mean, but I was afraid to because I didn’t want to lose their friendship. I was used to them and thought it would be too difficult to get to know a new group of people.

I was also afraid that if I spoke up, they’d all turn on me as well. I’d already had a taste of how it would feel to have their cruelty aimed at me.

One of the girls in the group, Bethany, had a particularly mean attitude and sometimes put me down like she did people outside our group. One day, I was wearing a Tommy Hilfiger shirt and she came over to check the label.

“Is that real?” she said in a very obnoxious and loud tone as she peered and tugged on the back of my shirt. Everyone just stared. My cheeks turned red from embarrassment.

She knew I wasn’t the type who’d confront her, so she took advantage of my weakness. I felt hurt and angry that other members of the group did nothing to stick up for me.

I was beginning to really dislike my friends. But I still wanted to be part of their group.

When 8th grade began, I hung with the clique during lunch and before and after school, but I also started to make new friends. I met people like Eva and Melissa in different classes, and I could talk to them about things like our favorite bands, and how we liked to sing and write poetry—things my old friends couldn’t have cared less about.

Whenever I was with my new friends and saw the girls in my clique, it was awkward. I usually didn’t introduce them to each other because I didn’t think the girls in my clique would be interested in meeting them.

image by Karolina Zaniesienko

Then one day, about three months before 8th grade ended, I sat down at my clique’s usual lunch table. The clique was late, so I waited for them alone. After a few minutes, they came. Marsha and Maggie said “Hi,” but Bethany and Kayla said nothing.

I didn’t know why they were acting so distant to me, but I thought if I just left it alone, they’d get over whatever was bothering them. So I went to where some of my other friends were sitting and chatted with them for a while.

When I came back to the clique’s table, Kayla gave me this stare. I knew something was very wrong indeed. She said she had something to discuss with Marsha and didn’t want me to listen to the conversation. I was like, “OK,” but felt left out.

I went to chat with my friend Jacqueline, who was sitting in the far corner of the lunchroom, but in the back of my mind I kept wondering what was up with the clique.

A few minutes later, the bell rang. On my way to the exit, Kayla called me over to the table. She told me that she didn’t like that I associated with friends outside the clique. She said that if I wanted to remain in the group, I had to follow their rules. She didn’t exactly say she wanted me out of the group, but it was obvious from her expression that she did.

The rest of the group just stared in silence at us; they already knew what she was going to say and do. Kayla snickered while she talked to me; she was having fun rejecting me.

I was shocked, and then, as her words sank in, it really started to hurt. For the rest of the day, I tried avoiding her. I felt like crying, but I didn’t want to show her how badly her words hurt me.

When I got home, my mom saw how troubled I looked and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Not much. I just have a lot on my mind.”

I didn’t feel like talking. I was very upset. But Mom was persistent. I finally spilled my guts.

image by Karolina Zaniesienko

She said things would get better. She assured me that everyone has problems like these, and I should accept that that’s just how those girls were and that I couldn’t change them; the only person I could change was myself.

But even though I’d known for a long time that they were mean to others, I couldn’t accept that they’d been so cruel to me. I already missed them because I’d been a part of their group for so long.

For weeks, I didn’t have much of a social life. I kept to myself during school. I didn’t hang with anyone after school. I wasn’t up to doing anything fun; I was too upset. All I wanted was to be alone and have time to think everything through.

I even lost my appetite. My mother prepared my favorite dishes, like barbecue spareribs and fried noodles, so that I’d eat, but I only ate small portions.

The way my friends turned on me made it hard to feel like I could trust anyone. I began analyzing everything anyone in the clique had said to me. I felt like I should’ve figured out how Kayla and Bethany were going to treat me before it was too late. I was scared that if I was open with my new friends, they’d wind up hurting me too.

But, noticing I was blue, my new friends e-mailed me jokes and poems to try to brighten my mood. At first, I was too upset to find the jokes funny. But after a few days, I reread their e-mails and they made me laugh.

One Saturday, Eva and Melissa dragged me out to the park to play basketball, twirl on the balance beams and ride our bikes. Then we went to McDonald’s for lunch. I had so much fun. I began to realize who my true friends were.

Still, it wasn’t until the end of the summer that I really started to feel better. Thankfully, making new friends wasn’t that difficult.

I realized I should’ve left the old clique once I knew how they were instead of waiting until they forced me out. I’m glad I’m no longer part of that group. If I was, I might’ve become as closed-minded as they were and missed out on the opportunity to meet new people.

I still feel guilty for the years I was a friend to those girls. Even though I didn’t do most of the mean things they did, I continued to be a part of their group.

I’m still cool with the other friends I made in 8th grade. And when I went to high school, I was relieved to find that most people were much more respectful toward each other than in my junior high.

I started associating with all sorts of people who were friendly and kind. I didn’t care anymore if I fit into any one group.

Now I realize that being in a clique doesn’t determine my worth. When I was in the clique, people in and out of the group saw me as naïve, and I was close-minded to new people. Now people see me as an outgoing, friendly and kind person, which is a more accurate reflection of who I am and want to be.

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(NYC-2002-11-05)


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