"Friends and enemies" will be the key to everything for your daughter in the middle school years and beyond. Remember that her brain was wired for intimacy with others during infancy, and now in puberty she yearns for close relationships with her peers. Intimacy is the air she breathes and her reason for living. That's why when adolescent friendships go sour and rejection settles in, emotional crises are inevitable.
Friendships change constantly during adolescence. Rosalind Wiseman describes this social pattern in her powerful book Queen Bees and Wannabes:
Especially in sixth and seventh grade, girls change cliques frequently. When this happens, it's common for girls who used to be friends to turn on each other, and the bad teasing can be brutal. . . .
Best friends are two girls who are truly inseparable. . . . They have their own language and codes. They wear each other's clothes. They may have crushes at the same time on the same person. . . . It's almost certain that they'll break up around seventh grade (if not before) when at least one will want to expand her social horizons. And then they'll make up, then break up, then make up. . . . Sometimes your daughter will be the dumper, sometimes the dumpee.6
Though breakups and realignments are common, they are terribly painful for the girl who has been thrown overboard. To her, the parting can seem like the end of the world. Two girls may have grown up together and spent countless hours sharing their most intimate feelings and fears. Trust was once the hallmark of their relationship. Then suddenly the rejected girl is treated like the scum of the earth. Her former best buddy won't return text messages or phone calls. They pass in the hall at school without even a "Hi" from the former friend. Barbed humor is used to embarrass and humiliate the rejected girl in front of others. No one wants to sit with her at lunch or at a ball game for fear of alienating the more powerful girl. The rejected girl may have no idea why it has happened, and indeed, there might have been no precipitating event—at least not a visible one. Without warning or explanation, she appears to be hated by the girl who matters to her most.
Our greatest concern must be for the vulnerable girl who lacks a social network to sustain her when her best pal becomes an enemy. Being rejected by a soul mate is a miserable experience, but it is even worse when the victim has no one else to whom she can turn.
Rachel Simmons, author of the book Odd Girl Out, says realignments of relationships often flow out of struggles for higher status. She writes:
For girls on the popularity treadmill, friendship is rarely just friendship; it's a ticket, a tool, an opportunity—or a dead-weight. You can own everything Abercrombie ever made, but if you don't have the right friends, you're nobody. . . .
If popularity is a competition for relationships, getting ahead socially means new relationships must be targeted and formed, old ones dismissed and shed. . . . In friendship, girls share secrets to grow closer. Relational competitions corrupt this process, transforming secrets into social currency and, later, ammunition. These girls spread gossip: they tell other people's secrets. They spread rumors: they invent other people's secrets. They gain calculated access to each other using intimate information.7
Being spurned by a particularly popular girl, especially one who is pretty, confident, and well connected socially, has a demoralizing effect on the personhood of a "lesser light." Author Dan Kindlon has described these highly successful and dominant teens in his book entitled Alpha Girls:
An "alpha girl" [is] a young woman who is destined to be a leader. She is talented, highly motivated, and self confident. The alpha girl doesn't feel limited by her sex; she is a person first and then a woman. . . . Clearly not all girls are alphas. Some lack self-confidence and are anxious, depressed, anorexic, or bulimic.8
When an alpha girl resorts to treachery and bullying tactics against a former friend, she does so with the combined power of an entire social network. She commonly recruits her "in" group buddies to engage in seek-and-destroy missions against those she dislikes. Together, the group can devastate an opponent so badly that it will take years for her to recover. Some girls never fully get over such an experience and will not trust other women thereafter. The majority of adult females, I believe, harbor painful memories of such occurrences during their adolescent years when they were ridiculed, ignored, uninvited, taunted, isolated, and lied about. Just ask your female friends if they remember such a time. Some will describe an early experience in vivid detail, perhaps through tears.
6.Rosalind Wiseman, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques,Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002), 119, 162–163.
7.Rachel Simmons, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (Orlando: Harcourt
Books, 2002), 159, 172.
8.Dan Kindlon, Alpha Girls: Understanding the New American Girl and How She Is Changing the
World (New York: Rodale, 2006).
Book: Bringing Up Girls
By Dr. James Dobson