I had plenty of encounters with mean girls when I was growing up. Occasionally, I even played the part of a mean girl to get back at my bullies. This is something I still regret, so it blows my mind when I run into adult women who still haven’t outgrown their mean-girl streak.
Last week, I experienced another mean-girl encounter. Instead of reacting defensively this time, though, I found myself wondering what kind of pain that person must have been feeling to treat me so poorly. Then, I reflected that saying the things she did probably made her feel even worse. Frankly, I felt sorry for her–not too sorry, but enough that I was able to walk away without anger.
As I reflected on this situation, I wondered how many mean girls Jane Austen may have known. Based on the characters in her novels, it would seem that mean girls existed even in the early 1800s. As I analyzed some of these characters’ behaviors, I began to realize that I’d experienced some of the same kind of snobbery in my own life.
See if you have ever met some of these types of mean girls. Then let me know in the comments if you have:
First up is Lucy Steele. This is the kind of “friend” who spills secrets “to help you out.” She pretends to have your interest at heart, but after a while, you begin to realize that everything she says is calculated for her own benefit. She pretends to be honest and maybe even ignorant, but in reality, she’s the master of double-speaking.
In a way, I’d rather deal with a Caroline Bingley than a Lucy Steele. At least with Caroline, there’s no guessing how she feels about you. She snubs you from the start, letting you know in no uncertain terms that you’re not good enough for her circle of acquaintance.
Emma is a more complicated mean girl. She has good intentions. She truly wants to help you. The difficulty is that she’s actually quite embarrassed by some of your flaws. As long as you do what she says, you can keep being her friend. (Emma reminds me of a girl in high school, who tried to get me to stop swinging my arms so much when I walked. Haha.)
Have you ever experienced mean girls like Julia and Maria Bertram? They talk bad about you behind your back, only they know you can hear everything they say about you. They may also dump their least favorite projects on you and blame you for any problems that come up.
I think Isabella Thorpe and Mary Crawford belong in the same general category. They are each the sort of “friend” who uses you as a pawn in order to get a man or a better position at work or a great deal on a used car–you get the picture. You are simply a pawn in her game, and as soon as she gets what she wants, you’re on your own.
To me, the most toxic of Jane Austen’s mean girls are Fanny Dashwood and Lady Susan. These two don’t want to just use you to get what they want. They want what you have, and they don’t care if they have to ruin your life to get it. Watch out for this type. She could be after your man, your house, or your job. I’ve been around long enough to know that women like this really do exist. How about you–have you ever run into one?
Which of the mean girl types have you encountered most in your life? Please comment and let me know.