I'd come out of my office to fill my water bottle from the cooler and I heard the crying. The girl was standing across from my office, talking on her cell phone, and crying her eyes out.
I'd noticed her before. She's a middle schooler, about eleven or twelve, who has long days. She waits in the lobby after school lets out, waits for a long time, for her parents to pick her up. It must be that they come to get her on their way home from their own jobs. She'll be there playing a game on her phone, talking on her phone, reading her book, or occasionally interacting with other kids who have long days.
She's small, probably the smallest and youngest child in her class. To my eyes, she's kind of cute in a pixy-ish kind of way, with straight shiny hair drawing you right in to her immense dark eyes. But she's not what middle schoolers think of as pretty, with her thick glasses and what appear to be a few too many teeth for someone so small. It probably goes without saying that she is flat-chested. She looks immature. And kind of desperate.
By the time I had my water bottle filled, she was off the phone but still sobbing and gulping, and two bigger girls were standing around trying to talk to her, but not really knowing what to do. I brought her into my office, suggesting that she did not really want to be crying so hard in such a public place, plied her with tissues, and waited.
The problem was predictable. Her "best friend" was being mean to her. Wouldn't talk to her. Was hanging out with new people. Accused her of "stalking" her. Most likely the "best friend" is the second least popular kid in the class and had somehow managed a break-through contingent on severing this relationship.
Took me right back to junior high. Girls can be so ruthless.
Mom says "if the girl doesn't want to be friends with you, good riddance." Mom has no idea this is the only friend. She talked; I listened. She cried; I patted. When she had herself together a little bit, we came up with a plan. We'll get the middle school dean to bring the two of them together so that they can talk in a safe environment. So one can learn that people grow apart. So another can learn that severed intimacy doesn't have to lead to total dismissal. So the dean can assess just how serious it all is and how to handle the rest of the class. This morning I spoke to the dean who will facilitate such an encounter.
Every few years it happens. There will be a lonely, immature girl who is simply unable to find her place. Takes me right back to junior high.
I look at the cliques and at the outcasts. I wonder if any of them actually feels confident, attractive, acceptable. I don't know anyone who admits to having been happy in junior high.
My present age carries some difficulties I may not have anticipated. But I'll tell you this: I'd never want to be eleven or twelve again. Never. Never.