Gossip is a hot topic in my teen girls’ group. Actually, “those two-faced fake bitches” are a hot topic, but I like to reframe.
Often, it’s all these girls can talk about. Rumors, being talked about behind one’s back, and being the butt of the joke weigh heavily on any mind, especially the mind of a 14 year old.
Apparently, a popular ploy is to engage one girl in making fun of another. Then go tell the girl you were making fun of what the other girl said about her. Then the other two get into a fight.
This way, everyone’s miserable!
Teen girls are evil. They are literally the worst people alive. Little known fact: “Mean Girls” was a documentary, originally filmed for Animal Planet.
You would think that this would make group a nightmare. And yet, it’s simply delightful! These girls are dying for a little respite from their daily torment. They are funny, sweet, and supportive of one another. All they can talk about is how they don’t want to be like their gossipy, mean peers.
“I mean, Monique was telling everyone that I gave that boy head. But she doesn’t tell them what she was getting up to with two different boys the night of parent teacher conferences!”
“Ugh, I know. Samantha is the same way. She told me that she’s bi, she’s getting it from everyone.”
“Did you hear that LaToya is pregnant? Because I heard that.”
It’s so ingrained, they just can’t shut it off. Teaching teen girls to discuss issues and ideas, rather than people and inappropriate sexual experience, is like trying to teach a cow to moo in Latin. It kind of goes against their nature.
13 year old: “Did you hear what Emily did with SpongeBob*?”
SocialJerk: “Before you tell us, is this gossip?”
13 year old: “No, it’s not gossip. I’m just saying what she did.”
SocialJerk: “OK, if we’re not gossiping, why do we need her name?”
13 year old: “Because she did it!”
SocialJerk: “Why do we need to know what she did?”
13 year old: “…I saw her do it.”
Yeah, we’ve got a ways to go. Simply saying “this isn’t gossip” does not mean that what you are saying is not, in fact, gossip. Don’t believe me? Try it as you cruise down the highway at 90 miles per hour, and see if you get a ticket. “No, this isn’t speeding!” We are not Jedi, we can’t do mind tricks.
Where do these girls get it from? Do they grow out of it? The future, sadly, does not give me tons of hope. Their mothers are also all too eager to share the exploits of the neighborhood girls.
“I mean, my daughter is bad, but you should see what my neighbor’s daughter gets up to! I think you know her, the family comes here too.”
This is why we need to have those all important confidentiality discussions. Early, and often.
I’ve even had to have them with my coworkers.
We all want to share the cute stories about our clients’ toddlers, who say funny things and give us (appropriate, Christian) hugs. We all need to vent about frustrating families.
But again, do we need names? Does everyone in the office need to know that Baby A was born with a positive tox screening? Is it critical that we all share that Teen B is transitioning from male to female?
strong-armed nicely asked to share a case for group supervision. So I did. I shared my most difficult case. The one that has been keeping me up nights and giving me an ulcer, something I previously thought would be reserved for my heavy drinking, truck driving grandfather.
We used only initials, at my boss’ insistence. But this is a small office. There was no doubt about to whom I was referring. I thought it could be handled properly, by a group of professionals.
Until later that day, when I heard, “Which hospital did Nameless Girl get admitted to, after she attacked her mom?” shouted to me from another office.
I try not to expect things from my clients that I myself cannot accomplish. Confidentiality is sacred to social work. It also goes against our impulses to share the funny, unbelievable stories we hear.
So let’s try to be better people. Hold ourselves to the standards I put forth for my teen girls.
And if that fails, get it all out through anonymous blogging.
*Note: All names have been changed. Except for the boy who goes by “SpongeBob.”