I quite enjoyed the movie Mean Girls. I didn’t see the Lindsay Lohan/Rachel McAdams hit for years, because I assumed it was some stupid teen comedy, but when I finally saw it a couple of years ago I liked it. I particularly enjoyed its insight into the social mechanics of teenaged girls. They plot, they scheme and they maneuver in a way that makes you say “It’s, like, Machiavellian.”
As it turns out, those behaviours never go away, as a great woman of my acquaintance just learned. She’s an independent and dynamic 88-year-old Scots woman who recently underwent some surgery, and has spent several weeks in a long-term care facility as she recuperates. It was felt that she needed to be near 24-hour care, and while she normally lives on a beautiful farm in central Ontario, she agreed to take the time she needed. We call her Mums.
On her first day, she was told there were two seatings for dinner. She picked the early seating. When she entered the dining room, using her walker (a temporary post-surgery requirement), a woman spotted her and pruned up. This busybody marched over to Mums, waggled a finger, and said: “You’re new!”
“Aye, that’s right,” said Mums, who has the finest Scottish accent you’ll ever hear, and looks 25 years younger than she is — in other words, just a little bit younger than the way Lindsay Lohan looks now.
“New people don’t get to come to the early seating,” Busybody said. “That’s for people who’ve been here a long time!”
“Well, I’m here and I’m hungry,” said Mums with a sniff. Mums’s sniffs have been known to make grown men cry. This one time, she sniffed as a police officer wrote her a speeding ticket; later, he quit the force and became a florist. Anyway, Busybody shook with anger as Mums ignored her and found her seat.
- (We’ve all known people like Busybody. Whether teenaged girls or older women, they’re a type of bully specializing in social stigma, rather than physical force. They want things their way, they have to be in charge, and they are very, very hard on newcomers.)
Before too long, Busybody joined Mums at her table, sitting beside her. “You can’t leave your walker beside the table,” said Busybody, her nose in the air. “You have to leave it over by the door. That’s the way it’s done.”
Mums turned and surveyed the 40-odd feet to the door, then turned back to Busybody. “If I leave my walker there,” she said, “I’ll never get back to the table!” Busybody huffed and hemmed and hawed, unable to counter this bit of obvious logic.
A while later, during the meal, Busybody suddenly stood up, reached over, and grabbed Mums’s purse from her lap. Mums’s hand shot out, and her iron grip locked onto Busybody’s wrist.
“Just what do ye think ye’re doin?” she asked.
“I’m just going to put your purse on your walker for you,” Busybody stammered.
Mums’s keen eyes locked onto Busybody’s, her gaze like a drill, and she delivered the line that has made her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren stand up and take notice for decades: “That’s enough o’ yere nonsense!”
Busybody sat down and shut up. That night, Mums made arrangements to take her meals in her spacious and lavish private rooms. On Sunday, she heads back to the farm, where she’ll be dancing and laughing and probably forgetting all about the little old lady who tried to bully her.
Some bullies never grow out of it. But it’s always fun to see them brought down a peg.