I recently had lunch with a friend who shared concerns about his daughter's school struggles. "Why are Junior High girls so mean? Seventh grade is like introductory level petty."

It was in seventh grade, when I had my first sleepover. I was beyond excited that Kim and Amy were going to spend the night. My mom was even allowing us to sleep in the living room instead of the bedroom I shared with my younger sister. Granted, we didn't have cable TV, or an Atari station, and my dad was kind of goofy, but these girls were my friends, so I didn't think those things mattered.

I had asked ahead of time what they would like to eat, and they said pizza. I only remembered ordering pizza once in my entire life. It was a luxury we couldn't afford. I mentioned it to mom, and without hesitation she said, "We can make homemade. It will be much cheaper."

Pizza of any kind was a treat, and I was glad mom had come up with this frugal solution.

When Kim and Amy came home from school with me, we rolled up our sleeves and got busy kneading the dough. Then dad fired up the old black and white television, and we watched Family Ties, Silver Spoons, and a couple of other sitcoms. We laughed and giggled late into the night, and mom only got onto us twice for being too loud. All in all, I considered my first sleepover to be a roaring success!

Monday morning, as I started up the back stairwell of our narrow, four-story, school building, voices floated down from the top floor.

"She is nice and everything, but that was the most boring night of my life," Kim stated.

"Yeah," Amy agreed, "I hope she doesn't invite me again. Could you believe that stupid joke her dad told?"

She repeated the joke, and the giggles of a gaggle of girls rang down the stairwell, peppered with phrases like, "No way! Did he really say that?" and "How totally embarrassing."

"The worst part," Kim continued, "we had to make our own pizzas, and watch black and white TV. And then we slept on this rickety, old, sofa bed. Seriously, I thought I might die from boredom."

My steps slowed as I listened to them continue making fun of my family, my home, and my apparent inability to throw a party. When I reached their gathering place on the fourth floor landing, they faltered slightly, and then regrouped, acting like they were my best friends. I smiled faintly, and forged ahead with life. I didn't need "best" friends, or sleepovers, or any of the other bull caca that goes with being a 13-year-old girl. All I needed was a good book, a typewriter with a fresh ribbon, and a Milky Way bar.

That's how I survived Junior High, and that's what I suggested to my friend. If your daughter is struggling with the mean girls, help her find and develop her personal interests. Give her something to be excited about that doesn't depend on the approval of a bunch of girls that are simply blips on the radar of her life. Finding solace in food was a bad habit, but the reading and writing paid off. I believe we each have something that we inherently enjoy, but it has to be discovered. Give your girl the gift of discovering new things; things that will broaden her horizon, and help her see that the world is much bigger than a four story stairwell. As her world expands, she will have a better chance of surviving Introductory Level Petty fairly unscathed.