Mean Girls

A couple of weeks ago I took my daughter Elvira and my 2-year-old granddaughter Coraline to our local science museum to spend a snowy afternoon. It was Coraline's first time there, but Elvira and I were far more excited about going than she was. We were sure we knew what she'd like best -- the live animals -- because that's what we like best.

Turns out the science museum has a Cassano's pizza play area, with a kitchen with Cheeto-orange strings of felt for cheese, little tables to serve the fake pizza, and even a delivery truck. We had to walk right by it on our way to the animal area. Once Coraline saw that truck, she couldn't even enjoy the otters and the skunk and the bats. We finally gave up and took her back out to the giant Cassano's advertisement. (Don't even get me started on the educational value of making fake pizza with felt cheese instead of making real pizza together in a real kitchen. I will rant so hard.)

When we go to the truck, another little girl who was probably 4 had already claimed the driver's seat. She motioned for Coraline to climb up beside her, and even helped her up, but she was obviously in charge of the steering wheel and pedals. She directed Coraline to move one gear shift up and down, but Coraline was happy just to sit there swinging her legs and watching the other girl frantically manipulating the machinery.

It was sweet, the two of them playing in the pizza delivery truck. Boring, compared to real live animals, but sweet.

Until the other girl -- I'll call her Mean Girl -- decided Coraline was no longer welcome in her truck, and started pushing her off the seat. I was on alert, ready to intervene, but Coraline didn't seem to mind. She allowed the pushes and crawled down from the truck. I hoped she was ready to move on anyway. 

Once Coraline was on the floor though, she decided she really needed to deliver more pizza. She had just started to climb up when Mean Girl leaned over, glared at her and said, "Stay down. I. will. cut. you."

Her words took a few seconds to register. I turned to Elvira, and I'm sure she had the same puzzled expression on her face that I did. "Did she say what I thought she said?" Elvira asked.

"I think so," I said. "She said, 'I will cut you.'"

"That's what I thought." We raised our eyebrows at each other. I have no doubt anyone observing would know we were mother and daughter.

I glanced over at Mean Girl's mother, who was sitting at a little table staring at her phone. I had not seen her even look at Mean Girl the entire time we'd been there.

"I don't think we should allow her to threaten Coraline like that," Elvira said. "What are we allowed to do?"

"I think we should just ...."

As I was answering, Coraline's head had popped up over the seat, and Mean Girl leaned over right into her face, bared her teeth as far as they would go, and let out a long, fierce, rather terrifying for a 4-year-old, series of growls and snaps of her teeth. She included Elvira and me in her rabid glare. I flashed back to The Exorcist and felt a chill crawl down my spine.

I grabbed Coraline's hand and tugged her back beside me. She seemed puzzled, but not upset.

Elvira hissed in my ear, "What the fuck? How old does somebody else's kid have to be before I can get in her face and tell she's being a little fucking bitch, and she'd better back the fuck off my kid? Can I do it now?"

I glanced over at Mean Girl's mom again, but she still had her face in her phone. I guess reading her Facebook feed trumped paying attention to her vicious little demon daughter.

"Seems like any time she threatens to cut your child, she's old enough for an intervention, "I said. "You do it though. I'm afraid of her. She probably has a pizza cutter, and she seems to know how to use it."

Mean Girl was back to violently steering the pizza delivery truck, perfectly mimicking real pizza delivery drivers. I could imagine her delivering her pizza with the felt strips of garish orange cheese, and threatening to cut the customers if they didn't give her a tip. She glanced over at us and glared, but apparently we weren't close enough to warrant growling or cutting.

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