• Resolving Problems

Mean Girls Grown Up: How Long Will This Bully Be At It?

Published: July 21, 2011 | Last Updated: August 29, 2022 By | 8 Replies Continue Reading

Whatever their age, mean girls can make someone’s life miserable. Because character endures, they are hard to change.


Dear Irene,

I had an issue with bullying in my neighborhood. My neighbor’s son would bully my younger sons and the neighbor and her best friend, both of whom are “mean girls,” would try to bully me. Finally, five years ago, I had a blow-up and cut these women out of my life, and I kept my children away from her son.

My problem is this: The bullying behavior keeps cropping up from time to time. Her daughter has rung my doorbell at night with friends and run away, and they’ve left prank phone messages for one of my sons.

The “mean girl” mother was in the PTA and prevented me from being a room mother and even lost some of my son’s paperwork for school. Her husband runs youth sports. This spring, her husband “lost” my youngest son’s paperwork for summer baseball tryouts so he never got to try out for the “A” team. Then the paperwork was found and he was assigned to the “B” team. There are many more examples but you get the gist of it.

I do not talk about this woman and her messed-up family to the general public. I do not involve her children. I make polite but brief conversations with the mother and father.

Why do these people continue to mess with my life?

This “mean mom” still seems mad that I cut her out of my life. Since this woman doesn’t like me, why would she want me in it? I just don’t get why this keeps happening.

Since I dropped her, I returned to school and am now in a satisfying and successful part-time career as a pre-school teacher. I get great feedback from my boss, co-workers, and parents.

I have moved on, why can’t she?

Signed, Hilary


Dear Hilary,

This sounds like a very angry and hostile woman whose kids have modeled their behavior after hers. Whatever their age, having to deal with mean girls in your neighborhood can be awful.

I think you are handling a bad situation as well as it can be handled. You’ve made great progress professionally while balancing a family and kids with your work.

My hunch is that if you and your family continue to ignore them, they’ll eventually grow bored and provoke someone else. It’s especially unfortunate that both the husband and wife have leadership roles in youth sports and the PTA, respectively, but they’ll probably burn their bridges before too long.

Character endures. If they are treating your family this way, they are probably doing it to others.

I hope you have good friends to help you through these difficulties.

My best, Irene

Other posts on The Friendship Blog about grownup bullies and mean girls:

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Category: Bullies

Comments (8)

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  1. EagleWings says:

    Hvrmom, I have to disagree with you slightly (and with respect).

    I think one has to take it on a case by case basis. I’ve found that behaving “classy” with some bullies (including adult ones) can work with some of them…

    But only if they’re reasonable and/or mature or have enough sense to feel ashamed when you call them out on their terrible behavior.

    Most bullies I’ve met (from the time I was a kid to the time I was an adult) are not like that, though. They only respect authority and getting beat down.

    The old chest nut about “ignore the bully, and she’ll grow tired of, or bored with, abusing you” never, ever worked for me – that advice did not work for me as a kid dealing with a kid bully, nor as an adult with an adult bully.

    Bullies never tire of harassing the same person repeatedly (and again, this has been true in my experience whether we’re talking about kid or adult bullies), as it’s a form or entertainment and a power trip for the bully, so they will not halt unless you make them halt.

    (I did kind of agree with you that the original writer should maybe ignore the bully in this case, if she senses the pay off for the bully is getting any kind of rise out of her, or any kind of attention. In that case, ignoring her might be the wisest choice.)

  2. Hvrmom says:

    I think that Irene’s point is not to let the bully know that you are bothered by her behavior. Bullies try to get a reaction from their targets. If you ignore, the bully will not get the reaction she wants. Sounds like the bully in the question is “up to her old tricks”, in addition to being vindictive and persistent. It is HARD to take the high road, especially when it takes such a long time. It doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat, just act with some class.

  3. Anonymoustoo says:

    So true. People who are self-centered, manipulative will remain the same, the bullying just become a little more subtle. They know how to play the game to get what they want and appear all warm and friendly, but deep down they are just using people for their own agenda. They will use exclusion for control. The only way to deal with it is to stop associating with these users. Move on and make new friends.

  4. margarets says:

    So true. My approach now is that one has to know how to bully back, and when it’s called for. There are times when being a reasonable, co-operative person is the least effective way to stop a bully, but being underhanded or mean or manipulative works a treat.

  5. EagleWings says:

    The original poster’s question:

    “Mean Girls Grown Up: How long will this bully be at it?”

    I don’t have any advice for the original poster’s specific problems with her adult bully neighbor, but as for the general idea of “when does bullying ever stop?”-

    From what I’ve witnessed, bullying never ends.

    I read an article several months ago about senior citizens who bully each other in retirement homes, for pete’s sake.

    The article interviewed people in their 60s and 70s who were being ostracized or picked on by other 60 and 70 year olds.

    One 60-something woman who was being harassed by other 60-somethings in a nursing home she had recently joined said it felt to her like high school all over again.

    She said the other women, the bullies, even had a “clique” going on and would yell at you if you tried to do things like sit at “their” table in the nursing home cafeteria.

    I was bullied a lot in junior high school and a little bit in senior high school.

    I always thought, “Once I get into college, I’m sure people will have matured, and there will be no more bullying!”

    I was wrong about that.

    While I did get occasional static from fellow college students, I also had college professors – these are supposed to be mature, professional people- in their 40s, 50s, harass me or behave rudely towards me (and they harassed other students too).

    So then I thought, “Well, okay, I’m sure the ‘real world’ will be so much better. I’m sure once I get my first real job, people will behave like adults in the workplace.”

    I was wrong on that account too.

    I was bullied by several different people on my first “real” job, mostly by a female supervisor who was in her 50s.

    I always assumed bullying was something only 10 to 16 year old kids do to one another, but no, it continues in college in your 20s, employment in your 30s and beyond, and even among senior citizens in retirement homes.

    • Kiki says:

      They are 10-16 years old emotionally…disturbing. I went to three class reunions and the same blankity-blanks were still throwing snotty words at people. The reality is those types rarely find peace. Happy New Year!

  6. Jill says:

    Just bought your book, cant wait to read it!

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