Nancy Wheeler in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
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There is a Nancy Wheeler in every school, and Margaret's is no exception. It's not that Nancy's bad per se, or even particularly unlikable. Heck, she's often quite nice and she makes a point of coming over to welcome Margaret to the neighborhood shortly after she moves in. But there's a bit of sourness bubbling right below Nancy's sweet surface, and it doesn't take long for us to see it.
When Nancy comes over to introduce herself to Margaret, she invites her back to her house to run through the sprinkler. When Margaret can't find her bathing suit—she's just moved in, after all, and there are boxes everywhere—Nancy says she can borrow one of her. Nice enough, right? But check out this exchange while Margaret's changing in Nancy's room:
Nancy gave me the creeps the way she sat on her bed and watched me. I left my polo on until the last possible second. I wasn't about to let her see I wasn't growing yet. That was my business.
"Oh, you're still flat." Nancy laughed.
"Not exactly," I said, pretending to very cool. "I'm small boned, is all." (2.33-35)
Margaret is very clear about how Nancy's gaze makes her feel—creeped out—and once Nancy opens her mouth to speak, it's clear that Margaret is right to feel this way. These two literally just met, and Nancy is mocking Margaret's body. It's a bold and hurtful move, and that Nancy plays it off as sort of a joke—she laughs while saying it, after all—only makes it trickier for Margaret to navigate.
Not sure why the laughter makes Nancy's comment trickier for Margaret? Think about it this way: When someone says something mean to you, and they use a mean tone while doing so, their intentions are clear: they're definitely trying to hurt you. But when someone masks their meanness as a sort of joke, they don't take responsibility for their intentions, which means you are then in a position of both having your feelings hurt and having to assert that their intentions are mean-spirited. In other words, hiding mean comments behind friendly jokes is pretty darn manipulative.
Leader for Life
And the thing about Nancy, of course, is that this is generally how she rolls. Nowhere is this clearer than during PTS meetings, where Nancy subtly manipulates Margaret and the other club members into letting her run the show. And how does Nancy make sure no one else tries to take the lead? By making sure the other girls feel badly about themselves. Check it out:
When Gretchen helped herself to six Oreos at once Nancy asked her how much weight she'd gained over the summer. Gretchen put back four cookies and said, "Not much." (5.1)
It's an indirect dig—Nancy never mentioned the Oreos—but it also very clearly communicates distaste in Gretchen's appearance and makes the poor girl feel self-conscious. And someone who feels badly about themselves isn't likely to try to take over Nancy's post as leader of the pack.
Nancy tries to control the PTS's throughout the book. Can you find other examples?
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Oh, Nancy. Don't you know that lies always get found out? Nancy—like Margaret and the other PTSs—is pretty obsessed with getting her period. They're all super curious to know what it's like, and eager to grow-up a bit more. So it makes sense that when Nancy finally gets hers, she sends Margaret the following postcard:
I GOT IT!!! (15.79)
After all, these girls have promised to tell each other, and done some serious commiserating about how badly they want their periods to start, so it's only natural that Nancy would tell Margaret as soon as possible once she gets hers.
Except that she hasn't actually gotten it. Which Margaret discovers when Nancy really does get her period for the first time and bursts into tears about it in the bathroom stall next to Margaret. Oops.
Nancy tries to play it off like she was mistaken about starting her period, but Margaret sees right through her. And while she's super surprised, she reorients herself pretty quickly. Check it out:
Are you there God? It's me, Margaret. Nancy Wheeler is a big fake. She makes up stories! I'll never be able to trust her again. I will wait to find out from you if I am normal or not. (17.42)
And just like that, Nancy is dethroned as Margaret's BFF. No longer will Margaret worry too much about what Nancy says and thinks—God is who she'll be turning to, thankyouverymuch.
Nancy Wheeler in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Study Group
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