I’ve been working on this post for weeks. I’ve rewritten it approximately 30 times, trying to make my point without hurting feelings, stepping on toes or describing scenarios in too much detail. I’ve also given up and walked away half a dozen times when negative emotions got the best of me and I’ve contemplated abandoning it altogether. However, I write about my thoughts and my life for a reason – to stay sane – and this has been on my mind for too long to just let it go without first letting it out.
Therefore, at the risk of offending, angering, hurting, etc. ladies I know, I’m going to write about this and get it out anyway and then I’m going to let it go and get on with life.
I finished high school 20 years ago and, at the time, it felt as though I’d escaped from years in Hell.
On the surface, I probably seemed fairly “normal” to people – good student, good athlete, well-known, funny. However, anyone who knew me really well (like my mama) knew that I was very good at pretending to be someone else.
The truth: I was a really good student and a darn good athlete and I had a fantastic home life, but I was also ridiculously insecure and I severely lacked the social skills needed to deal with high school bullshit…and by bullshit, I mean hanging out in large groups of teenage girls. I was just a girl who wanted so desperately to fit in with the cool crowd that I allowed myself to be the punching bag of a few of the “cool” girls, just so they’d let me hang out with them, and I hid the pain of it behind goofball antics and false bravado, loud and obnoxious behaviour and humour.
The girls I hung out with were popular and pretty and oh so cruel. Some days they would “allow” me to hang out with them if it was convenient for them or if their other, cooler friends weren’t around and they needed to make their posse look larger. Other days, when they were feeling particularly nasty, they would purposely alienate me by making a point of excluding me from their elaborate plans, blatantly telling me they didn’t want to hang out with me, walking into a room where I was and obviously turning their backs on me and sitting elsewhere, leaving me to walk home while they all piled into someone’s car, or just plain being total bitches to me and embarrassing me or hurting my feelings on purpose.
To deal with the constant stress of being accepted and then rejected on a whim by these girls, I did what girls do – gave into my insecurities and turned around to dish out the same sort of ridiculous crap to other girls who were just like me and were just trying to fit in with the “cool” people. To this day, I regret not catching on to what was happening to me and I regret that I fought the crap by dishing out more of it. I also forgive myself for it.
I look back on it now and laugh at my stupidity and how much time I wasted on those girls when I could have spent my time hanging out with the girls I actually liked – the ones who were nowhere near the popular crowd and were genuinely nice people – and spent my time enjoying my high school years instead of constantly hiding my insecurities and trying to be someone who I was not. Now it is obvious to me that some of the girls who were the cruelest to me were also ridiculously insecure – jealous of my athletic ability and my brain, etc.
Years later, in university, I was talking to one of my friends about an experience she had that was similar and I told her that we were possessed by the High School Monster – the beast that feeds on the insecurities of the female species, when they congregate in large groups, and then shits out large piles of cruelty, nastiness, lies, deceit, manipulation and other types of negativity.
The High School Monster’s powers grow stronger the larger the group of girls it gets a chance to feed on and it’s most powerful magic is the ability to exaggerate their insecurities and multiply them exponentially.
For example: Girls who have a tendency to gossip start spreading it like it’s the butter on the bread of their social lives; girls who feel socially awkward make fun of other girls in an attempt to divert attention from their own awkward tendencies (which probably don’t exist in the first place); Girls who are confident become arrogant and obnoxious; Girls who are have a hard time making and keeping friends become master manipulators, pathological liars, etc. and do anything in their power to get other girls on their sides so they don’t feel so alone; Girls who are bossy become oppressive and brow beat others relentlessly to get their own way, etc.
The result of the Monster is a group divided into a bunch of factions, all competing with the others, all vying for the top of the shit pile, all breeding negative energy and spreading it like wildfires.
It doesn’t matter how many nice, kind, caring, awesome, genuine, likeable ladies there are in a group, either, when the Monster sinks its teeth in, the few bad apples overshadow everyone else with their negative energy and even the good ones find themselves caught up in its machinations.
I honestly thought I’d escaped the Monster for the last 20 years and it felt really great. I was actually starting to think that I was mature enough, strong enough, confident enough and logical enough to avoid ever falling into the Monster’s jaws ever again now that I am so much older and wiser.
Not so much.
The Monster is found anytime large groups of women spend a significant amount of time together – whether in a work environment, a charity organization, a quilting circle, a mommies group, or a sports organization – Roller Derby, for instance!
When more than a handful of women find themselves all together, everyone’s insecurities bubble up to the surface and all hell breaks loose. Gossip, backstabbing, douchebaggery, manipulation, lies, and blatant disrespect ensue in spades and the Monster grows fatter and the piles of crap grow.
Recently, one of my derby peeps was telling me about a show she was watching about the nature of women and how we are basically bred from birth to compete with our own species. When another girl (or woman) walks into the room, we instantly size her up – size, attractiveness, clothes, makeup, etc. – and, based on those first few seconds of seeing her, a thousand judgements run through our brains as we compare ourselves to her. If we find we are lacking, we instantly make her an enemy (or at least keep her cautiously at arm’s length because Egads! she is so much better than we’ll ever be in our own eyes) regardless of the fact that she may be one of the nicest people we will ever meet.
This is bullshit, immature behaviour, severely lacking in intelligence and forethought.
A few years ago, The Dilettante wrote this on her blog:
Basically, women need to stop worrying about other women and get on with their own lives. Maybe we’ll begin to be competitive about things that count: like our careers, how much time we spend on ourselves and our families, and how much self-esteem we have. Maybe we’ll stop trying to be better than each other and start trying to be the best possible version of ourselves – whether or not we’re wearing Prada, or have an IQ of 146, or have a rich husband, or the best boob jobs, or wear a size 0.
Hating other women is exhausting. I spent the larger part of my life doing it – from age 13 to 35. This year, I’m turning 36, and I’ll be damned if I waste one single second more of my life on worrying about what other women think of me. I don’t care if it costs me $4000 in therapy bills to do it; I’m kicking the habit for good.
Because, just like my grandmother once warned me, if I see life as a competition, I’m bound to lose. Someone is always going to be prettier, smarter, funnier, taller, shorter, skinnier, faster, or richer than me. With 6 billion people on earth, I expect she was right. I’ll never be the “best” at anything. But maybe, just maybe, I can learn to be OK with that fact.
Cassandra George Sturges also wrote:
A woman’s perception of self-worth is validated outside of herself from others and this affects her internal psychological concept of her own value as a human being. Women compete indirectly with other women because they have not learned how to recognize and channel their internal desires, feelings and goals into physical, tangible realities.
I’ll be turning 37 in a month and, like The Dilettante, I refuse to spend one more second being chewed up and shit out by the High School Monster. From now on, when someone starts to gossip to me, I’m going to shut her down by walking away or by telling her to go tell someone who gives a shit. And, if I hear someone shit talking another person, I’m going to walk away or politely ask them to shut the hell up. When I see ladies forming into their little snotty cliques and ignoring others, I’m going to make a point of talking to and acknowledging anyone in the room who I can see is feeling left out or left behind. Basically, the only way to shut the Monster down is to make a conscious effort to do so whenever I enter into a large group. Maybe, just maybe, if one person starts to do it, others will catch on and follow suit and, before we know it, the Monster will be reduced to an ugly, football-sized, deformed Chihuahua who is merely nipping at the heels of insecurities of the past.
Something I’ve been imagining lately – to prevent me from letting my inner, judgmental bitch come out at will – is that every conversation I have is being recorded and that there is a chance that the recording will be played later to the person I’m talking about. This is a very good way to keep your nastiness in check. If I wouldn’t say what I’m saying to that person’s face, then I am making a huge effort not to let those comments pass my lips in the presence of others.
Whatever the case, if you are a woman and if you spend any amount of time in a large group of your same sex, this post is probably either pissing you off or hitting a note inside you. If it’s pissing you off, that’s most likely because the truth hurts (Wake the hell up. Stop being so self-righteous and try to be honest with yourself, at the very least) and if it’s hitting a note, it’s probably because you’re mature enough to admit that there is always room for improvement!
Happy Friday everyone. I wish you all enough…