Reading Time: 5 minutes
Have you seen those shirts that say something like, “Black, Petty & Educated?” It’s kind of a trend now to be considered petty – or, at least to own your pettiness. I don’t know if there is a shirt that says “White, Petty & Educated…” (side chuckle), but if there is one… (well, I’ll keep that thought to myself).
Anyways, the whole thing with pettiness is that if you can do it “correctly,” you can be quite popular. It’s this odd juxtaposition that allows you to keep immaturity a centrality simply because your self-aware enough to promote it. Funny, right?
Gunny and, ironically enough, petty.
If you are anything like me, maybe you had the pleasure of having friends that started off the majority of their sentences with something like this:
“Hey, slut” “Hey, loser” “Hey, freaks” “Hey, fatties” “Hey, bitch”
It was one of those things girls do, right? No big deal. And, besides, if you said anything there would be that extra label across your forehead: SENSITIVE. Nobody, wants to be friends with the sensitive, can’t take a “joke” type of girl, so you’d deal with it…and internalize it…and say nothing. Until now.
I remember that my counselors would always advise saying something to the girl…but then you are the angry girl. Girl’s aren’t supposed to be angry. And, if you did decide to go that route – you would also lose your friends. The threat of becoming a social outcast far outweighed any emotional abuse. Especially, because, you know, girls are supposed to be nice. During an all-girls health class, our teacher specifically said something like this: “well, you girls are just so nice and stuff, that we already know you don’t fight…” There was this expectation that because we were girls, (and attended a Mennonite School) that all of the things that might affect “unsaved” girls, wouldn’t affect us. We couldn’t be petty and mean and aggressive because we all loved Jesus. Right?
I mean, Christian girls didn’t curse, or have premarital sex or get drunk or lie or steal or gossip. And, because this was the narrative, subsequent intentional administrative blindness was logical. You can’t see something your narrative doesn’t enforce.
But, all that was in the past, right? I mean, I graduated High School. Why does it even matter? Why bring up the past? Well, let’s start with two stories, and go from there.
It was one of those High School events that everyone went to, regardless of their interest level in the particular activity. You know, guys who you know only were into video games somehow came out of the basements because well, the need for a high school social community is ludicrously imperative.
Well, this particularly stupid High School Event was an ice-hockey game. I hate ice-hockey. I played field hockey, and it never felt quite right to me that guy’s got to play it on ice and girls were stuck with a hot, scratchy field. (Actually, that still kinda irritates me, but that is beside the point). The point is that I went with some girlfriends of mine, and I got stuck sitting next to a popular clique. I knew some of the girls in the clique better than others, and I could feel them staring at me and whispering when we sat down. (Here is not the time to say something like, “well how do you know they were talking about you?” Girls know when someone is talking. You just do).
These particular girls were adept at appearing innocent while simultaneously being your worst nightmare. That night, I was not their target. Another classmate of mine was because he had acne. The ring leader, let’s call her Anna, couldn’t stop talking about him all night, and I still remember what she said about how disgustingly ugly he was and how she just kept him around because she didn’t want to be mean, because I confronted one of her friends about it later…and she told Anna…and Anna made it her mission to destroy me.
But, she was the innocent one, you know. Because, she never said anything. I just made things up. I just lied because I was jealous. I just…wanted attention.
And wouldn’t you know it? All of my friends from that particular group stopped talking to me. It’s been 7 years.
Okay. Boohoo. Sad story. Yeah, I’ve heard everything from get over it to send her a letter and talk about it to stop bringing up the past. And, to be honest. I’ve moved on. I could say all of those trite little motivational pieces like, “I’m stronger now,” “she has nothing that I want…” etc.,
Except. They wouldn’t be entirely true. There is this ridiculous (and I hesitate to dub it this) girl magic that happens that when there is conflict, because somebody ends up being at fault. And usually, it is the victim.
So, classic manipulation tactics, right? But for some reason, this is the girls’ best friend and worst enemy. I’d bet that we’ve all used it to some degree or another. Maybe you’ve pulled the silent treatment…or maybe you’ve been subjugated to it.
Somehow, it all ends up the same. Somebody whispers,
“Are you mad at me?”
And somebody says, “no.”
Because, you know, girls don’t fight.
Enter story two. Present time. Navigating the crafty world of catty adults.
Donuts. Salad-loving, yogurt-only-eating women in an office. Oh, and me. You already know that I went for that donut. Not once. But lunch also loves a donut. So yeah, I went twice. I will own that.
And I’m guessing you already see the scenario…me, entering the office to get one…later coming back for a second…
And the watchful eyes.
And the comments.
Oh wait. The comments were delayed by a day. The next day when I went to eat salad for lunch, the comments started.
“Oh, I see you are eating a salad today. Is that to make up for the second donut you had yesterday?”
Okay. So maybe I’m blowing a gasket over nothing. The question was simple enough, right? No cattiness involved. And after all, these women are over fifty years of age and are a (C.h, a C.h.r.i.s.t.i.a.n…you’re welcome for that song now stuck in your head, you’re welcome). So, what to do? And what to do with all the comments for the rest of the year. You know the ones. “Oh….(long pause)….you’re eating again.” Or, “don’t you ever stop eating?” or, my favorite: “Oh, looks like you decided on a healthy choice today…”
Side note: never underestimate the power of going for a long, long walk into nature. And screaming. Releases tension.
So what to do? I’m not in High School. I don’t care what other people think…right? I’m adulting now! I am self-aware and responsible and…scared. Again.
Nobody can make me feel small, right?
But women go for each other’s throats, right?
They go for the weaknesses we try to hide. They go after the weight and the skin and the stutter and the tooth that is missing because you broke it trying to impress a boy.
They go for blood.
I’ve learned that women of all ages are insecure. It’s scary to celebrate one another’s successes. Actually, for real, it is hard to celebrate one another. But, I’m convinced that we can.
It’s hard to step out there and risk it. To draw your proverbial line in the sand and say, “this will happen NO MORE.” It’s hard, because we know the risks. But, what about the gain?
It’s easy to body shame, s—shame, and victim shame. It’s easy to hate and to hide behind lipstick smiles and false pretenses.
And, I’m done with the easy stuff.
Now, if you excuse me, I have a few bullies to slay.
(And maybe a few donuts too).
Peace always, (and curious regarding your own stories)