I’m not sure I’m done stewing over what I wrote about yesterday. See, I was done hurting over the lost friendships. Mostly because they were lost to me close to a year ago, and I’ve got no room for women who are close to forty, that behave like they are in seventh grade, in my life. I wrote these girls (to call them women insults the name of women) off the minute I saw eye-rolling behind my back, every time I spoke. At all. No matter what I said. Literally. Being really, really sick has a way of forcing perspective like that.
I’m not stewing over them; I’m stewing over the situation as an example of a larger problem: women. It’s the reaction that their (apparent) sudden stumbling upon my blog stirred up in them. And, it’s not even their specific reaction; it’s bigger than that. To say that I care what a couple of ill-tempered housewives think of me is really quite silly. I could not care less. Truly. It’d be silly, and grossly inaccurate to imagine that I’ve wasted a single second thinking of individuals in particular.
“Just because I don’t comment on everything that is going on in your life doesn’t mean that I didn’t see, don’t care or that I didn’t pray for you because I didn’t scream it from the roof tops and look for praise doing so.”
Many people who support do so quietly, without praise. Many meals came quietly. Many flowers, many cards, many notes, many rides, many bits of help, many words of encouragement. But, it’s telling that the first word my family heard from this family was this negative, public Facebook post. And, furthermore, that it attempts to deflect and diminish what others have done; others’ actions must mean less because anything done publicly was obviously, simply looking for praise. If the first thing someone says is something nasty (especially publicly), it’s hard to believe that they’ve been piously praying for me, and supporting me, for almost a year. I thought, instead, about all the others that this reaction attempted to diminish with deflection of responsibility. I thought about the, literally, hundreds of people who have supported me, both publicly, and mostly quietly.
I thought of every wonderful thing I've seen since I've been sick, and how concern and care does count, and how it would probably bum everyone, who's done something for me, out to think that some small-minded person dared to express that they did anything for me, merely for praise. So, for every individual who helped me, who cared for me: thank you. Again. I still stare at my cards on tough days. I still look at my handmade gifts. I still hold to kind words. How dare someone, in hopes of pushing blame from themselves, try to diminish someone else's good deeds. That's the lowest behavior I've seen, pretty much ever.
Like I said in my original post about prayer, and why I appreciate it, I think that when something like this happens, it’s so much easier, and more accurate, to look instead at what’s wrong with women. It’s much easier to believe that women are terrible. We certainly can be.
Examples like this are what make me think of the larger scheme. I think about women, in general. Why do we behave this way to one another? We talk a big game about how we support one another, how we care about the advancement of women, how we want to be friends, how we care; but, then the minute a woman in our social circle is somehow different than one of us, we roll our eyes, we whisper, we shun. Then, when we are challenged, we lash out like this; we pretend we are blameless; it must be the other person’s fault. Why?
This creates a vicious cycle, which the shunned woman self-perpetuates, and becomes the nasty things that she’s named behind her back. She thinks, “why don’t they like me anymore? I was fine six months ago? What’s changed?” For me, I wondered if it was because I went and got my master’s. Was it because I got a great job? Was it because we decided to send our kid to a different school than their children. So, I became too smart and tried to act dumb, or never talk about school, books, reading, or anything that indicated I had any education at all. In essence, I shut off my entire personality. I tried to pretend we didn’t make more money from my job; in fact, I never talked about one of the biggest aspects of my life, my students, or the joy my job gave me. I also tried to never talk about sending my son to private school, even though we did it because he has special needs, not because we were rich or fancy.
So, I became a stifled robot, afraid to reveal anything about myself, because I was afraid this is why I wasn’t liked anymore. This is what women do. I was encouraged, out of fear, to pretend I was someone I wasn’t, so I’d fit back in. This, my friends, is not women supporting women. This is not friendship. This is tyranny. This is horrible. This is shameful. And, I’ll never let it happen again.
It didn’t matter, because, bam! I was a snob. I was painted as better than them, in their minds. Everything I did, said and talked about, because it was part of my life, my experience, fit the narrative that had been created by catty women who had framed my story. If I had too much homework, and felt stressed, a natural complaint for a student, and hoped to be understood by her girlfriends, it became, “she thinks she’s so much better than us because she’s at school.” A gripe session about budget, where I chimed in about how we are similarly strapped because of our son’s school bills became “what a snob, with her kid in private school.” I was trapped in a box that I didn’t know was built around me.
It isn’t just me. It happens all the time. I’ve seen friends with legitimate businesses lose friends, for no real reason. The unspoken reason is that women can’t stand it when other women are successful at forging their own paths. I have heard women gripe about other women with booming businesses, that they built from the ground up, claiming they had to “hide” them from their Facebook feed, because it’s so annoying to see how hard they work, or that they just couldn’t stand to see all the posts from their business page. These are women who have forged into advertising, partnerships with other local businesses, radio, and more; but instead of support and encouragement, I hear my fellow women say it’s “annoying.”
However, we’re tolerant of success at shilling other people’s bullshit products; in fact, we embrace it. Hooray! I’ve made Flower Petal status selling stuffed lampshades, or sparkly water bottles (or whatever crappy product: cookie sheets, makeup, bags, candles, even lingerie!) for this amazing company; do you want to be part of my “team,” so I can go on a retreat where we hug it out and celebrate one another’s success (but really, it’s just blowing glitter up one another’s asses? But, the minute one of us creates something unique, develops our own path, or does something legitimately successful that doesn’t rest on someone else’s laurels or ideas, we not only shun them, as women, we find reasons to tear them down.
We can’t stand it when someone steps outside the standard norm. It seems like there’s a pattern: housewife is okay, but only if you have children. If you can’t have children, then that’s tolerated, but if you choose not to have children, you are shunned. In fact the next question is: did you consider adoption? If you are a businesswoman, or work outside the home, you are flat out, not accepted by the housewives and mothers. They wave and smile, and do the “pretend” acceptance thing that the popular girls in high school did; remember that thing that made you feel like shit because you knew they actually hated you, but they smiled anyway? Yeah, that. Working moms love everyone and are grateful to find anyone who accepts them.
We think we have friends, so we confide. We share. We talk. Then, one day, it changes, and you don’t know why. Everything you once shared is now ammunition to be used against you. You become someone you weren’t and aren’t, in the eyes of people you thought were your friends. And everything you say and do fits into a narrative that you didn’t create. You lose everything you thought you had, and your support system disappears. Eye rolls replace hugs. Whispers replace phone calls. Excuses replace invitations.
How did I know this happened to me? Well, for example, I was never asked to watch anyone’s children, despite repeated offers. I wonder why? Was there fear that someone’s daughter might get the crazy idea that she could go to, gasp, college? Was there fear that just by being near me, she might get the idea that she could, oh no, go to work?! Did people think that the minute they pulled out of the driveway, I was going to put on a Gloria Steinem documentary and start teaching her all about second wave feminism? Cue the dramatic music. Or, do you think it’s possible that I’d plunk her in front of Bubble Guppies and give her Goldfish crackers, just like you’d asked me to? I mean, honestly.
Is everyone this way? Is every mom that I’ve met this way? Is every stay-at-home mom terrible? Is every working mom this way? Of course not! But, I think that women being terrible to one another is the single most important thing holding us back from advancing to equality. We are the only thing holding ourselves back. We hurt ourselves with this kind of nonsense.
We say things behind screens, like the quote above that we’d never say to one another, in person. I am pretty sure of this because it was so passive-aggressive. If you aren’t proud of what you say, if you can’t stand behind it, don’t say it, especially publicly. Well, not me. Hop on a plane, come sit in my living room. I have no tolerance for bullshit, or for nasty women. Support one another or get the fuck out of my way, because I’m going places.
Sick, nor not, I’m not done yet. My star is still rising, and I’m not done changing the world. Part of that means riding myself of people who waste my time, and surrounding myself with women who are worthy of the title. Getting sick means that I have to weed down to what matters. Women who suck, they don’t matter, and I’ll waste no more time on them. They are easy to spot. If you've got a fake smile and a wave, and then you turn around and gossip about the woman who just walked away, I’m done with you. I don't care if her yoga pants were from Target and not from Lucy, and they were covered in dog hair. Bullshit comments, I'm done with you. Specific help and assistance when I need you, bring it on! And, I’ll bend over backward to help you, in any way that I can. We are all in this together, so let’s act like it.
Support means actually caring about one another's goals. It means helping when times are tough. It means listening. It means caring. It means giving a rat's ass. It means that when your girlfriend takes a step outside her comfort zone, you hold her hand and help; it means you are there, not to watch her fall, so you can laugh, saving up ammo to share with your favorite gossip-partner, but to hep guide her. Let's learn to be women, instead of catty girls.
In encourage all women to look around themselves, and within themselves. Are you supporting other women in your lives? Truly supporting them? When is the last time you bad-mouthed another woman, for a legitimate reason, to another woman? Was it legitimate, or did you fabricate it, because you just plain didn’t like her, and it snow-balled? When's the last time you rolled your eyes at another woman so she "almost" caught you? When was the last time you didn't include another woman in your social circle? Why did you leave her out? Be honest with yourself. Is it something you can't put your finger on, or because she never orders from your Pampered Chef catalog. When's the last time you had a conversation with your best friend that didn't center on that one woman you love to talk about?
In other words, when is the last time you acted like a woman, instead of like a girl? The sad part is some of us are raising daughters. We are telling them to grow up to be women. We are telling them to be kind and gentle, but also fierce and strong; but, they hear these conversations. The see this behavior. Women, be women. Show your daughters how to be women.