I have always been an extremely particular person. I stopped eating meat and dairy when I was eight because I found the texture (of all those many foods) abhorrent. I become a total monster if left in extreme weather (“extreme” meaning temperatures on either side of 73*). People eating loudly or having loud personal conversations in small places or whipping their long hair around in lecture halls (this was the bane of my college experience) make me crazy. Essentially, I am a nice, normal person unless forced to deal with the personal business of strangers. Unfortunately for everyone around me, the list doesn’t not end there.
Recent annoyances include:
First, Facebook friends in medical school who post graphic photos of ailments or procedures. Look guys, I managed to complete two years of forensic anthropology graduate school, taking classes like forensic pathology and working at the Coroner’s office and learning all kinds of impressively gross stuff, without ever once posting a disturbing picture onto a social networking site. If I could do it, so can you. We are all super impressed with you and your growing medical knowledge. Please refrain from uploading photos of infants with internal bleeding to your profile. I don’t need that crap on my newsfeed.
Second, the fact that no one watches Survivor anymore and therefore there is no one who understands my very real and very warranted love for Malcolm. I’ve resorted to discussing it with my husband, which is, to quote a certain toddler I know, “not cool, man.” (Wanted: blogger who also watches the show and wants to have deep talks about how Malcolm is the best.)
And third (and most poignant), gossip amongst women. My experience with this includes but is not limited to: I currently teach at a small school where the female to male staff ratio is 17 to 1; I just came out of a graduate program that had zero men enrolled; and (spoiler alert!) I was born a girl and have been dealing with it since puberty. In all of the extremely varied social situations I’ve encountered in my life, there has always been gossip. There has always been social competition between women. And people have always explained it away with a sigh and a shrug, saying, “Ugh, girls, right???”
Translation: it’s okay that we single out others or enumerate their faults or laugh at their mistakes (all while pretending to be their friends when they’re around), because we’re girls and that’s just what girls do.
And on this I called bullshit. This is not what girls do. This is not some innate female coping mechanism. We as women are conditioned from our infancy to be the prettiest, the smartest, the most well-liked, and to accomplish this while remembering to say our pleases and thank-yous and I’m-sorrys. We must be the best and also the nicest. If I wrote a dictionary of colloquial phrases, the definition of “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” would be a picture of a 16-year-old girls volleyball player. At the risk of sounding like a motivational poster, women are taught to be apart from each other, as opposed to being a part of a functional group. We are faced with tearing other women down before they do the same to us.
As a teenager, I often envied my younger brother, who handled disagreements with friends by telling the offenders that they were being offensive or by wrestling them to the ground. Obviously I am not advocating the use of physical violence for problem solving. However, there is an honesty in the aggression of young male conflict resolution that is entirely missing from the repertoire of women. If you tell someone to their face that they are being an obnoxious jerk, you are no longer the nice, tolerant saint you are meant to be. Better to jam down the rage and tell your friends about her stupid shoes over drinks later. She’ll still like you, you’ll get to vent and your friends will think you have super awesome taste. However, in addition, you will be feeding into a cycle of mistrust and anxiety that only makes it more likely you’ll problem solve this way again. Great job!
I am absolutely guilty of this. I have been frustrated, I have been angry, I have talked a bunch of crap behind my friends’ backs while smiling at their faces. I have been beastly. However, I am also a sentient being with the ability to learn from my mistakes. And I’m 26 years old. And the last thing I want now is to have to participate in the cycle anymore.
To my dear girl friends: I solemnly swear to be honest with you, even if it’s uncomfortable or upsetting. We both deserve it.
Now let’s all take a breath and stare at Malcolm for a second: