We can all relate to this scenario; a cute boy enters the room, the circle of friendly women sipping tea from 5 minutes ago have turned into ferocious, blood thirsty lions. Our attack shows no boundaries, “Look at Susie’s outfit, WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?” The fangs sink in for the kill, “And would you look at the weight she’s gained.” We then carry her beaten and defeated in our mouths and drop her limp body at the foot of our prize cute boy, who we have now exaggerated to be a Brad Pitt lookalike. Victorious, we wipe the blood from our lips. What is it that turns sane, civilized women into nothing more than foolish mean girls?
I think most of us can smile at the cute boy scenario. But does it stop there, the immature bullying of schoolgirls across the lunchroom table manifests into social complexities far deeper and dangerous as we mature. Have we not all felt pangs of jealously when a flawless woman crosses the room, turning all heads. The type of woman who effortlessly has it all; the face, body, job, boyfriend, clothes, personality, and maybe even the perfect name, yes Scarlett just seems to have it all. Don’t we all know one of these woman, and secretly don’t we all want to find that flaw?
Men in comparison have seemingly uncomplicated, laid back friendships. A man asks a man, “Do I look fat in these jeans?” (firstly this question would never be asked any sane, heterosexual man, buts lets just pretend). Response: “Yes those jeans look hideous.” A woman asks a woman “Do I look fat in these jeans?” Response: “Those jeans look fabulous,” it doesn’t matter that you can’t get the zipper up and you just split a seam trying to bend over.
Is it our natural state of mind to behave this way; is it in our genetics?
The leaps and bounds women have made since the days of being burned at a stake for wisdom being confused with witchery, yet we still find ourselves burning each other at every opportunity. What is left standing in the way of women truly being equal to men? Well……isn’t it just, ourselves?
In my earlier years having felt the sting of betrayal from a few close women in my life, I kept most girls at arm’s length, with a guarded suspicion. It was safe to say I didn’t possess a green thumb when it came to cultivating meaningful relationships with women; the idle gossip drowned the seeds, the incessant complaining burnt the leaves, and the constant competition finally pulled the root from the ground. I flourished amidst male friendships, drinking in the humor and simplicity.
Many twists and turns have occurred since I was an 18-year-old immature girl and luckily I have been able to carefully harvest a few deep and meaningful friendships. But it was ultimately the general segregation and loneliness from the majority of women that led me to the “book club.” As I entered my 30’s I began to truly understand the importance of your gal pals, realizing that I couldn’t possibly expect my partner or best friend to fulfil all the complicated layers of being a woman, I began to feel bouts of sadness at my disconnection from the women species.
We’ve all had the single friend who upon entering a new relationship quickly disappears, mistakenly believing that her friends no longer serve purpose. Let’s fast-forward this scenario; for the first year or two she may feel worthwhile, happy, excited and complete. But slowly frustration will build, fights ensue. Her partner becomes equally frustrated with unreasonable expectations. Let’s be honest have you ever tried to discuss PMS with your partner or male friends, I hope you’re not expecting a validating response. This scenario goes for all relationships, including family, children and friends. Discussing your depression over your mother’s death with your child is likely not beneficial; they lack the wisdom or life experience to truly comfort you.
Putting too much expectation for complete fulfillment on any one relationship ultimately suffocates it, that’s why we need our gal pals, and we need a few different types. We need the friend who has known us since childhood, who remembers our first kiss, acne and bad outfits. We need the work out buddy, the spiritual cohort, the funny friend, the trusted co-worker, maybe the level-headed ally; your list of friends might look different, depending on your own personal interests. Or maybe you have one or two great pals who fill a number of different needs; whatever the case, our girlfriends help us grow and cope (and 800 Facebook friends, 750 of them being people you might duck from in the mall doesn’t count). Even though I still value my uncomplicated male relationships, I realized how much I needed women in my life and my goal was to unwrap the stigma and negative layers to feel a renewed and unsuspicious love of women.
So the “Mean Girls Book Club” (MGBD) began. Our nickname didn’t take long to form, where there are 8 girls, naturally came squabble, natter and gossip. The fact that we quickly named ourselves the mean girls books club showed an impressive insight into our already expanded knowledge of the intricacies’ of the women’s stereotype, or what I would call ‘the cute boy syndrome’. What I find even more interesting is that
by verbalizing these traits it takes their power away, it takes the seriousness and vindictiveness out of the behaviour. Yes Sherri you picked another bad book, can we try to move away from Canadian post war fiction? (I strongly don’t recommend, In the Skin of a Lion or The Sense of an Ending.) Except we don’t mean it in a serious or mean way; we are being playful, we are joking, oh my goodness it just hit me, we are behaving like men.
In naming ourselves the mean girls book club it also makes a statement, we aren’t going to pretend to be nice, (something we are all guilty of); in an effort to minimize cattiness we set rules, yes we have book club rules; miss reading three books in a row, well it might be time to take a break until you can commit, having trouble getting through 100 years of solitude, well at least give it the 100 page rule. We were off to a good start.
Our book club meetings (or group therapy sessions) not only provide an emotional outlet that is unobtainable through any other relationship but it also boosts our endorphins, results in lower levels of cortisol – a stress hormone, wards off depression, boosts self-esteem and gives us a sense of belonging and support. As the seasons change from brisk fall nights to warm summer days, we read our way through books that discuss women’s rights, families, world issues, spirituality, personal triumphs and of course, the heated discussion of ‘mothers’ – for better or worse. We explore and discuss these themes with fevered passion, looking at the characters through a lens of logic and intelligence, but also relating and sharing the parallels of our own personal experiences.
Through turbulent or smooth life changes we continue reading, we’ve seen marriages, pregnancies, breakups, job losses, major moves (we miss you Claudia) death and disease. We have giggled through faux pas sex parties (thanks Meghan), danced the night away with birthday cake vodka flowing through our veins and jello shooters in our pockets, literally (thanks Crystal and Rachel) and we’ve spent Sunday afternoon huddled in the living room laughing hysterically at Pony tail Derek while watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower (thanks Laura). I can’t speak enough of the incredible talents I’ve learned and/or respect about all of these women, from yoga (thanks Cat), spirit realms (wow Meghan) to cake decorating (amazing Sherri), and I’m excited to learn more about newcomers (welcome Crystal B). Although I still admire the uncomplicated nature of male relationships; it has evolved from an envious desire to a twinge of sympathy that once the party is over they will never experience this form of true support and understanding. It’s therapeutic, and I recognize all these ladies not as enemies but as the main character and hero in their own book of life.
My journey in learning about these 8 amazing women that make up the Mean Girls Book Club has inspired me to want to break free of the mental conditioning we are all bound to, we can behave differently. I can feel the layers of suspicion beginning to slough off. Human’s are essentially all the same, we all just want to be happy, we are all concerned with our body image, our jobs, our emotional needs and our health. Next time we feel the urge to immediately judge someone it might be worthwhile to remember they are just like you, fighting to find happiness to the best of their ability with the skill set they possess.
Those that argue that gossip can bring people together and help set societal norms are wrong; there is no question, gossip hurts. It gives rise to rifts in families and friendships, low job morale, wasted time and productivity. It continues its ripple effect and feeds delusions such as anxiety, anger, self grasping and pride; ultimately it paints an illusion of separation.
“I never say anything about anyone that isn’t good,” and then, leaning over as if to whisper in your ear, he would add, “and, boy, is this good!” Usually followed by something really juicy. – The Buddhist’s guide to gossip by Nancy Taylor
Gossip projects expectations on others, expectations that come from a mind of negativity and judgement. It commands a lot of should and should not’s. When we gossip we zone in on traits we deem to be negative, our mind exaggerates and embellishes these traits to the extent that you can no longer see any positive traits. “I can’t believe her, the nerve of Laura, she is ‘ALWAYS’ late, no respect for anyone’s time.” Next thing you know Laura is nothing but a horrible and disrespectful jerk. We have forgotten that Laura is the first person to call if you are sick or sad, and although she may be late she always shows up, smiling, positive and truly funny. (My apologies Laura we all know you would NEVER be late).
Having said all this, being creatures of habit every now and then the gossip creeps in much like a spider sliding down a newly created web of silk into mid-air, it infests and spreads. So how can we squash the web of gossip before it engulfs us? Simply being aware that you are gossiping is a great first step. Begin to study the mind and decipher the true motives behind your words. Before you speak begin a practice of asking yourself, why am I saying what I am about to say? Upon studying my own mind I have realized some startling revelations. For example saying a statement such as;
“Did you see poor Jackie’s haircut?” Do I need validation, because while my hair might not be perfect, AT LEAST it doesn’t look like that! This is insecurity.
A comment to a co-worker, “Can you believe Allison said that in the meeting today” am I trying to create a bond by separating ‘us’ from her?
Feeling sad about the winds of change and clinging to a notion of permanence might manifest in judging a friends decisions,“Can you believe Leah is going to leave everything behind and move to Florida?” when really we just want to say, I’m going to miss her so much.
Whatever the mix of words may be the ingredients are always fear, desire for validation, grasping to attachment and permanence, anger, boredom, insecurity and jealousy. While we may experience a slight rush, a feeling of belonging when we gossip, none of these delusions will finally make us happy; the poison will spread and destroy the delicate webbing of friendship. Why not start to examine our true motives and start the process of making ourselves better friends. And if you must talk trash, well at least give yourself a time limit, one to two minutes should be suffice.
Although acceptance is important, that does not mean that certain friendships are not toxic and may no longer serve you beneficially. If you find yourself in a constant challenging relationship it might be time to remove that person from your life; if you can not remove them from your life (the dreaded mother in law) then practice patience, difficult people are here to teach you. Try envisioning loving the good qualities of that person, the mind is everything, change our perceptions, change the relationship.
“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind” –Buddha
If the women species truly wants to be equal to our male counterparts we need to abolish our gossip and meanness. I say this with a realization this is an encompassing generalization and although many men partake in petty gossip, it is a predominantly women based past time. Coming from a suspicious, skeptical viewpoint I have renewed hope that if one little group of 8 women can work towards communicating in harmony that groups of women everywhere can follow suit. Envision the change this would invoke throughout the workplace, thanksgiving dinner table, school events and yes even in the presence of our gossip kryptonite; a cute boy.
It fills me with deep meaning to envision our book club, old and grey, sipping tea, reminiscing on our journey’s through life with continued support and kindness. As we all ride our bumpy magic carpets through life, the view for each of us is much different, but our circle remains a constant through our ever-changing journey. Women are not our enemies, they are our friends, teachers, mothers, sisters, bosses and co-workers. They are you.
A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be. – Douglas Pagels