Friday, January 27, 2012

When Mean Girls Grow Up

It is only after much soul searching, praying and reading that I feel ready to write my thoughts on this subject. As a general rule, I try to do those 3 things (pray, read, reflect) before I write about any subject but especially one that I may feel emotional about. This is one of those.

Mean Girls is one of my favorite movies and the cast is AMAZING. Tina Fey, who happens to be one of my favorite writers (she is amazingly talented) put this incredible screen play together based on a book called "Queen Bees and Wannabees" by Rosalind Wisemen. It is funny and charming and most of all it really sends a good message. It's one of the movies I can watch over and over again... and thinking back to middle school and high school days, it is one that I can definitely relate to.

Female relationships have always been challenging for me. For as long as I can remember, it is by female friends that I have experienced the most rejection, betrayal, hurt, and ironically enough the most joy, sisterhood, and fun. It is precisely because the relationships between girls can be so rewarding, that they can also be the most challenging. It is for some a great mystery (especially men) and I assure you, I have worked hard to wrap my head around it and prayed hard to overcome it.

The movie Mean Girls is probably the last thing you would think of regarding friendships between intelligent, professional, mature adult women but I will say right here and right now (from experience) it is not too far fetched. Sure, we aren't parading down school hallways anymore, but we are in offices, houses of worship, mom groups, and social gatherings. The mean girls - the Queen Bees and Wannabees have GROWN UP and now they are just mean women.

I've been reading excerpts of the book "Mean Girls Grown Up" by Cheryl Dellasega and it is incredibly thought provoking. So much of what she has to say resonates with me that I don't know where to start but let me start here: Cheryl says that these "mean girl" behaviors are called female relational aggression or RA. She calls RA "the subtle art of emotional devastation that takes place every day at home, at work, or in community settings. Unlike openly aggressive men, women learn early on to go undercover with these assaults, often catching their victims unaware."

What is RA? (from chapter 1)
Whether or not you're a mother, you probably understand these scenarios intuitively: the girl who gets excluded from a crowd she previously belonged to; the newcomer who fails to be accepted by other girls no matter what she does; the girl who is somehow different and targeted for that reason; or the popular Queen Bee, who buzzes from place to place spreading discomfort and manipulating others with her words. Sounds pretty juvenile, doesn't it?
She classifies women into three categories and explains that they can switch between these three at different times or circumstances in life.

Queen Bees
These women are at the top of the RA chain, exerting their authority and jealousy protecting their power. At some point or another in life, we have all taken on the role of  Queen Bee. Deciding who and who NOT to include when planning a party, "venting" to a friend or two or three about another female friend, rallying the support of others when we feel threatened by someone. These behaviors come from all different places but I assure you, the "Queen Bee" is the most insecure of them all. She is not sure of who she is or where she is in life ... she subconsciously pushes other women down, emotionally excludes them and it makes her feel just a little better about herself.

Middle Bees
In my opinion, these are the most dangerous of the bunch. Often the Middle Bee is the woman who gathers information and spreads gossip, and sometimes she simply does nothing to stop the aggression she witnesses. "The Middle Bee's position of non involvement can be used… to turn her into an accomplice." This is my blog so I will be honest -- I have encountered many, many Middle Bees in my life. It's the girl who says nothing when others are gossiping about me, offers neutral comments or changes the subject. She is not technically participating in the slander but she does nothing to stop it. This is the girl I have the most difficulty trusting. It is also the girl I have many times allowed myself to be. Here's what I've learned -- if you are speaking negatively about one of my friends, I will kindly ask you to stop. Not in front of me, not around me. She is my friend and I care for her..  I will not aid gossip by my actions or non-actions.

Afraid to Bees
We have definitely all been here! The 'afraid to bee" is the victim in the particular situation. Victimized women are afraid — afraid to speak up, afraid to remove themselves from unhealthy situations… too frightened to allow their real potential to be realized. It is being in this role that has probably taught me the most about myself and though it can be very rough, I am grateful for it. When I have been victimized by "Mean Girls or Mean Women" it honestly brings me back to other instances when I have done the very same thing to others. It makes me look deep within myself (once I can get past the initial sting) and it reminds me of who I want to be. I have learned that when a woman uses RA against me, it is not because of me but because of herself. I have learned that sometimes all I need to do is set up healthy boundaries and I have learned above all that I want to be a kind, loyal, and true friend.

Out of my longtime group of "girlfriends" I was the first to get married, the first to have a child, and many times the first to be isolated from the group. Suddenly, the focus went from "friends hanging out" to "single friends hanging out" and for whatever reason I could no longer be included. I tried stomping my feet about it, I tried crying about it, I tried to retaliate and hurt right back... and I will even admit that I tried to downgrade my happiness in my marriage so as to gain acceptance again. But eventually I learned to move on... I learned to make new friends and I strive every day to allow myself to grow closer and form trust bonds with new women.  I learned with much effort, to forgive too. I realize now that I can only control me and I feel pretty great about that.

The bottom line here is us women need each other... we need to support one another and stop this crazy cycle of RA. Women are the glue that hold families together -- we are multi-tasking ninjas, we are nurturing and gentle yet strong enough to give birth... we are smart and savvy... I mean, where would this world be without us? We need to unite my Sistas! As Beyonce would say - GIRLS we run the world!

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