I’ve written before about the way society treats women, the ideals which are enforced on women, and the ways in which women are expected to behave. One thing over which I’ve mulled is that it is so much more difficult to navigate the world without other women. As advisors. As friends. As confidants. Recently, I’ve been moved to pen (keyboard?) these musings; whether I will go on to click “publish” is another story.
From an early age, women are forced to see other females as competition. Female friendships span iterations from playing Barbies and climbing trees with comrades to teen years where, inadvertently, you find yourself sizing your attributes up to those in your circle. They make books about it now, but there was nothing when I was growing up besides the lingering shadow of insecurity. Was I as pretty as my friends? Did guys like me? Was I too smart and sarcastic for other girls? Could I trust them?
The apparition we are coerced to embody as developing females is something which I wish I could banish from my own daughter with the strength of so many ghost busters. I’ve watched her covet friendships, be walked on, be the girl I forcibly never was. I see in her the tenderness I didn’t allow myself to develop at her age. She is open and empathetic to others, not hardened and manipulative as I was during those years. I have to bridle my tongue when it rears up to tell her, with malice, that she needs to be the mean one so that no one is mean to her. Someone who attended school with me once joked that my daughter possesses innate confidence because she has to grow up with my words. I laughed weakly, the realisation a sudden flare of heat. Indeed, by the time I had become a teen, the shadow of insecurity I mentioned earlier had formed, at some point, in the shape of Maleficent’s dragon of protection.
It is not right to wish my daughter a mean girl. Somehow, though, against my better judgement, no matter how many motivational quotes I read or positive parenting affirmations cross my feed, I can’t help but feel the smouldering of my dragon’s embers, this iteration taking the form of a mother’s protection. But then some other victim of possible shunning would be another woman’s child. No well-meaning mother would encourage her child to banish empathy or the facility of valuing the feelings of others. Too often mean girls like me grow up to become women who train their daughters in the path of their vortex. It is for this reason that I’ve chosen to surround my daughter with the positivity of other female relationships. She can watch me, a woman now (no longer the insecure wielder of mythical confidence) with healthy female connections in my adult life.
So what do mean girls grow up to be?
I can say from personal experience that they don’t always grow up to be mean women. In fact, I’ve learnt to have incredibly healthy and affirmative relationships with women as I’ve matured. What I needed, I know now, was a context of other women. Women who felt surety in who they were and, once in the vicinity of it, that surety became infectious. Healthily infected with good connections, I was able to reflect on the aspects of my past character and identify my own flaws. The tools to solder their repair became apparent in the shared experiences of my tribe.
There is nothing like the welling of happiness created when you want to share something with your best friend. That little flame of “oh, she will love this” can manifest in something as small as tagging her in a meme online, or as large as buying something random you know she will like. Tell her you appreciate her. She is the one you run to with your woes, be it work stress or commiseration in the fact that all your clothing makes you look like a potato. Show up with wine, buy her Chewy Chips Ahoy or carrot juice, remember that she hates peanut butter. Support her business ventures or educational pursuits. Remember that she is your ally and your partner. Tell her she is incredible and strong, but remember that even a healer needs healing sometimes. Help her with her son when you know she needs a break. See that you would be blind without her omniscient ability. Recall that, when you want to look into the most honest mirror, you seek your reflection in her.