My neighbor came over last night to return a few baking pans she borrowed. Regina waltzed in, sat down, and immediately launched into a diatribe regarding her perceived mistreatment by two women in the clique she rolls in. The women are acquaintances of mine and always respectful towards me. I sat there quietly, eating my chili and cornbread, listening to her go on and on. Mind you, it was all perceived, no one said anything negative to her, but she noticed a decline in their rate of socialization. I listened to her, and the more Regina spoke, the more she got wound up. At the end of Regina’s spiel, one of the women called her as if she sensed someone was talking about her. Regina was curt and haughty. She quickly ended the call and said, “See, now she calls.” It was weird. I don't like being on that end of the mean girl drama, either.
I don’t know if she wanted empathy, or for me to take her side but all I could offer her was a truthful, “Don’t take it personally” and “Maybe talking directly to each of them will give you the answers you need.” Trying to be Switzerland and eat my cornbread. Seriously, all of us have a lot going on in life, and many times things just aren’t about us and if they are, asking someone about it implies you care enough to address the issue. Easier said than done, right? Being direct with people isn’t easy, I know. But it saves so much time! Also, not taking most things personally set me free several years ago. It’s right up there with not caring what other’s opinions of you may be. If someone doesn’t like you anymore and doesn’t want to hang out with you, it’s truly more their problem than yours. Right? If someone takes forever to get back to you and doesn’t return your phone calls, is there anything you can do to change their behavior? Nope. You can be honest, ask politely, yet if they insist, so be it. Sometimes those sorts of social dynamics can be emotionally draining. Trying to decode everything is exhausting!
After she had left, I realized that she might have other motivations by confiding in me. A very dim lightbulb went off in my head and I realized she might use me and my empathy against me in some epic mean girl duel. I know it sounds crazy, but this shit happens when you least suspect it! It's been a while since I've been pulled into drama, and I don't like it. I've rolled solo for a really long time. Decades. I don’t mind being alone. I have several truly wonderful friends, but it’s always a one-on-one kind of situation, not the traditional idea of a clique and we might go a long time between hangouts. Such is life. I’m an introvert, and I enjoy my alone time, especially after a long day of work. The last thing I want to do after a long day of gas passing is to listen to someone drone on about how awful their spouse/children/job/body is. There are few exceptions to this rule, and those women (they know who they are) have treated me marvelously and been kind to my grumpy hermit ways. Those women are actualized and have lives of their own and like me have no time for petty ass bullshit. NONE.
Growing up I so badly wanted to be in a clique, but my parent’s overprotectiveness limited my social excursions. When I finally obtained social freedom, any group of girls I’d been attached to had a clique mentality, and that was difficult for me to decipher. Especially in junior high and high school where I wanted nothing more than to be included. My inclusion was always peripheral while the stars of the clique ruled with cold hearts and seemingly effortless flair for social dynamics. I wanted in but even when I was in I wasn’t really in. I was subjected to some awful manipulation that hurt me to my core and made me distrustful of confiding in anyone. So, as a result, my clique mantra has been "fuck that shit".
This subject endlessly fascinates me; it has for years. I read everything I can about it because I just don’t get it! After Regina vented the other night a part of me asked myself if I should say something to the girls she spoke of. Not outright say what she said, but kind of give them a heads up that maybe a conversation would be a good idea. Bring everyone together, I thought. Kumbayaaaaaaaaaaa, I thought. Or maybe they would take it the wrong way and gang up on me, perhaps? Beat me up and leave me wounded in the gym sauna? Probably not but better safe than sorry. Seems so immature and illogical and totally foolish but, for unknown reasons, a lot of women still play these childhood backstabbing gossip games. Who has time for all that drama?
A few days ago I read a book review for Deborah Tannen’s You're the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women's Friendships. She’s a linguistics professor at Georgetown and has written many books on communication. Familial relationships, romantic relationships, she’s covered a lot of ground. This book she looks at female relationships and how similar they are to romantic relationships. I ordered the book and eagerly await its arrival. I think there’s a lot to what she’s postulating. Friendships have their ups and downs, good times, bad times, hurts and betrayals just like a romantic relationship. When I broke up with a friend in 2010, it bothered me more than dumping the guy I was dating at the same time. (I got stories out the wazoo about shitty things my ex-friends have done to me, but they probably have stories, too. Like, I used to take forever to pay utility bills. I'm sorry, I don't see the bill when there are 1,000 alphabet magnets and pictures and invitations on the fridge! It's like a public utility where's Waldo and who has time for that when you're working twelve-hour shifts in the ICU? I digress!)
Maybe I’m the glitch. I don’t get jealous. I don’t take most things personally. I figure, if you want to be my friend, you’ll be there for me and I'll be there for you. Through shit and the good stuff, too. If not, that’s cool. Really. I send you good vibes and hope the best for you because life is hard for all of us in one way or another. I won't talk shit about you or be passive aggressive to you and I promise I'll ignore you on social media. It's really the best way. No time to be a Petty Betty. As Mary J. Blige sang it, No More Drama. Unless it’s on my TV, of course.