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Mean Girls

“Women are such catty bitches!” I said to my friend, completely exasperated. She laughed and I laughed, and we both understood — there is no animosity between you and I, but get a group of females together in any greater number, and shit just hits the fan.

Why can’t we all just get along?

I am not, nor have I ever been, especially popular. I don’t have a raving social life. I am very good at maintaining close friendships, but awkward when in a group. I’ve never been a member of a clique, though it wasn’t for lack of trying in my adolescent years. There was a time when I so desperately wanted to fit in. Typically, people join groups that align with their personal interests, finding kindred spirits among the other members, but I’ve never had success in that way. Maybe I was an ASL student, a writer, a pagan — but whenever I tried to assimilate into an established group of those individuals, I still found myself feeling like an outsider.

Instead, I excelled at close, personal ties with other outsiders. Maybe we’re weird, but at least we can be weird together, we would say. I felt I had my niche. If I couldn’t be popular, at least I knew who my real friends were. I waited patiently for college and for my grown-up life to start. Adulthood, they promised, would be different.

They lied.

It has been ten years since high school, but I still feel like I’m surrounded by mean girls. Girls who view each other as competition, rather than colleagues; potential threats rather than potential sisters. Contrary to what our Mommas told us, it doesn’t always get better — bullying and social aggression is still prevalent throughout adulthood. To add insult to injury, bullying in adulthood is most commonly seen in females against other females. WAY TO GO GIRLS! While we were talking about women’s rights and equal treatment, we forgot to confront the idea that internalized hatred influences how we treat each other.

One might think that those same mean girls from school just grew up and continued to be mean, but studies suggest that this isn’t necessarily the case. Often times, it is the former victim of the schoolyard bully who grows up to utilize relational aggression in order to exert power over her peers. Prolonged feelings of powerlessness awaken the primal need to establish one’s self as an aggressor in order to regain power and control. Perhaps this is one of the underlying reasons that adult women are observed to indulge in more bullying behavior than men. (Because if anybody knows what prolonged loss of self-agency feels like, it us. Right ladies?)

It is discouraging to find that childhood torment can follow you into adulthood. After all, shouldn’t we have grown out of this juvenile behavior? Perhaps not, as evolutionary psychologists have long since established that bullying behaviors can be biologically advantageous, despite the fact that they are also socially damaging to the community. We know that bullying is ubiquitous among all cultures on earth, and while the behaviors of our ancestors are shrouded by the passing of time, we can easily observe bullying behaviors in other non-human primates. It seems that we are hard-wired to be suspicious and untrustworthy of any perceived threats to our resources, and unfortunately, our primal instincts aren’t equipped to differentiate between friend or foe. It’s just part of the human condition.

Our drive to dominate one another is inborn and subconscious, but from a moral standpoint, our society has pretty much unanimously agreed that bullying, ostracism, and engaging in social hierarchies is wrong. Then why do we continue to engage in these behaviors? In some cases, it is because the group dynamic favors the action. In having developed a sense of morality, human beings as individuals are able to justify their most primal behaviors as necessary to ensure the safety or success of the group as a whole. As psychologist Christoper Boehm points out, “we learned to gang up not just against our superiors but against individuals who we feel are so deviant that they deserve to be treated as outsiders.” Even though we know that different isn’t bad, our minds trick us into rationalizing our prejudices so we can act on them, guilt free.

It’s awful, though, isn’t it? All right, so bullying goes way back, and it once paid off in former contexts, and it is a self-propagating social disease, causing it’s victims to become aggressors themselves — but, really, can’t we just agree to stamp out that impulsive lizard-brain bullshit and be good? Perhaps, but it will take more than an after-school special to drive this one home. In media, the female aggressor, or the Iron Lady, is a trope that is highly celebrated and played out in film, television, and books. Movies like the Devil Wears Prada indicate that in order to be a successful business woman, one must be manipulative and conniving, ready to sacrifice relationships toward the end goal of dominating the workplace hierarchy. Does this mean that sisterhood is dead? Not necessarily. But the misconception of “assertiveness” being achieved through “bitchyness” ought to be shown the door.

All signs point toward mindfulness as the key to solving unnecessary aggression. We must all rely on our higher functioning minds to lead us with compassion and morality when the primal need to aggressively assert oneself arises. We must also, as a society, come to the agreement that bullying behavior isn’t acceptable, neither in childhood nor in adulthood. The current movement toward making our schools and other learning institutions “Bully-Free Zones” is a start, but we also need to face the truth about adult aggressors. Bullying is not a uniquely adolescent problem and it needs to be addressed accordingly. According to a 2010 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, thirty-five percent of adults report being bullied in the workplace. Such a hostile environment increases the likelihood of depression, anxiety, and is naturally counterproductive to the success of the group. And yet it continues, ultimately because we allow it to.

I’m one of those idealistic freaks who would like to remake the world in her image (perhaps this is another reason why I’ve always been a bit unpopular…). For as long as I can remember, my relationships with people have been contingent on the “you either really like me, or you really don’t” principle, but I, just like most people, would prefer to be taken as I am and judged on my merits rather than my faults. (Or better yet, not judged at all.) In aiming to treat other people how I want to be treated (your Momma really did have that right), I have a fairly laissez faire attitude with people — you are what you are, and that’s fine by me. I will take you as you come.

Granted, you can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. You aren’t going to be friends with everyone you meet, but you can sure as hell make up your mind to be civil. And if you’re one of those people who have engaged in divisive, bullying behavior — particularly if you’re a women waging social war on other women — it needs to stop. See the bigger picture: how can we change the things that are wrong with the world, if we continue to be a part of the problem?

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Play nice

It’s New Year’s Eve tomorrow, that time of year when we lay the law down upon ourselves (or not) and get real (or don’t): lose weight, make amends, do better. We resolve to improve something about ourselves or our lives because the turning of the clock from one year to the next is supposed to psychologically prepare us for a clean slate. Still, the landscape of broken promises that lies across the frozen tundra of February and March can attest to the futility of the exercise. Every New Year’s resolution is made in full acknowledgment of the years’ past and how they were infamously squandered.

I haven’t really made a New Year’s resolution since I was eleven and I resolved that in 1998, I would resolve to make no more resolutions.

It’s been working out for me, I think, because that was I promise I made to myself that I could actually keep. More over, it was a promise I wanted to keep. Why set myself up for failure and disappointment by publicly declaring a lofty goal that is more societal construct that actual personal passion or desire? To hell with that — I just want to be happy in my own skin. I want to see the people I love and care for be happy as well. But this year, maybe I’ll bring the New Year’s resolution back. You can do it with me.

Maybe, for the year 2015, we should all resolve to be a little bit fucking nicer to each other.

Just-Be-Nice
For realz.

There is no reason I can think of that increased mutual respect, appreciation, and care for one another as individuals wouldn’t be accepted by each and every one of you. And if you want it, you gotta give it, baby. That’s how it do.

But it do, Mr. Gamble. But it do.
But it do, Mr. Gamble. But it do.

I just can’t think of a good reason to be a jerk. Having a mental illness doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole. Not even being a schizophrenic gives you the right to be a dick. I don’t care if you’re an unmedicated bipolar in your ninth month of pregnancy (been there, done that; I wasn’t handed a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card) or an over-worked, underappreciated retail slave. We all have our our horror stories, our various loads of baggage, our scars and battle wounds. I will gladly help you carry the load. I will even share war stories with you. But I am not going to stand still while you displace all of your emotional trauma onto me. No one on this earth should serve as another human being’s emotional punching bag. You can be miserable, if you need to be. You can be a fucking troll, if that’s what gets you going. But I’m not going to stick around for it — I owe you nothing.

Granted, I’m bipolar and sometimes I can be a raging bitch — I’ll own that. My husband refers to my daily allotted patience and stamina for social interactions as “people points.” Time alone or in small groups of close friends will typically replenish my People Points. Frustrating, emotionally exhausting days or large groups of people cost me a lot of People Points. There have been times when I have maxed out my People Points before the day is over, then I was unable to manage a stressful situation when it arose. The shit hit the fan, and — MAN DOWN! — I lashed out at those around me. But even then, even in the throes of my deepest, darkest, most disassociative behavior, I knew that what I was doing was wrong, and I most certainly apologized once the dust had settled.

There are no real acceptable excuses for lavish rudeness — unless you’re an honest-to-goodness psychopath, you know when you’re doing wrong. The kind unmitigated malice that used to exist behind closed doors and cold shoulders is now on message boards and Facebook feeds. We’re hungry for it. We lustily turn to our friends’ posts just as the comments get juicy, either jumping in feet first or sitting back to enjoy the carnage for sport. These are school yard fights for a new age, only no one calls out the bullies any more, because at one point or another, we have all been the bully.

Resolve not to be. Peaceably accept that the Internet is never going to be the platform from which you will be able to have an intelligent debate or discussion on any topic, and let it go. See your college roommate’s Facebook post on the insidiousness of Chemtrails, take a deep breath, and keep scrolling, my friend. Your blood pressure will thank you. Yes, that commentor did use “literally” to mean “figuratively” — let it go…

And remember: Be. Nice.
And remember: Be. Nice.

Finally, happy birthday to my wee little blog! The Real Sarah C is a year old! Woo-hoo! I am so stoked to have brought this project so far, and so grateful to all of the readers, subscribers, and commenters. Mahalo!

Moira’s Neighbor Totoro

From my other blog, The Gamer Widow’s High Tea Society: Moira’s Neighbor Totoro

In other news, my month-long hiatus from Facebook is nearly finished. It’s been an interesting experience. In restricting my access, I realized just how much time I have spent surfing the social networking site (read: too damn much) and how much stress and anxiety is caused by participating in Facebook’s social politics (read: you can’t fix stupid, but you can watch it in action everyday on Facebook!). I think this experience will strongly influence how I use Facebook in the future.

Finally, for my round-up of stuff I did this week: I experimented with putting my hair in rollers.

First time out, not too shabby. But still, I really have no idea what I’m doing.

Parenthetically, it should be noted that I don't really know how to do the whole "selfie" thing.
Parenthetically, it should be noted that I don’t really know how to do the whole “selfie” thing.

We also celebrated M’s fifth month of being alive. She’s now sitting up, babbling, and teething in earnest. But I think the best thing is that the cat has finally started treating her like a member of the family, rather than some slightly frightening alien creature.

2014-04-23 19.08.59
She is now bigger than Totoro — my, how the time flies.
2014-04-24 06.34.04
“I claim this tiny human in the name of King Kitty.”

 

Mmm, writer’s block. Yummy.

I’ve been in a real rut lately. The depths of which I haven’t experienced in at least a year, and the lengthening duration of which scares the pants off of me. It’s a real, genuine fear of mine that I’m getting worse, and while I’ve been riding that manic depression rollercoaster, I’ve also been struggling to find ways to talk about what I’m going through in a way that is interesting and meaningful. Typically, my inner dialogue goes like this:

Me: Hey, that would be good to write about… I could word it like this and…
Meanie Me: No one gives a flying fuck about that. What makes you so special? There are literally thousands of other bloggers writing about the same thing, and they already have the audience captivated. Why would the audience want to shift and read your regurgitated nonsense?
Me: … well, I guess you’re right. What about if I were to write something about this depression I’ve been sinking into, and the manic episodes I’ve been having? It might really help me to get some of those words out and…
Meanie me: PUH-lease! How depressing. You want every entry on your blog to make people wanna slit their wrists? C’mon! Lighten up.
Me: … ok. I guess I’ll just go lay on the sofa some more.

So, in between starting to write things and deciding not to write them, I:
— ignored significant obligations pertaining to my personal finances
— worked late
— got into internet arguments
— posted irrelevant things on Twitter
— threw my friend a baby shower
— sat on the sofa
— played with my baby
Well, that’s the round-up for this month. I think April will be the “fuck-off-Facebook-I’m-leaving-you-for-Twitter-where-people’s-negative-diatribes-are-limited-to-140-characters” month. It’ll be swell.