I’d like to think we live in a pretty modern, progressive time; but that’s what every generation wants to believe. The truth is, misogyny and patriarchy still run rampant in our society. There’s also another issue though that has become all too prevalent in our society; the intense hatred and jealousy that invades so many females’ relationships with other females. The story I’m about to relate, is true, but all names have been omitted to protect and respect these individuals’ privacy.
When I was about 6 years old, I knew a little girl the same age. She wasn’t overly friendly, she kept to herself. Some might classify her as shy, but she was just quiet. Honestly, she didn’t seem like she was interested in making friends. I found that sort of odd, as she was an only child. I went to the same dance class as her, and there was another little girl there, who tried to be friends with the quiet girl. Any time though the friendly girl sat next to her, the quiet girl would move away from her. If the friendly girl moved closer, the quiet girl deliberately moved further away, yet again. I realized that she was outright shunning the other girl’s friendly advances. She had no shame about it either, and so I asked the quiet girl why she didn’t want to be friends with the friendly girl. She said because the friendly girl was prettier than her. The friendly girl was everything the quiet girl wasn’t; she had beautiful long, straight hair, a cute smile, and she got to wear fun, colorful leotards to dance class, whereas the quiet girl had unruly hair, and only had plain black leotards.
I’m sure this wasn’t the only girl that the quiet girl resented, but she was the only one in our class who tried to be that quiet little girl’s friend. I wish I could say I was good friends with the quiet girl, but she was sort of a loner. I don’t think she really had any friends, outside of imaginary ones. I caught her playing with her imaginary friends at the park a couple times, or in her backyard. I noticed something interesting though: All the “invisible” friends she talked to, were males. I only ever saw her talk to a female imaginary friend a couple times, and she was always in competition with her, acting catty and stuff. Trying to one-up this “cool girl” imaginary friend. All in all though, I think the quiet girl was really just lonely, and misunderstood.
Something else I noticed about the quiet girl, was that she never wore dresses or skirts. Her father didn’t really allow her to, and so whenever she saw a little girl wearing a dress, or something pink and feminine, she’d bristle. Even worse was if she saw a father with his little girl, walking somewhere together. Sometimes the quiet girl’s own father would make a harmless remark about how some random little girl looked cute. This further angered the quiet girl, as she didn’t have the strongest, relationship with her father. I think that was probably the reason why the quiet girl had so many male imaginary friends. They always seemed to embody the roles of big brother, best friend, and boyfriend simultaneously.
I had observed her parents, and I think the girl’s behavior came down to the fact that she had a father who had no empathy for others, and a mother with no tolerance for others. That leads me to believe that there are stories similar to this one, depicting what fuels girls’ hatred and fierce competition with each other, as opposed to being friendly and supportive. I think there are most likely many little girls, teenage girls, and adult women who find it difficult to have truly honest, loving, encouraging, healthy friendships with others of their gender.
I think as children, these women weren’t taught that everyone is beautiful and unique in their own way. Maybe their fathers didn’t tell them they were beautiful, or dance with them and treat them like a princess, or encourage their dreams, no matter how impractical they seemed. Maybe their mothers forgot to teach them what it means to be a friend, and to accept that friends make mistakes, and that they have flaws. When a child gets jealous or upset, the parents shouldn’t just wave off those emotions, in an attempt to make their child feel better in the moment. They should talk to them to figure out what the root issue is. There needs to be a dialogue between parents and their kids that doesn’t just consist of, “Oh you’re being silly! You know we love you!” That’s simply not enough. Parents need to ask their kids why they feel that they aren’t beautiful, or special, or loved, or why they don’t like someone, or want to be friends with someone. Once they ask those questions, the parents need to actually listen with an open heart and mind to what their kids have to say. Parents need to spend less time criticizing or dismissing other people’s kids in order to make their own kids feel better, and more time taking an honest look in the mirror, asking themselves if there’s something they could be doing better to help their children. Putting someone else’s kid down in an attempt to build yours up, isn’t good parenting, it’s just a breeding ground for raising a bully.
I believe the jealousy and competitiveness we see other females display towards each other, is deeply ingrained in their own insecurities. Those behaviors though, begin with the way the parents treat and teach their daughters. That can be a pretty shaky foundation, but that foundation can be rebuilt, and reinforced. There’s always hope for change! Empathy and tolerance can be learned, and from there, encouragement can be given freely, and trust can be formed. It takes time, patience, and practice, but it’s never too late to be compassionate. Friendships can always be cultivated by the young girls, and women who find the strength, and vulnerability to do so. It’s not about who’s prettier, because that’s an individual perception.
I recently caught up with that quiet girl. I wanted to know how she was doing these days. She said she was doing well, and that she currently had some really awesome girlfriends! She said it took her years of soul searching, but that she finally realized, that the only way to make friends, is to stop constantly thinking other girls are the enemy. Because then, you’re just being your own enemy, and hating yourself is no way to live. Finally, she said that every girl needs a friend. Every girl, is worthy of having a best friend, and that there are people worth trusting, besides the ones you conjure up in your head.