Monday, 14 May 2012

Female Rivalry

I was thinking about the good old days when I was a young thing in competition with other young things for the attention of the boys around.

To tell you the truth, though, I never felt like I was in competition, first because I was rather unobservant, second because my best friend was always better-looking than me, and third because I inherently dislike competition. Girls scheming against girls to get guys strikes me as alarming and, paradoxically, kind of male.

In elementary school, it was a cardinal sin to "like" some boy that another girl "liked," as if "liking him first" made him her personal property. Later it was always such a shock when I discovered some girl or other was mad at me for "stealing" some guy she fancied.

As a matter of fact, I guess I was rather popular with the caffeine in the cappuccino of life in my early twenties, and not all the girls in my set liked this. To my astonishment and chagrin, some kind friend told me that So-and-So of Ontario Students for Life had put me down as "a party girl."


Twenty years later I feel vastly amused and even gratified that I was dismissed by some angry young woman of rural Ontario as a party girl. But it makes me wonder what all that was about. Was she in love with someone in love with me? It couldn't have been because I was awful to her because, poppets, I always remember when I am awful to another woman.

One of the horrible punishments inherent in not being a Rules girl, is that when you go after some guy, bystanders sometimes notice. There was an absolutely frightful chap in my early-twenties set who was particularly good at reading tension in the room and so knew that A liked B who couldn't care less but was obsessed with C, who was flattered but unresponsive, and that D was crazy about A, who hadn't noticed.

One day this absolutely frightful chap showed off what he knew, which blighted three friendships and made me think of him as an absolutely frightful chap from that day to this. But it also was an early lesson in what you can learn if you just keep your mouth shut and watch innocent people trying to cope with their emotions and desires in a fallen universe.

How odd it must be to be a social anthropologist, watching human beings do the same kinds of things over and over, and knowing that you yourself, being human, must do the same kinds of things. And it is certainly odd and sometimes seriously disturbing to be an ex-Single girl, reading again and again, and even seeing in real life, the mistakes that Single girls make now, some of which I once made myself.

One of them is getting passive-aggressive over a guy with some woman who has more social capital than yourself. Bad idea. Very bad. Yes, it always works in the movies. Life is not a movie.

Watching women's social mistakes is like watching that 1897 silent film about the Dundee Tay Bridge disaster. There's the Tay Bridge. And there's the train. Oh, look, it's full of people. Nice, innocent people on their way to Dundee. And there is the train on the Tay Bridge. And there is the Tay Bridge collapsing under it. Aaaaaaah! But there is nothing you can do about it. No matter how many times you watch that stupid film, all those people are going to drown.

The only thing I can think of to cope with the social version of this sad reality is to opt out of female power games. This is not really difficult to do, now that I'm married and a freelancer, although you would be surprised. All kinds of women will battle for male attention, even at work, and others will know what they're up to, even if they don't. I once worked for a woman who treated me like crap but my then-boyfriend like gold and whom he overheard on the phone saying, "Blue-eyed, 6'4", and I wish we had ten of him." It was pretty hellish, and I think she was married. Managers like her are one reason why many women say they prefer to work for men.

Oh dear. What a doleful start to the week. I will try to think of something cheerful tomorrow.


theobromophile said...

(Shrug) Bizarrely, there are also women who get all competitive with us women who dare to have male friends - true friends, whom we do not fancy and who do not fancy us. Or those women presume that we are forcing ourselves on men, who have no desire for our presence. Or that we must somehow hate women, as if our liking of both sexes is a condemnation of our own sex.

It is rather strange, this business of being competitive with other women.

Jam said...

I had a friend who seemed a little protective of her crush-object around me. I thought that was a bit rich, as I had no interest in him That Way and had yet to snag my own boyfriend much less someone else's. I think she just needed something to worry about.

Lena said...

I don't think women outgrow this rivalry.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Definitely not. There are wives who resent their mothers-in-law, and mothers-in-law that resent their daughters-in-law, for a start. And then there are mothers who shove their daughters a little to the side to fascinate those daughters' boyfriends, and daughters who do their darnedest to get bags of attention from mommy's new boyfriend. And then there are female friends who steam and stew about their male friends' new girlfriends, and girlfriends who go bananas because their boyfriends met up with their old female friends.

April Lilly said...

This is actually a very big problem where I live, especially in the small Latin community here. Most of the single ladies when in conversational group that contains at least one single man will not let any other lady in on the conversation! They quite literally hog the conversation so that if I want to jump in it appears (and I feel) rude. It's one of the oddest thing I've experienced in my endeavor to "get out there", and I can understand why woman complain about other women!

Clare said...

What theobromophile said, in spades. That's what's hurt me most, personally.