Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Okay Ladies, Now Let's Get in Formation

My family and I moved several times when I was a young girl due to my dad's job.  Our final move as a family took place in early 1998, right in the middle of my seventh grade year.  I was heartbroken to leave the place I had called home for five years prior.  That was the longest we had ever lived anywhere.  I had good friends, and while I definitely did not have middle school dialed in, I was making it as well as one can when their hormones are raging and their sense of fashion is lost between the '90s and the clearance rack.
My parents liked to make me use my own money to buy things for myself.  They were trying to teach me responsibility.  It was, basically, ridiculous, and I refused to spend more than approximately $4 on anything.
ANYWAY, it is needless to say that when the boxes were packed, arranged neatly on the moving truck, and the sight of my house became a memory I was devastated. 
But I was also really excited!  We were moving to a new state, a new city, a new school, a new house! 
All the new!
I couldn't wait!
The hard part about all the new, though, is that it is new.  I did not fit into my new school.  I brought with me a foreign way of doing things.  A way that was not appreciated by my  peers. 
I was overwhelmed.
Despite all of this, though, I found somewhat of a way.  I started hanging out with a group of girls who were nice.  I enjoyed them.
However, after about a month at this new place, when another group of girls asked me to eat lunch with them I had no idea that this was forbidden in the junior high country I had recently gained access to. 
That day at lunch was fine.  It was fun.  This other group was nice.  I enjoyed them. 
I simply thought I had made new friends.  I could now be friends with both groups of girls.
Then the bell rang.
When I walked out of  the lunch room with my new found friends I was greeted by two of the girls from the other friend group.
They both stood with their arms crossed, and their hips jutted out to demonstrate their early pubescent dominance.
"We need to talk to you."
"Okay." I said warily. 
The new group of girls walked on.
"We just want you to know that we hate you!  We all spent all of lunch passing a tape recorder around, and we all recorded why we don't like you."
"Yeah!" the other girl interjected, "We don't ever want to be friends with you again!"
And then they walked away.
I just stood there.
They probably said more hurtful things, but, honestly, that's all I remember. 
I was exiled from this new land before I even had a change to establish citizenship. 
You'll be glad to know I handled the situation all wrong, and basically got the original friend group to gang up on another member of the mean girl clan.  I made sure to take my victim status, and shove it into the aggressor role.  I acted like a seventh grader in response to horrible seventh grade abuse.
I think about this event every so often.  I like to stroke my ego by telling myself,
"Oh, if only the Laura I am now could go back and tell those girls off!!"
It makes me feel better in the moment.  That is, until I realize the Laura then and the Laura now are not that different.  In the same way, the girls who recorded all of those hateful things about me are not so different from who I am today.
I can be mean, hateful, and rude without verbally saying one word.
Because here is the thing:
I carry around a mental tape recorder with me all the time.
When meeting a new person:
**Tap, Tap, Tap**
"Is thing on?"
And then I go to town.
How can I break this person down into bite-sized pieces?  Are they more stylish than me?  Are they more accomplished than me?  Are they prettier than me?  Are they craftier than me?  Are they, just in general, better at living life than me?
My fact checking is on point.  I dissect the entirety of the individual, because if my ego doesn't stand up to you then what does that make of me?  Who am I?  What does that say about me if I can't stand up taller than you on any one issue?
It's exhausting.  And wrong.
It wasn't too long ago I joined a blogger forum.  There was a woman in there, and I just couldn't stand her.  If you had asked I would not have been able to tell you why.  
But here is what I knew:
  She was beautiful.  She was so vocal in the group.  Everything she wrote was so clever and witty.  Her blog was so good, and I hated it.
She had her crap together, and I felt like a mess standing up next to her.
I seriously couldn't deal.
Until the thought occurred to me,
"Is my ego so fragile that I am the bar which every woman stands against??"
The answer: yes.
So, I did something I have rarely done when I've felt like this: I reached out to her.
I reached out to her in an effort to calm the jealous-eyed dragon inside of me.
I reached out to her because I thought maybe she wasn't all bad, and I had heart improving to work on.
I told her how great I thought her work was, and how I enjoy reading her blog.
You guys.
She was so gracious to me.
Then, in a twist of fate and God, after I posted an essay from this blog in the previously mentioned forum, she was so supportive.  I cried when I read her reaction to my work.
I cried partially because her words were so incredibly kind, but more so because I almost missed out on having her support.  I almost killed the potential of reaching across the aisle because I thought my false self might not be able to handle it.  I almost missed out on knowing that she IS incredible, and everything I thought about her was true.  The difference is I had no reason to hate her.   I have every reason to celebrate her.
This happens too often.  I think we are groomed for this kind of madness.  We are taught to look in magazines, see women in provocative stances, and immediately hate ourselves.  We are taught to despise the very women selling us the things we can't live without.
But what if I could look at Gigi Hadid, and instead of thinking,
"Skinny bitch."
I could think,
"Get it, girl!  Look at you following your dreams!  You are model, and you are fabulous at it!"
We are taught that if someone else has what you want, they are the lesser.
But what if I could look at women doing what I want to do and say,
"Get it, girl!  You are standing up for your truth, and I stand with you!"
We are taught to have women in our lives.  We are taught that these relationships are invaluable to our well being, but then we consistently compare ourselves and success to them and theirs.
But what if I could look at my friends, my sister, my mother, my women and say,
"Get it, girl!  You do you, and do it how you need to!  I am here to cheer you on.  I have only these two hands to dig in with you and clap for you.  May my voice become sore from screaming your praise!"
What if we could get in this formation?
What if we threw away all of those tape recorders?
I'm tired of hating other people in order to love myself.
Aren't you?
This is not easy work.  This is brave, gritty, wild work.  It requires getting more than messy.
It requires getting hurt.  It requires taking the scrapes, punches, kicks to the ego, and letting them pulse, bleed, and heal.  It requires really knowing who you are in the most primal of ways.  It requires your soul meeting your body, and embracing the divine tension that it is.
But I want to be able to look in the mirror, and be okay with going to bed at night with the person staring back at me.
I want to be more than my ego.
I want to be me, and I want to be okay with that.


  1. This. This. This!!!

    This is beautiful and you are beautiful and his message is beautiful, too! And my fave? "I have only these two hands to dig in with you and clap for you." Yes, yes, and yes!

    1. Thank you!! It is so much easier and harder to live life on the same side as one another, isn't it?? I'm so glad we get to do this thing together!

  2. This is so well-written and all too true! Love hearing that you reached out to the person you were intimidated by. That's such a hard thing to do.

    1. Thank you, Mindy! I so appreciate you reaching out to me. It IS hard, isn't it? But I think it gets less hard the more we know we are in it together. You and me. Us and everyone.

  3. Well, this is vulnerable and relatable and I love it.

    1. Thanks, Shannan! That means a lot coming from you. 😊

  4. Oh my, Laura. This is inspired. I can't tell you how much this resonates with me. I have been both of the women you are talking about. The woman who judges and the woman who is judged. Thank you so much for your willingness to take a look in the mirror and share what you see with us.