by Erin Gibson
Women: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Am I right?!
But hey, wait… I'm a woman, and I don't have a choice. I live with myself every day, and no matter what I do or say, no matter how many different ways I disrespect or hurt myself, I have to put up with my own shit and “live with it.”
What makes matters worse is I am surrounded by other women (sisters, my mother, niece, coworkers, friends, acquaintances who overshare)—women I do have the choice of living with or without. Some are women who go through the same shitty things I do, and try to work them out through me, thus making me feel partially responsible for fishing them out of their river of woes. (I also am guilty of this.) And let's face it, we don't like each other all the time, so honestly my typical choice is to live without them or simply “put up” with them.
But why do I so long to be away from the other females in my life? Is it that I grew up around women and have had enough estrogen exposure to last me a lifetime, considering I have to deal with my own femininity every day?
"Why do I so long to be away from other females in my life?"
Is it all those damned emotions we're constantly vomiting all over the world? Maybe it’s our obsession with other people's problems, and that we have the best solutions for them, if only they'd listen? Is it synched menstrual cycles?
What is it about them that is so awful I find myself avoiding hangouts, dodging conversations, and secretly judging and hating them later in my hours of solitude? Are these women outwardly mean to me? Do they make it a point to publicly humiliate me on the regular? Are they secretly sabotaging me or laughing at the way I live my life? Trying to steal my man? Replacing my toothpaste with dog shit?
What is it??
It's actually none of the above. What it is: a look in the damn mirror. The things I hate most about these other women are, in fact, the very things I hate most about myself.
Boom. Knowledge dropped. Hard to believe, I know, but guess what? You're probably doing it too.
The woman who seems too boisterous, too whiny, too curious, too nosy, too self-centered, too sexy, too unfiltered, too sensitive, too reserved, too facially expressive (including bitch face), too bitchy—whatever it is, maybe there's a chance you feel she should not be that way because in your mind you should not be that way.
You've developed this learned way of being that involves being some ways but not other ways, and it took you a long time to perfect that way of being. And when you realize this woman is acting how you would never, ever—ever—in a million years act (according to you), you start slowly building a case against her.
You rationalize your distaste for her, who she is, how she lives; maybe you even state your case to others so you know you have agreement or backup. That way you know you're not just imagining it, and this woman does indeed suck. Which ultimately means those pieces inside of you that resemble pieces of this other person, suck too.
"The things I hate most about these other women are, in fact, the very things I hate most about myself."
However, when you actually face her, you find yourself being nice, pretending your true feelings are distant and faded ideas you may have experienced due to a bad day, or low blood sugar, or PMS, or just an honest misunderstanding (or PMS). Whatever you have to say to convince yourself you could never be that petty or judgmental, you have that conversation with yourself.
You eventually realize the both of you have a lot in common and that maybe she's not as bad as you previously believed. You start to see her positive qualities and find that you two are more alike than you could've imagined. (Which, unfortunately, can also be a turnoff because who wants to be reminded of their own flaws?) So, you keep a safe distance, half liking her, half judging and hating her. (Sound familiar?)
Ugh, it can get awkward. The whole "friends close, enemies closer" thing starts to come into play; you don't know whether you should play her up or put her down. Should you let yourself be vulnerable around her or keep that guard up? Then you're playing psycho—I mean psychological—games with her and with yourself. Yuck.
But what if we didn't have to make things so damn complicated? What if in the beginning we simply realized that every person deserves the chance to be whomever and whatever the fuck they want at any and all times? Including you.
And what if acknowledging that means letting people fuck up sometimes, because that's just what people do? We have to fuck up; it's like a thing we do to learn to survive, and also because most of us are idiots. And there's nothing wrong with being an idiot—you get to learn more when you don't know everything.
All I'm saying: Maybe the very things we fear becoming, the things we recognize in others and think we're so far from being, maybe we already are those things. Maybe we've spent a lot of time stuffing them way back in the shadows of our minds because we're too afraid to just look at them. Maybe the women you find yourself staving off or running from have valuable lessons to inadvertently teach you about yourself.
"Maybe the very things we fear becoming... maybe we already are those things."
What if you just looked at and listened to those things? What if you considered some of them might actually be true and made a conscious effort to change parts of your life and yourself that don't work for you? What if loving the parts of other women you don't like means loving the parts of yourself you don't like?
Shit, actually scratch that—you might end up having to be more accountable for your own feelings. You might have to forgive others, as well as yourself, and spend more time understanding the way emotional projection works. You might have to learn something new!
(I have this theory that we hate learning new things, because to us “new” means challenging the way we've previously seen or done things for most of our lives. That renders our current knowledge of ourselves and the world useless and without value, thus rendering us useless and without value.)
Or worst-case scenario, you die from the pain of looking into your own mind.
I doubt the latter would happen, just because it sounds like something out of a shitty sci-fi movie, and because it's just not how physics works… or something.
Anyway. The way I see it, we're all sisters. Whether you see it that way or not, we have a lot more in common with each other than we think, and we understand more about each other than we realize. Having grown up with two sisters (one of whom is my twin), I know firsthand how challenging being around other women, let alone communicating with and understanding them, can be. But sometimes if you just let your guard down, stop fighting, stop judging and start really listening, you allow that other woman the right to be free. Ultimately, that allows you to be free from your own damn judgment and self-loathing. And you really do learn a whole bunch of new shit you didn't know you didn't know.
"Be free from your own damn judgment and self-loathing."
Also, the next time you're crying in the bathroom at some crowded bar, or feeling objectified by some dude, or you're confused about your place in the world, there will always be a girl (sometimes even one you think you hate) who will hold you and listen to your problems, or verbally (or physically) beat the shit out of some dude doing you wrong, or offer the most sound advice or solace from feeling alone.
We are women. We are strong. We will always stick up for and take care of one another, leaving petty shit to the side when we really need to. We never have to go it alone, as long as there's another one of us around.
So to all the women out there I haven't been the nicest to, to women who sense my irrational annoyance with them, to women who see my passive-aggressive tendencies and return the gesture, to women who call me out on being selfish, to women who tell me the truth about myself, to women who judge me, to women who just plain piss me off sometimes: I love you, Bitch. And thank you.
About the author: Erin Gibson slings drinks and babysits adults for a living, but she most enjoys talking shit on paper. Painting, reading and travel keep her sane and curious.