of a Five Part Series
Fortunately I am in a place of my life, and with friends in my life, where out-and-out hostility is kept to a minimum in social circles (as far as I can tell). Nevertheless I observe it occasionally, and sometimes it’s downright subtle, if still hurtful. Ah, if only it were as simple as it once was, like the time in tenth grade you were horrified to read the words, “Kathleen gives hed [sic] for lunch money” scribbled on the paper towel dispenser in purple Sharpie. But no, along with our life experience, responsibilities, family-friendly sedan and 401Ks, women have adopted new, but still poignant, ways to skewer one another in a social setting.
The first I want to outline is one of my favorites, and one I’m most sensitive to: the TMI Snub (as in, “Too Much Information!”). This can take the form of a woman loudly voicing that another’s talk about her C-section is putting her off her morning scone (the inference being that the C-section gal is being way too gross) and usually stops the “oversharer” right in her tracks. No wonder – who of us wants to realize what we’re saying is disgusting or inappropriate? The “TMIer” gets to be the one setting the rules about what is or isn’t OK to share, and for some women, this power play is all too tempting.
I have always had a hard time with this one. I feel that, if some gal in the group says their husband wanted oral sex last night and they felt too bitchy to comply, they may very likely immediately regret the decision to make that disclosure. So to have the inevitable gleeful “Whoa… I did not need to hear that!” pounce seems not only unnecessary but, in the case that the “offending” storyteller was actually being vulnerable by sharing, cruel. Do I think every personal story is appropriate for public voice? No. I do go home and tell my husband some of the eye-widening disclosures I hear and we either have a good laugh or a bad cringe (that’s the rule in Casa del Hogaboom – what the wife knows, the husband knows, and vice versa).
There’s another aggressive move I have observed that tends to afflict a select few poor ladies: the Talking-Over. Now, in a group with my friends, peers, and acquaintances, there are often multiple conversations taking place, and yes, quite a few interruptions. But most of these are rather benign. I’m speaking of when someone truly has “the floor” – inviting people to a baby shower, or giving directions in a class-like setting, say. I have seen women who appear entirely non-confrontational in most regards employ this nefarious scheme. It only takes a willing second party and a shared whisper-level conversation to send the message to the speaker that she is Shunned. I might add it makes me nervous those times when a would-be-saboteur attempts to draw me into the “side” conversation.
One caveat – you may notice in the groups I hang out in (especially among newer moms), that one woman’s story often gets commandeered into another’s (i.e. “So – I went to the co-op yesterday and I saw they were taking applications for a new produce manager…” “Oh my God! Are they finally getting rid of that freak who always has bare feet? You know he is so rude …” and so on). I honestly think that’s often just new-moms-have-no-brains-due-to-nursing hormones and the offender, if called on the hijack, will almost always apologize. Keep in mind too that the hijacker is probably starved for adult companionship, and may just be easily overexcited (hee hee – guilty!). By the way, in my case, it’s the triple cappuccino I had for breakfast.
And finally, there’s out-and-out rudeness. Of the three expressed hostilities I’ve outlined here, this is, perhaps surprisingly, the one I’m most likely to commit. It happened not that long ago, actually – I was in a public situation where a group of moms were hanging out and about half of us were not observing a technical but rarely-observed policy at the facilities (let’s say, oh, public urination). A certain mom – whom I don’t get on that well with, and who I feel generally uncomfortable around – was obviously bugged at the ignored rule and cast about for eye contact – finally making it with me, since I have been trying to be nicer to her – and she said, “You’re not supposed to pee on the grass, you know!” *. Instantly my tenuous efforts to forge the gap between us went up in smoke, and I was irritated. I gave her the dead-eye stare, “Yeah, I know.” No one else backed her up and minutes later she had vanished while I was left feeling assholian.
So just remember, ladies – just because your subtext can be subtle, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. I guess I’m just glad no one’s leaving notes in lockers anymore, “Welcome to Loserville; Population: You”.
* I am obviously using a fictitious example here to protect the situation and that Nasty Little Rule-Follower from being identified!