I can safely say that I was lucky to have the mother I did growing up. Less than five feet tall and a little ball of fire, my mom was barely 90 pounds soaking wet. Never letting her small stature stop her, my mom was Captain of her Division I Swimming Team, something unheard of for a walk-on in those days. The dictionary definition of energetic, my mom taught me the importance of soldiering on and never letting anything stop me from my goals. My mom also taught me how not to be ugly. No, I don't mean in the physical sense. Let me explain.
Growing up, my mother used to say, "A jealous child is an ugly child, and I didn't raise an ugly child." This was my mother's response when a girl across the street from me got into the Gifted Program early. Of course, this girl had an attitude on her and rubbed it in. Looking back, this insecurity stemmed from the fact the poor thing had a rotten home life with a philandering father and a controlling mother. As I sat crying and wishing doom upon Neighbor Girl, my mom was quick to point out that people peak at various points in their lives, and everyone has their own gifts and talents. She told me that while Neighbor Girl was good at math, she wasn't as funny or as creative as I was. Bottom line: We could not have everything. Also, that every dog had their day, and this might be it for her.
Mrs. Brucker was correct. Neighbor Girl decided academics were not for her once middle school hit. She became boy crazy party girl and dropped off the Gifted Track all together. She peaked at 8. Jealousy isn't the thing that comes to mind, but rather, pity.
I began doing comedy in New York City when I was 19 years old. It was the beginning of my Sophomore Year at NYU when I did an All Women's Comedy Showcase at some bar in The West Village. As I sat in the comedian's corner with the other women, I began to notice a pattern: When one female comedian would hit the stage, the others would viciously gossip about her. Then, when she got offstage, she would sit in the corner with her so-called friends who would give her fake compliments. I heard everything from how one woman stole jokes, to how another had slept her way into a festival, and so on and so on. This appalled me so much so that I finished watching the show from the audience. There was no need for the pettiness. As someone who was the Prop Comic on the show, I enjoyed watching The Mom Comic, The Observational Comic, The Cringe Comic, The Pretty Girl Comic, etc. Of course, then I had to remember sometimes ugly, jealous children become ugly, jealous adults. That experience was a real eye opener. In the male-dominated realm of comedy, you would think women would have stuck together, being more supportive of each other. I was so disappointed that I have done very few All Women Comedy Showcases since.
During my post-adolescent years in the city, I have seen how jealousy has undermined women in so many different ways. Professionally, women will focus on the success of another woman and how she does not "deserve it." Rather than focus on their own career and goals, they slander her in public, claiming she slept her way to a certain advancement or did something else utterly sleazy to get it. Either way, it's not about what she supposedly did, it's about them and their fear of inadequacy. It's about them wanting to be professional victims, assuming said young woman did not work hard to get ahead.
On a superficial level, women often tear down other women for the way they dress or how they supposedly act "loose" and "easy." Meanwhile, these are labels for behaviors they just assume she partakes in. It says nothing about the content of her character as a person. More often than not, it is a pot shot at someone who is confident -- how dare she like herself?
Of course, if a woman never settles for less than the best and is ambitious, she is labeled a "bitch." Mind you, while this label comes from men, more often than not, the stones are thrown by other women. With all the chauvinism, misogyny and sexism that shows itself every Presidential Election, the truth is, men are not the real threat. Women are their own worst enemy.
Maybe it is that in our minds there can only be so many spots in the categories of Smart Woman, Athletic Woman, Beautiful Woman, Ambitious Woman and Creative Woman. Meanwhile, we should stop selling ourselves short when we can be any and all of these women if we want to. Maybe it is the mixed messages of the media that young is better, smart is cool and all the Real Housewife shows coupled with being told to respect yourself women are confused as to who they are supposed to be. Is it hooker, housewife or hot young professional? Maybe the mix-up is masking itself as envy, as the grass is greener on the other side, but we are not sure what other side we should be on.
The other day I did a photo shoot for an online network called IT TV, where I recently started as a VJ. When I met my fellow VJs they were all beautiful and talented women of different shapes, sizes and nationalities. As opposed to the women's comedy showcase, the element of cattiness was absent. No one was threatened. Rather, we were refreshed by the different pieces of the puzzle we all brought to the table.
Clearly, our mother's didn't raise ugly children. Perhaps my gender is finally growing up.