A woman stares another woman down from head to toe, taking in account the quality of the other's clothing, the texture of her skin, the length and muscular definition of her legs, then her eyes narrow and she gives a look of disgust at her scrutinized subject. For the recipient, it is akin to having been thrown a punch. Yet the major difference is the opening for engagement. You can address a punch by fighting fast and fierce. With a look that falls under the category "if looks can kill," you can leave your opponent glaring and pay no heed or you can stare her straight on in return. I am not a fan of these ludicrously juvenile tactics, but have recently been on the receiving end of them. They irk me to no end, but as a dear friend of mine says, "If that is the worst of it, you're safe." I've been reminding myself of the safety, how a look is just a look, and then we each go home our separate ways to our very different lives. The title above is a quote that I read and couldn't find its source, but it rings true. We must develop better ways to adapt because we are constantly growing. For whom this applies to, we are no longer girls now. We are women and although my grandmother referred to her friends as "girls" well into her 80s and early 90s, at the age of 40, I would like to be thought of as a woman and not a girl.
Very commonly, heterosexual women are not entirely comfortable in their skin and often rely on a man to validate their attractiveness, intellect, ability to be found interesting, and when the men in our lives do instill this confidence, many of us don't entirely trust their opinions. Another woman can easily shake us of newly-honed fierceness and emboldened confidence. With one wry comment or a backhanded compliment (the type with which you don't recognize the inherent insult until later on), an ego can take a bruising. The extent of the bruise hinges on whose ego has taken the hit. A supremely confident woman may simply flinch while someone who is not feeling at the top of their game in life wants to duck out of the ring. I am one of those women who didn't intend to play, but somehow I got roped into this little game with a fellow neighborhood mom.
I always vainly assumed that since I am mainly affable, not attached to any cliques and know how to keep friends and acquaintances laughing, everyone would like me. My plans to figuratively never step out of a certain perimeter, to stick to a decorum that would leave little room to ever ever hurt anyone, did not entirely come to fruition. I tried to help people out, be an informal psychologist and it felt rewarding to do things that helped make others feel better about themselves. It was inevitable that somewhere down the line, I would take missteps. Sometimes when we take a series of missteps, we try to rectify them to no avail, to complete fail in some instances and we muddy up a previously pretty picture. An apology only goes so far and with the idea of a new day, a new chance to start over, we can begin to sketch on a new page. Our destinies are determined by our next moments and when we get bogged down by the past, we are flat-lining them. It is a suicidal move.
Voltaire said, "Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us." He was a philosopher who knew (I'd like to think) that when women dole out the "high school stare down" to other women, we have the power to raise our protective shields and not think more deeply about the stare. Even when one feels guilty for, let's say, having forgotten to invite the other woman's child to a birthday party now that the children are no longer in the same class or if it is for a much greater offense, if a stare-down is the only means of communication by the offended, we need to choose our responses wisely.
A woman does not always desire an apology from another woman, but she wants to convey that she is angry. I think the best thing we can do in these instances is evaluate very thoughtfully whether an apology will break the ice or be accepted. In my own particular case, apologies were uttered, but apologies could only do so much and now, the stares have now gone on for a few years. When I see this woman, I will either turn the other way or look straight ahead. Hopefully she will see that I don't think I am better than her at all -- be it emotionally, intellectually, psychologically or physically. We are all the same. From ashes to ashes. Whether there is a heaven or a hell is concept that scares me but I would like to do my best from every moment forward to avoid the latter, if it exists. We each have had instances where we acted more mature and less mature than we should have. We have all made mistakes. We all have had sane moments and hysterical moments. We all have had time to reflect and reform and as long as life continues, we are afforded that opportunity every single day. It is clear that we women count on one another. We can be icy in the winter of our discontent or we can usher in the warmth of spring to our souls. We individually and inherently have the power to do so, to forgive and move forward and become better individuals who focus positive attentions outwards. We can choose to stare hard and meaningfully in the hopes of eliciting a squirm or we can rise above and simply... smile.