Everyone knows a woman who has said, “I only have male friends. I don’t get along with women because they’re all jealous of me.” Or, “I don’t like women because they’re all fake.”
The reality is, these women are usually the problem. If you can’t get along with members of the same gender, it’s not them. It’s you.
I hate the stereotype that women are catty. But in some ways, I can see where it comes from.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying
Years ago, I interned at an all-female PR agency. I thought it was going pretty well until I found out during my last week that someone in a position of power harbored strong resentment toward me. What was most shocking was that it was over something she mistakenly thought I had said months earlier. A series of unfortunate conversations with someone else led her to infer that I’d said something that would never have even crossed my mind. When I found out what she thought I had done, the misconception was so preposterous I didn’t even know what to say. I just couldn’t understand why she hadn’t just asked me about it directly in the first place.
That was the day I learned my first lesson in office-crying – a skill I would hone further in subsequent jobs. The key is to not let anyone see or hear you. And if they ask why your eyes are bloodshot, just tell them you’re high on cocaine. It sounds a lot more badass than admitting you’ve been blubbering like a two-year-old in the handicapped stall for the past 20 minutes because your coworker just blamed you for the choice of font used on a document your boss didn’t like.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
I guess I’ve never understood women who don’t get along with other women because my closest friends have always been women. When I was 14, I met my friend Becky on the first day of basketball camp the summer before we started high school. To this day Becky is one of my very best friends. I met other friends along the way, and they became my family. That was 13 years ago, and these women are still my very best friends. We’ve established an annual camping trip, inside jokes and a support system that will never be broken. Weddings have become reunions I look forward to every year. Soon, we will start celebrating births. And someday, as much as we don’t want to think about it, we will mourn each other’s deaths.
I know a lot of people had terrible high school experiences, and I get it. I was fortunate enough to survive for the most part unscathed. Sure, I had my share of teenage crises, melodrama and meltdowns. But the relationships I formed during those years are responsible for who I became today.
I attended Rosati-Kain, a Catholic, all-girls high school. (Insert stereotypes here.) Having no men in my school, there was no football team to worship. No big strong jocks to carry our books. No need for makeup or pushup bras.
We grew strong in this environment. We carried ourselves with confidence. And that’s not all we carried. We carried boxes of paper deliveries up three flights of stairs. We carried desks from one classroom to another. We carried stacks of chairs from the cafeteria to the gym, and then back again. Come to think of it, manual labor was as much a part of our curriculum as algebra.
We didn’t have a lot of space. My alma mater is in an urban environment, a uniquely appealing characteristic for the St. Louis metro area. It was just 400 teenage girls in one building. The situation put us all in survival mode. You had to learn to get along with each other and in the process grow as a confident individual. You also learned never to start a sentence with ‘you’ – a lesson I was afraid to break for years. Look at me now! And I’m even starting sentences with conjunctions and using exclamatory punctuation for no reason in a run-on sentence that has nothing to do with an essay on female relationships!
My point is, academic lessons are just as important as life lessons, and the rules for both are ever-changing.
High school gave me the education I needed to be successful in college. But it also gave me the friendships I needed to be successful in life. Those are the women I can rely on when I cross paths with women who don’t get along with other women.
For this, I am grateful.
9/1/11 UPDATE: Today is my alma mater’s 100th anniversary. Check out the article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.