Friday, January 18, 2013

No Litter On The Beach: Girls & Gossip

Photo cred by chordstriking
Years ago I worked at an all-girls trip camp up in Salisbury, Vermont during the summers in between college semesters. Some of the finest women I know today worked alongside me at that camp. Not to mention I also met my husband at the all-boys camp across the lake. One summer, we had the author of the book Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self Esteem & The Confidence Gap (Peggy Orenstein) come and speak to us about girls. The two things I remember most clearly were that during her research she had noticed a confidence gap right around 5th grade. Ask a 3rd or 4th grade girl what they want on their pizza and they'll tell you "pepperoni" "olives and mushrooms" or something else specific. Ask a 5th grade girl and the answer was typically, "I don't know" or "I don't care" or "whatever she's having is fine." It struck me that something happens to girls and I paid attention to how many times I said "I don't care" or "Whatever." I still struggle with choosing a place to eat and often defer to whatever my husband feels like or the group prefers.

The other lesson was "No Litter On The Beach." Orenstein had talked about the poisonous effects of gossip and how we, as staff, were no different. She acknowledged that it must be hard to spend such an intense period of time -living, tripping, and taking days off with the same group of women for an entire summer. We were bound to have issues crop up but the important thing to remember was that we immediately needed to discuss it wit the other person and ONLY the other person. She said, "No litter on the beach." And for that summer, for the first time in my life I was with a group of women who actually didn't talk shit about each other behind their backs and just brought things up as they came up. It was hugely empowering and probably part of the reason so many of us are still good friends to this day.

Last week I was reminded of "No Litter On The Beach" when I felt a friend had purposely ignored me. I felt small and then I felt angry. I was right back in middle school waiting in line to talk to the popular girl. I immediately concocted ideas in my head about why she was ignoring me and even worse, carefully went over and over our last interaction to see if I had somehow offended her and this was her way of letting me know. Should I be apologizing to her? The insanity of insecurity lives on. But the difference is, I slept on it. Literally, I went home and took a nap. I let myself feel angry and kind of knew that my very personal reaction to what had happened probably had nothing to do with the present moment. That in fact, she most likely just didn't see me.

It took me a couple days to sift out my feelings but I knew I couldn't let it go. I could not let litter pile up. So after much thought I wrote and sent a very simple email that came from a place of love and had none of the other bullshit attached to it. It turns out, I was right. She just didn't see me.

Moral of the story: Choose your toppings loudly and don't let the litter pile up.

2 comments:

Carmen said...

nice post!
yes, insecurity is a bitch, and still so much a part of some of our hard-wiring
i play that "is s/he mad at me game" all the time. it's exhausting

Lindsey said...

Thanks for the comment. I know the game well!