Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Oops, Green Monster Does It Again

I often remind the girls in my care--my high schoolers, my daughters--that feelings like anger, insecurity, and envy spawn bad kinds of behavior.  Particularly between women.

I point out that while they often come from very dark places, those emotions are normal.  It becomes, however, our responsibility to identify when we're feeling them, determine their origins, and work through our anger, insecurity, or envy.  Or Think Very Hard before acting upon them.

Most hurtful emails; most damaging Facebook and Twitter posts; most passive-aggressive and petty acts stem from that Green Monster Envy or her cousins Jealousy, Covetousness, and Insecurity.  Most spontaneous bitchy behavior, in fact, can be traced back to those demons. 

And while none of us is immune, the hope is that we've learned to manage the monsters sometime between middle school and middle age. 

And yet, we've got the Real Housewives reality TV series to demonstrate that adult women can behave like sixth graders. 

Oh, and there's Paula Broadwell.

See, it wasn't exposure of her extramarital affair that brought her down.  It was that she had to go and send anonymous "harassing" emails to a woman she perceived as competition, asserting, in effect, "You'd better back off my (ex-)man."  And because they were "anonymous," an investigation ensued. 

Let the wincing commence. 

We do dumb and hurtful stuff when we're infatuated and obsessed (like have an affair), but we often do forehead-smackingly lunatic stuff when we're jealous and insecure (like write "anonymous" emails from multiple fake accounts).  Paula needed a friend to talk her down from the keyboard, at the very least. 

Nevertheless, I think many of us could own up to some ugly behavior birthed by envy. 

Okay, I will start.

It was sixth grade.  I had a hopeless crush on a guy who paid me no mind except when he was making fun of me and my friends in a way only middle school boys can (and I and my friends endured the mistreatment in a way only middle school girls can).  I knew deep down that this was destined to be unrequited love, but I was reassured by the fact that though he wasn't "going out" with me, he wasn't "going out" with anyone else I knew either. 

But then came Sixth Grade Camp.  Sixth Grade Camp is a rite of passage in our parts.  It involves spending a school week in the mountains with sixth grade peers from your school and Another School.  The "Another School" in question back in 1982 brought a girl who within a day purported to be hot for my love interest.  And I knew this because girls from both schools slept in a huge room of bunkbeds together, and my friends told me they heard her friends say that she liked him. 

I clearly remember the moment when a pack of my buddies approached me with this news, pointing out the girl in question, over yonder, and awaiting my response. 

A mild but territorial outrage tinged with green envy crept over me.  But I also felt safe among my "supportive" peeps, and emboldened by the independence of being at sleepaway camp.

"She's kind of a dog,"  I offered. 

And then the next part happened.  Either one of my friends told her or one of her friends the gist of what I said, or one of her friends overheard me.  All I know is that soon enough, I was surrounded by a group of her peeps, who were accusing me of calling their girl a "rag." 

"I did NOT call her a 'rag'," I asserted confidently, while sheathed in a cold sweat, relieved that one factual lapse saved me from lying, at least. 

"She wants to fight you," they added.

"Well...I didn't call her a rag..." I repeated, weakly, and walked away, in search of my friends. 

And that was that, as far as I recall.  I have vague memories of sanding a piece of Manzanita wood and being freaked out by counselors' ghost stories.  But mostly I remember that I spent most of Sixth Grade Camp living down that I acted like a mean girl and got called out. 

So, that was a low point.  In retrospect, I am so very glad I couldn't text or tweet or post my thoughts about that girl.  Because I might have. 

And though the scandal in Washington (and Virginia and Florida and North Carolina) is a hot, hot mess (the latest:  emails with shirtless photos from an FBI agent??  That poor choice is inspired by another kind of age-old monster...), there's something we should all recognize, amidst the snickering and judging: 

You can be valedictorian AND homecoming queen AND fitness champ AND Harvard grad AND bestselling author AND...Still.  Feel.  Insecure.

Whatever it takes for us to love ourselves a little more, or enough, it sure isn't having an affair with a four-star general.

It's an elusive elixir, and I hope Holly Petraeus has quarts of it in stock.