Alpha Bitch, or The Bear Turns

It came to me all in a flash on Saturday.

My husband had asked me to tell him a story, "something good about your childhood."  I tried, but all I could think of, other than the food, was how hard it had been making friends.  "It sounds," he said, "like you're blaming everybody else."  "No," I screamed (yes, it got to screaming), "I didn't say that.  It was just hard, and everybody was so mean to me."

Which they were.  The kids on the playground when I was in second grade, who confidently told me that I would fail when the grown-ups decided to promote me to third grade after the first month.  The girls in the neighborhood who beat up on me when we moved.  My best friend(s) who dumped me for another girl or who refused to acknowledge me on the bus after we had been hanging out all summer.  The popular girls who never quite let me into their clique.  My friends in high school who spent the summer after we graduated going out when I had to work (at, yes, a pizza restaurant, my one foray into food service) but always having other plans when I was off.  My siblings who oh-so-enjoyed winding me up and then blamed me for starting the fight.  Yup, they were mean.

But--and this is what I realized on Saturday--I asked for it.  No, I'm not blaming the victim here, not exactly.  The kids were mean to me; they really did beat me up, dump me, ostracize me, set me up.  But only, I now rather suspect, because I let them.  Worse, I tempted them by being so God-damned easy to wind up.  Poke.  "Stop it!"  Poke.  "Stop it!"  Poke.  Smack.  "Mom, she hit me!Poke.  "Stop it!"  Poke.  "Stop it!"  Poke.  "I just wanted to be your friend, why are you being so mean to me?"  Goodness, how could they resist?  It's like I brought out the worst in them simply by existing, which, in a way, I did, because I was such an easy target.  Poke.  Tears.  What could be more satisfying?  No wonder I had such trouble making friends: I was desperate to please.

Worse.  Desperate for others to like me.  Desperate to fit in, belong, be one of the gang.  Desperate not to be the last one picked for the team, desperate to be anything other than the shy, awkward, plump, geeky, bookworm that I (felt I) was.  Oh, to be one of the kids who was daring enough to skip school (I did it, a few times in middle school, but I didn't really enjoy it).  Oh, to be one of the girls whom the boys were interested in (some of them were, but I was too anxious to do anything about it).  Oh, to be a leader, someone to be envied, one of the bitches whom everybody envied and adored.  Not me, I was too worried about being nice.

I recognize the patterns even today.  I worry that my husband doesn't like the same things that I do.  I worry that my colleagues don't appreciate my work.  I worry whether my family approves of me.  And all the time, I'm simply inviting them to judge me and find me wanting.   Poke.  Tears.  Well, not any more.   Let me say it again.  Not.  Any.  More.  I can see it now, the approval that I've been longing for is a will-o'-the-wisp, a phantom, a chimera, a trap.  Because--and listen very carefully, because this is important--it makes no difference whatsoever what anybody else thinks, not to whether I am worthwhile, not to whether my work is important, not to whether I am lovable by God.

So, that's it, I'm done with trying to make other people like me.  It doesn't work and, besides, it's meaningless.  Either they like me or they don't, it's nothing to do with me.  So what if they make a face when I am talking about something I like?  It's nothing to do with me.  So what if they can't see the point of the research that I do?  It's nothing to do with me.  So what if they are so wrapped up in their own issues that they feel bound to pick on aspects of my life?  It's nothing to do with me.  More important, I am not obliged to make it my business what they think, nor am I obliged to be nice to them simply so that they will like me, because they won't, not when I'm trying so hard simply to please.  Maybe it's an eldest child thing, always wanting to be liked.  But it's a dangerous and self-defeating place to be.

So there.  I'm not even going to ask you what you think.  Because, you know, I don't really care.  It's nothing to do with me.


  1. Speaking as someone who went through her teenage years with a "kick me" sign on her back, more power to ya!


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