Scarlet Letters

Back in high school, I never really associated myself with one particular clique. I successfully maneuvered through a few and chose to steer clear of the girls with mean streaks. On more than one occasion, I risked my own life social standing and stood up for girl who was being bullied or turned into a social pariah. Maybe it’s the Libra in me, but I just can’t stop myself from fighting for fairness.

For some silly reason, as a teenager I thought we’d all eventually outgrow those bouts of bitchiness. Maybe it was just blind hope that led me to think people automatically turned nice when they were done growing up. Somewhere along the line, I was misled. I’m disappointed to report that there are vast amounts of adult women who have failed.

That’s right. In fact, if I could legally walk around with a giant rubber stamp and a red ink pad slapping a big red “F” on foreheads of all perpetrators, I would. I’d mark them all with their very own scarlet letter to alert the world that they have failed to evolve. Unfortunately, assault with a rubber stamp is against the law and most people can spot these stunted gals from a mile away anyway.

So, I even though I was way off the mark back when I believed girls grew into women capable of being kind/forgiving/tolerant/aware/supportive of one another, I can only assume that, like me, the world is filled with people who thought adulthood changed things. You know, the idiots who believed in some sort of mass evolution or future utopian existence…  Well, fellow dreamers, while there are oodles of nice ladies out there, apparently there is also a large contingent of female humans crippled by their inability to do the following:

1.  Make eye-contact and say hello to the women they see every day.

It’s not hard. Just move your eyeballs toward the person in front of you, tell your brain to form the word “hello” and then make your mouth move. If “hello” doesn’t work for you, here are several variations of salutations that might fit the bill:  good morning, good afternoon, howdy, what’s up? hi, how are you? or perhaps a simple and non-committal, hey. Because that’s better than nothing.

2.  Avoid gossip.

Especially when the persons with whom you are gossiping are too daft to keep the source of the gossip (you) close to the vest. It’s simple really…save the gossip for your husband or the family dog. They don’t really care about what’s happening at the PTA meeting/playground/gym, so your petty gossip won’t come back to bite you in the ass later.

Maybe now is also a good time to propose that women should refrain from forming pitchfork carrying mobs intent on annihilating the women who don’t fit their agenda or who, for some reason pose a threat.

Might I suggest that if you’re feeling the need to incite the masses, there are well-trained men and women who can be hired to psycho-analyze this disturbing behavior right out of your brain. I know, crazy…right? And it’s conveniently covered by most medical insurance, too.

Sadly, the reasons for Queen Bees and their Wannabees don’t seem much different now than they were when I was 15 years old. There are still groups of grown women prepared to attack if they don’t like the way another person talks, dresses, walks, thinks…

It’s depressing to think I’ll have to tell my daughters that the cliques never really go away. There’s always someone vying to be the leader but so few actually carry it off with grace and aplomb.

Playgrounds and play groups and beach outings and car pools…they’re still there. The perfectly coiffed women who married well, the harried working moms trying to stay on schedule, the moms trying to be perfect so their kids will perfect and popular, the former career-girls who now stay at home and apply their expertise to their family, attacking school-related functions with a vengeance.

I’ve tried my best to avoid all of the above, but as mommies, we all inadvertently stumble into a viper pit at some point.

Last summer, as I prepared for my grad school residency, the phone rang. (Here’s the part where I come clean) For a while there, I let unknown local numbers go straight to the answering machine, mostly because I never knew if it was school-related phone call or a mom from one of our schools trying to sell face cream. Anywho…on that day last summer, it was school-related.

The voice of a woman who I’d never met filled my kitchen and informed me that we were five dollars short on our tuition for the year. Okay.

And it was okay, until the tone of her message took a very snooty turn, reiterating twice that our payment should be X amount, as if we were idiots or some sort of pathetic losers whose five dollar shortage was causing the wanton destruction of a perfectly fine establishment.

My active imagination conjured an image of the woman on the other end of the phone. She became a sneering uppity WASP dressed in cashmere twin-set with a fluffy Pomeranian in her lap. I still haven’t met her, but the image sticks and her call seems to have set the tone for the year.

Now, months later, I look back at the years I worked in New York law firms and find myself missing the up-front and honest approach of my male co-workers. As much as I dislike gender stereotypes, I enjoyed working with men who said what they had to say and moved on. No grudges. No backstabbing. No fake smiles. No insecurity-induced sniping.

Boy, do I miss those guys.


  1. I’ve dealt with similar issues (attending a playgroup in Farmington that my professors also attended was awkward…apparently women above a certain age and with certain degrees don’t deign to speak to young 20 something college students even though their kids are happily playing with each other). It’s really sad to know that women sometimes don’t evolve, because I actually left high school feeling positive in my relationships with my female classmates. It gave me hope for adulthood, which, over the last few years, has been mostly dashed. And I will say, when their wives weren’t around, the dads at the playgroup were really nice and chatted with me.

  2. I run into a Queen Bee every now and then. In fact, there is a Wannabee-in-training, a malicious wench with severe personality flaws who has managed to wreak havoc in the lives of our close friends. And, yes, that lack of eye-contact thing is #3 on the list of what makes her…her. She rolls into a room, never really noticing who is present, focusing only on making everyone else aware that she has landed. People are easily fooled into thinking she’s interested in them when she asks how they are..then she proceeds to look away when they respond.

    We had a customer in our business last week who brought her Jag in for a radar install. She waltzed into our showroom and, as I greeted her, she made it a point to state “oh dear, I don’t want to put my handbag down just anywhere…it’s a Hermes, you know.” Stifling my sarcasm, I simply replied “I remember when Hermes came out with this one; back in 2004, wasn’t it?” Snagged the bitch who meekly replied, “well, you seem to know your handbags, don’t you?”

    Will agree that dealing with men cuts right through any type of bullshit. No raging hormones, no cliquishness…little or none of the female insanity that dictates the ignorance you’ve related here.

  3. You know, back in the day when I wasn’t such a hermit, I thought the dead-behind-the-eyes crew in SoCal was frustrating and annoying to deal with. What with their complete lack of personality and sense of humor (does the tanning booth and weekly hair bleaching do something to that section of women’s brains) I started thinking that I was the one with the problem. But these gals….oh, they do take the cake. I’ll take “inability to smile because of over-botoxing” over “willingness to smile only if it gets you where you want to be” any day. I think. Or I’ll just stay a hermit.

    And Patty, your comeback to Ms. Hermes was genius. Love you!

  4. Bravo for writing this! But isn’t it sad that this is so prevalent that most people not only want to echo what you are saying but are thinking of their own personal experiences with Queen-bees the entire time??!! I too thought this disappeared in adulthood. Sadly, I was wrong. My error is that I actually painfully try to befriend these vultures and ALWAYS get bit in the butt because of it. This phenomenon isn’t even void front church!! It has left me leary to make and encourage women friendships. So I forge this world w/o many girlfriends. When you get burned too many times, you tend to stop going near the fire!

  5. I’ve totally experienced some snootyness lately, and it totally makes me think of the Real Housewives. I met someone at a b-day party recently, and she politely said hi. Some of the rich ladies there were nice and talked to me AFTER I forced myself into the convo’s. I’m middle class, and it’s not like any of these ladies were extremely wealthy. And one inparticular, I see her every week at a preschool…I naturally recognized her from the party, so I try to smile and say hi. She completely acts like I don’t exist! I know she recognizes me, and her behavior makes it obvious that she is avoiding me. She truly thinks she is too high-class to talk to me! This is the first time I’ve dealt with this, and it’s a bit hard to swallow at times.
    And don’t even get me started on all the queen bee’s I have to deal w/online…I am getting so sick of online bullies and cliques and gossip!

  6. AMEN. I seriously wish I could work with only guys, they’re so much easier to be around!!

  7. Maybe it was because I grew up mostly with my brothers, but I always had a hard time understanding this part of femaleness.

    Women would be bitchy and game-playing and tone-using and confusing.

    Men were straight up. And if they were being a dick, I knew they were being a dick, and I could say to them “Stop being a dick”. End of story.

    This is all very unfortunate, because I am a woman. I’m lucky in that sometimes I totally miss all the drama because I just don’t get it, but when my friends clue me in it just makes me MAD. Ugh.

    Can’t we all just quit the games and play nice? Pretty please?

    • Now, that’s exactly my thinking. In fact, I’ve been known say things like, “Jesus, you’re really being a dick” or “Why are you being such an asshole, man?” and for some reason, the chicks just don’t get it. It’s so much easier that way, but when I try to imagine how that would go over at a PTA pissing contest, I just fantasize about saying those things…then I laugh.

  8. Thank you for writing this…in my college women’s studies classes we always talked about how women are always pitted against each other. Female-female relationships are rarely encouraged. It’s always one girl vs. another, which I find extremely sad because there are a lot of amazing women out there. We could be so much stronger if we weren’t basically encouraged to hate each other. I noticed when I was in college if I ever entered a bar or a party, all the girls in the room would suddenly get an attitude. It always upset me, and I always made the effort when hosting a party to go out of my way to be friendly to females at my party. It was amazing how different the atmosphere was when I welcomed other women in vs. glaring at them. Most of the women I welcomed into my home were lovely–a side I probably would’ve never seen had I given them a cold glare when they walked through the door.

    I guess what I’m saying is I wish we could feel more open, and start seeing the good in other women around us vs. looking for flaws or trying to find reasons to hate each other. We could build so many stronger relationships if we were all willing to approach each other with this attitude.

    • Stacey Monaco says:

      What is it they say, be the change you want to see. Of course, maybe it is passing the half a century mark that has produced the joy of finding some stunningly amazing women, and so I tell them! Maybe I have become oblivious to the rest…blissfully so. We need each other, keep up the search, there are some true authentic gems out there, and the rest are wishing for someone real.

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