I’m curious about the female phenomenon that keeps happening. The desire to continually one up or compare each other. We’ve seen it in mothers: whose child goes to what preschool program, whose child excels at what sport, whose child made the honor role again. We’ve seen it in friends: who’s wearing a better set of boots, who got engaged first, who just took a trip to Bali and ended up in first class. It’s all a “me, me” world we reside in. And I’m okay with that. I’m the first to admit that I’ve bragged about 1, 2, & 3, been jealous of a certain friend who took a trip to Key West to run with the roosters while I stayed home, bundled in 3 layers of clothes running after my 3 chickens, and even whined to my husband about a coworker whose husband takes her out to eat all the time. But what I’m not okay with is being able to state a flaw without feeling like someone is trying to one up me.
For example, the other day I was standing next to a friend whining about my lack of time.
“Look at all my gray hair,” I said, quickly pulling my winter hat off. “It’s gotten out of control! I look in the mirror and see this old lady who has…”
“Oh I know, mine are so bad too,” this friend interrupted. “I have to get mine done asap. Otherwise my hair dresser might kill me. I promised myself I would call her yesterday and…”
Wait a minute, I wanted to say. This was my complaint. My gray hair moment, and you just took it away. Just like that.
A few days later I went to the gym.
“Ugh. I can’t keep up. I have to start drinking more water and getting back into eating healthy. I used to be able to do this class without…”
The girl behind me interrupted.
“Water can really impact your workout! I ran this race in Disney and I almost didn’t make it through. They sent me to the first aide tent when I finished because I felt so lousy. Turns out I hadn’t drank enough water. The next year I came back and did the race again and did awesome. So it really is about the water. It was really scary what happened to me though I was…..”
I stared at this woman while she continued talking. Did she really just knock down my gym fatigue moment with her own half marathon story?!
I began to notice that moments like these went on and on. It was as if I had stumbled upon the Great Woman Comparison Genre. Only I couldn’t stop addressing it. It was following me everywhere I went.
Money issues were one uped with, “That’s nothing compared to what Matt and I went through.”
Children complaints were received with, “Please, listen to what Steven did last week. It will make you feel like you’re the best mom in the world!”
Husband comments were greeted with, “Well at least your husband doesn’t do what mine does. You’d really go crazy.”
No matter what I said everyone, or ever woman I should say, had something to top it. And these weren’t good things I should add. These were nagging little complaints I just threw out there. Yet, they were met with defeat.
The Great Woman Comparison began to remind me of the time a coworker was reading Men and From Mars, Women Are From Venus. She loved that book, so much so that she would come into the office every morning and dissect what she had read the night before to all of us. One thing she used to tell us was that men viewed their wives or girlfriends talking to them as a need to fix or solve their problem. I suddenly wondered if the same policy might apply to women speaking to women. Maybe, as mothers and natural care givers, we feel the need to fix or solve each other when we see one another down and out. Maybe when I’m speaking of my grays my friend feels the need to ease my gray hair pain by showing that hers are worse. Maybe the same goes for my water intake, my misbehaved children, and my annoying husband.
According to my old coworker the book said that when women are speaking to men they should begin the conversation with, “I want to talk to you about something, but I want you to know I’m not looking for you to fix or solve my problem. I just want to tell you about it.”
I wonder if I could use this with the females in my life. I wonder if they’d be put off if I started every complaint that way. But as I wonder I can’t help but find the exhaustion in each senario. I don’t want any extra work in my life, after all isn’t that what most of my whining to these females is about-my lack of time and energy.
All I want is to be able to take my hat off and profess my grays to a friend and have her put her arm around my shoulder, laugh, and say “Well, at least you can start taking your kids out to the early bird specials and get a cheaper dinner.”
So, how do I make this happen? I’m not sure. I don’t want to stop complaining, because what else would I have. And if I lead by example, will someone hate me or find me insensitive for just listening to their complaints? But yet, if I stopped and said to my friend, “Can you please just let me have my grays and listen,” would she think I was being a PMS bitch? The answer I’m afraid is unknown. The Great Woman Comparison has been around for generations, and I don’t think I’ll be the one to change it anytime soon. After all, I don’t even have the energy to get my grays done, so who am I to launch a nationwide fight amongst the women I still need most-even if they do one-up my complaints.