Note: Please attribute this to me as apostrophized and link to my tumblr.
I am always complaining about this woman at my work, that I really like and respect, but also kind of hate. I’ve realized recently that she is really adding to my low self esteem and depression.
I’ve written, in the past, about how she is constantly commenting on my clothes, and then going out and getting things that are similar and then publicly comparing how the item fits her (size 8) body with how it fits my (size big) body. Not long ago, I asked her why in fuck she was always commenting on my clothes and buying the same shit as me, and she said “I really like the way you dress, I thought my copying you was supposed to be a compliment!” Like, she was kind of offended. I just rolled my eyes and walked away.
She also separated from her husband around the same time I did, but was immediately dating several different men. So then I got all the “innocent” questions about who I was dating, when was I going to start dating, why wasn’t I dating — when the fact is that nobody is interested in dating me. So, in addition to my already fragile self esteem that derived from my husband leaving me and asking me for a divorce and immediately jumping into another relationship and fucking some skinny dark-skinned petite younger woman with pretty hair, daily I am being forced to listen to this barrage of stories about who this woman is dating and how many men she’s having to turn down and how jealous her ex-husband is and all this other foolishness that I just didn’t give a fuck about.
I don’t know why women feel as though the only way they can maintain friendships with other women is by imitating and competing with them. That’s not “flattery” to me. It’s insulting to me. Everything about who I’ve become these last few years has been a long, hard struggle — from the way I wear my hair, to the kinds of clothes and shoes I wear, to the words I use, to my fucking glasses and handbag. It’s all an expression of who I am — everything about me is a shout of defiance against a society and culture and family and friends and the world and my LIFE, that have told me I have to be a certain way and look a certain way in order to have VALUE. And for someone to come behind me, and take everything that I’ve worked so long and hard to figure out, and just co-opt it like it was nothing… it’s so fucking HURTFUL. To YOU, my choosing to wear a certain pair of shoes might not mean anything, but to me, the choice itself to wear those shoes might have a very spiritual, personal meaning that involved months of thought and possibly even tears. And so what, that on the surface it’s just shoes — to me, it’s more than that. And I feel like the mimicry is THEFT, taking a piece of who I am mocking it, belittling me, as if I have no value.
When I was looking for new glasses, she went and bought the pair I’d been considering for several months. I’d told her about how emotional buying glasses was for me, because I hadn’t had new glasses in 5 years because my husband always needed shit first, and he was more important. His $200 Lacoste trainers were more important than my having a winter coat. His $45 haircut was more necessary than my co-pay for a doctor visit. Because he never had shit growing up and lacked self esteem, and it was my responsibility to help him feel good about himself — it didn’t matter that it was at my own expense, and that I couldn’t/didn’t spend money on myself. Even thinking about myself was super fucking hard for me, because he’d been through so much that I hadn’t and the purpose of my role as his wife was to make all the money, clean and care for the house, pay all the bills, fuck and blow him, and boost his self esteem so he’d finally feel worthy. Something as simple as SELECTING glasses brought me to tears and panic attacks. And after all that… she saw the glasses I was considering, and went out and bought them the same day.
She kept pestering me to find out where I bought my clothes, knowing I shopped at stores online that specifically sold plus sizes, and when I accidentally mentioned eShakti, she immediately bought several colors of the same dress that I had, and kept suggesting we wear them the same day to compare how they looked…. Even after all of that shit, I IGNORED it. Because, while there is a journey behind every single thing that I use for self-expression, it’s MY journey and someone having the same purse as me is not going to change my story or make MY journey irrelevant.
But this hair thing, though… I mean, okay, as the only 2 black women in the office (with the exception of crazy bracelet lady), in senior roles, with natural hair. So we both have certain challenges and bond over that. She used to have waist-length locs, and a few months ago did a BC (I said 3 months ago in a previous post, but it’s more like 6 or 7). Of course, her hair has a different texture than mine, grows faster than mine, and normally I wouldn’t give a fuck — I mean, I’ve been on a “self discovery journey” for several years now, and accepting my, and all forms of, natural hair has been a part of the process — but it’s like, this woman is going out of her fucking way to make comparisons between her hair and mine, with a lot of backhanded compliments, or those kinds of comments that make you go “yeah. no, wait… what?”
It’s HAIR. I have learned so much about my own hair over the last couple of years, and although I’m not 100% happy with every truth, I 99% accept it the way it is, and made the commitment to work with it in its natural state however I had to, because it’s a part of ME, and everything about me is awesome. But it’s like, this woman has found a way to wedge her toe into that 1% of acceptance that I am lacking, and push and push and push, creating an even wider gap, and now I feel like I only accept my hair maybe 75%, which in turns lowers the esteem I hold in my body, and my general appearance, and it just spirals downward and now I’m just feeling like absolute shit all the time. About the fit of my clothes, or the fact that I am divorced but not dating, that my ex-husband isn’t begging for me to come back, that I don’t have children, that my body is fat, that I don’t make enough money, that my family wasn’t rich, that I’m not entitled, that I don’t have any friends — I feel EMBARRASSED about who I am. Ashamed by my existence. I feel less than. Like, all the esteem that I built up over the last couple of years is slowly corroding, because this one person squeezed their way into the almost invisible crack in my armor and started prying it open.
Because that’s what women do, right? To eachother? We learn that the only way we can be complete, or feel good about ourselves, is to tear someone else down and make them feel like shit about themselves and their choices. We can’t just have DIFFERENT opinions, or different perspectives or just happen to understand the world differently. We can’t be different at all. We have to be the same, we have to fit this impossible mold that all women are supposed to fit in — and only THEN can we measure eachother’s womanhood, to see who’s winning. And I feel like that’s what’s happened here — life conspired to have us sharing similar life situations, and then she bought my clothes and cut her hair to look like mine; and now, NOW that we are in the same mold — even though it’s a mold that I created — we are similar enough now to compete.
It’s like… thin women who don’t feel like fat women are in “their league” UNLESS that fat woman shares certain things with her — a boyfriend/husband, a family, certain level of education, number of friends, unconventional hair, “conventionally attractive” or whateverthefuck. When a fat woman has those things in common with a thin woman — or has MORE, based on some arbitrary scale of what women should have and BE — only THEN can a fat woman become “competition” to a thin woman.
Like, all my life, my good friends have all, EVERY SINGLE ONE, slept with whatever boyfriend I had at the time. It didn’t matter than I was fat, and dark, and nerdy, and “tomboyish” and “cute” but never pretty — I was almost always popular, I had lots of friends, I was smart, the “popular guys” were always my friends, my cousins were popular and well-known (for good or bad), I was always surrounded by PEOPLE — and those who I considered “good friends,” no matter how thin or attractive they were, could never measure up to that, it was the ONE THING that evened the playing fields between us — my being popular to their being thin/attractive/white — and, from the age 13 through college, this happened with EVERY SINGLE BOYFRIEND I had.
When black folks CAN “keep up with the Jones’” — only THEN do middle-class white folks get scared that the darkies are taking their jobs and spots in school and ruining their neighborhoods. It’s only when poor people are getting poorer and can’t find jobs while migrant workers come over here doing all this back-breaking labor for a few bucks a week, that people start talking about “the immigration problem”. It’s only when black history becomes a focus (in February) that people start complaining about lack of X history month. It’s only when fat or dark-skinned models start being praised for their beauty that the industry has a fucking problem with them. It’s only when LGBTQ folks begin getting the visibility and equality they deserve that “straight” folks start complaining about “TEH GAES!” It’s only when sex workers demand that people treat their work as an actual JOB, that people — especially “feminists” and MEN — attempt to silence and shame them.
IT’S ONLY WHEN THE PLAYING FIELD IS LEVEL that the privileged begin to have a problem with those whom they hold privilege over.
And that’s how this woman at my work is making me feel. Like I’m inferior. Like I should have KNOWN that I was inferior. Like she’s trying to put me in my place for DARING to be on the same level that she is. How DARE I come to work looking nice and pulled together when she has on jeans and a ripped cardigan??! NOW we have the same outfit on and SEE, I AM BETTER THAN YOU!
And, at first, I fought it in my own way. You want to wear my dress, but you can’t fill it out like I can. You want to wear a miniskirt, then all of my skirts will purposely hit below the knee. You want to wear my hairstyle, then no, I’m not going to help you figure out how to take care of it and I’m not going to tell you when you look a hot ass mess. You want to ask me ignorant questions about why I’m not dating anyone, I’ll “innocently” ask you which of your boyfriends you spent the night with last night, in front of our boss.
But that shit is draining. And it’s not ME. That’s not who I am, my journey is about lifting myself up, not bringing others down or allowing myself to sink down to someone else’s level. My rights stop where others’ begin, and I have no business interfering with, or denying someone the enjoyment of their own lives, even through sarcasm and mumbled commentary.
I hate this. I hate it all so much. I feel like my journey has taken 100 steps backward, and I’m back where I started 2 years ago — hating myself, feeling like I don’t deserve shit, feeling ugly and unloved and pathetic. And I don’t know how to get over it.