Life upheavals shape us into the people we later become, but I believe that ‘rites of passage’ have a far deeper impact than we may realise.
Chatting with my friends, it seems that all women can relate to certain occurrences in their formative years and it was with drinks raised aloft that we all enjoyed the continuous cry of ‘that happened to me too!’ before laughing and chiding our younger selves for being so silly. So here are my top 3 rites of passage as a woman:
1. Losing all your friends. It’s not as dramatic as the title suggests but I think most of us have been usurped from a friendship group when someone new, more fun or awesome rocked up. For me, it happened in middle school when my best friend became instantly coveted by the new girl. Looking back, I had a strange sense of awareness, I just knew that this girl was going to be trouble for me, and so she was. Suddenly, having matching rulers was not enough of a draw for my ‘bestie’ and she started to pull away, taking all of our friends with her. Before I knew what was happening, I walked into class only to be totally ignored and this carried on for five long weeks. It was a sad and lonely time for me, but as an only child I coped pretty well and when the lure of a friend that already had her ears pierced wore off, we all started to speak again. I think this set me up for a lifetime of wanting a lovely group of female friends but perpetually looking in the wrong places and repeating this pattern, until now that is.
2. Dating a rotter. It’s a sad fact that many of us have, at one time or another, been attracted to someone who has proved themselves to be a total rat. Your friends and family can’t see what you see in them but for some reason you are besotted. Well I’ve been there, got the t-shirt and worn the damn thing out before finding my amazing guy. The really odd thing is, when you see the rotter a few years later, you cannot understand what the hell you were ever thinking. I bumped into my ‘big mistake’ with a friend who refused to believe that I had dated him, until he sauntered over to say hello (and act like a total prat). She snorted with badly concealed laughter as I couldn’t hide my repulsion and when he asked what was so funny, she blurted out that he looked like a pork pie.
3. Battling a work nemesis. The happiness you feel when you land a job that you really wanted can quickly dissipate when a new colleague decides they are not keen on you. Typically, women will attract a female nemesis who has mastered the art of appearing supportive while working hard to undermine and discredit them to the rest of the team. I had one that was passive aggressive to a professional level and sought to make my life absolute hell, while simultaneously telling me that she had ‘championed me’ for the role. Token responses are ‘she’s just insecure or jealous’, but this woman was neither. Her perfectly highlighted hair and newly slimmed-down figure meant that she had nothing to be jealous of with me; an average, mousey-haired tomboy and yet she was as vicious as she was well positioned. I had nowhere to go about her issue with me as nobody actually liked her but everyone needed to stay in her good books and to top it off, she was engaged in an affair with my married boss (which the entire company was aware of). Technically she had it all but still felt the need to trample me, with her mid-range designer stilettos, to feel good.
Of course at the time these things are hurtful and seem outrageously unfair but with age and hindsight comes the ability to shrug them off and even appreciate them for what they have done for us. I now have a small but wonderful group of friends that I trust implicitly, a fantastic partner and I’m lucky enough to be doing my dream job. I don’t need to get on Facebook to know that the girls from school are still courting drama, that my ex is a bald idiot with a paunch (yep, really don’t know what I was thinking) and that my old nemesis is still trotting around her workplace, unaware that her reputation is as bad as her attitude.