Monday, January 21, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about change lately and given this holiday it seems appropriate to put a voice to my mental ramblings. On a larger scale, with the looming presidential election, we are all talking about change. After years of watching our prosperous country swirl down the economic crapper, it's not hard to weigh the benefits. But on a smaller, more personal scale, I think it is difficult to come to this point of certainty. By we, I mostly speak of, women.

This week, the beloved principal of our elementary school, informed us that, after four years, she'd accepted another job. Immediately, a frenzy of anger and betrayal swirled around campus. Sadness, worry and hard-feelings swelled the phone lines.

I thought about the difference between men and women in dealing with change. With women, there's most often a resistance, an emotional tug of war between events unknown and the sure thing - no matter how imperfect. It's the "devil you know" syndrome. We wrangle with breaking up bad marriages, quitting a job, even letting go of opinions of ourselves that we've held since childhood. We attach a sense of identity and familiarity to what we know and wonder who we would be without them. The unknown is scarier than anything we've already survived.

I think our greatest and most powerful female trait is our acute ability to connect with our hearts and the hearts of others. We get to the root of the matter with our kids, spouses, and friends to a place many men don't consider and aren't brave enough to venture to without us. But our greatest asset can also be our greatest handicap. We scorn with the same ferocious dedication that we love. We give our all to those who are special to us, to our jobs, our responsibilities, but that devotion is tagged with a heavy price.

For me, it started in junior high school. The mercurial ins and outs of cliques. The loathsome stares and whispers. Social fluctuations I couldn't measure propelled me into social exile. If I knew then what I know now I'd have taken those girls less seriously, told them to f#@ck off . But I was sensitive and dependent on them for my identity. I needed them as much as I detested them. In summer camp, I awoke one morning to hear my friends whispering and snickering. Even with my eyes closed I felt the shift, the betrayal. A few solitary days later, these girls summoned me into our bathroom, positioned me on a toilet seat, and in front of a judge and jury of my "peers", ordered me to plead guilty/not guilty to a list of social offenses. I spent the rest of the summer in emotional and physical solitary confinement. My trust in girls was obliterated.

I know girl-bullying experiences are common and cutting which is why I suggest this as a possible cause for women's struggle with change. Maybe if we stop taking things personally, stop giving over our power, we wouldn't be so frightened of change. We could look at natural evolutions of life, like an intimate friendship morphing into something more casual, a boss losing a good employee to a competitor, or a beloved elementary school principal leaving for greener pastures, as transitions that are personal only to those initiating the changes. Men tend to step back and view these developments from a strategic standpoint, as opportunities for renovation and renewal. We, too, should have the faith in ourselves and others to see it this way.

As MLK said, "No man is an island. We are a piece of the continent, a piece of the main." We could learn to give other people the benefit of the doubt. To understand that change is natural, change is good. And to have faith in our strength to handle whatever the future brings.

Okay, so I'm a bit melodramatic. It's Martin Luther King Day. If not today, when?

Until tomorrow...

1 Comment:

slouching mom said...

Oh, the girl bullying. Me, too. Ouch.

Your point is well taken. Though I think for both genders, one might make the argument that the strengths, are, when turned on their sides, weaknesses as well.


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