Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Know-It-All: There's One In Every Crowd

I like women.
I support women.
Some of my best friends are women.

But why is it that when you gather a large group of females there's always one who thinks she's the authority.

I can't tolerate THAT woman.

Admittedly, I have never been a fan of estrogen extravaganzas. They take me back to my youth when powerful girls put their collective authority to misuse humiliating others with their catty remarks, shameless manipulations, and their Salem-like witch hunts for such crimes as intelligence or a poor fashion sense. In college I refused to rush the sororities while all of my friends offered themselves up for sacrifice. I couldn't fathom appearing before courts of judgmental cliques awaiting validation. Girls with authority left me with a rank taste in my mouth.

I like to think I've changed as I've grown older.
I like to think I'm more learned about human psychology.
I like to think I've shed these prejudices.

Then a woman like this one comes along and blows my maturity fantasy to pieces...

Gathered in our school auditorium on a breezy evening a few nights ago, a group of neighborhood moms came to hear renowned, clinical psychologist, Lee Hausner speak. Ms. Hausner is an international lecturer, was the senior psychologist of the Beverly Hills School District for nineteen years, and an author of some best-selling books including, Children of Paradise and Homework Without Tears. We were looking forward to learning from her experience.

About ten minutes into her talk, a mom from our school entered the room from the front entrance, crossing in front of Ms. Hausner and the audience to find a seat. Even more distracting was the fact that she brought along her ten year old daughter.

What part of the title did she not understand? P-A-R-E-N-T-I-N-G seminar. We're here to talk candidly and strategize about raising our little rugrats - we can't do that when we're fraternizing with the "enemy". Did I bring my daughter in to watch while my husband and I conceived her little brother? Sure the results of that "meeting" were going to radically affect her life but it was not appropriate for her to be present during the planning stages!

We settled back down and within minutes of scraping the surface on issues such as unrealistic expectations, misuse of discipline and parental power, and projecting our dreams and failures onto our children, this woman disrupted the flow yet again.

"Excuse me," she interjected stumbling over her words and slowly processing her thoughts out loud, "This is what I do with my children and each of them gets straight A's..." She proceeded to outline her afternoon and evening routine for Ms. Hausner who was adept at giving the woman her due but cutting her off at the first appropriate moment.

Ms. Hausner practiced this skill often throughout the next hour because this woman AND her daughter frequently interrupted the lecture to share personal anecdotes proving THEIR knowledge and success on the subject.

I understand that this mother's patina of perfection was likely a cover for her insecurity (and that her ten year old daughter who thinks she is wise beyond her years will discover her mistake once she's had kids of her own). I realize that this mother was probably there just like the rest of us because underneath all the smiles and affirmations she also fears she's a mommy dearest screwing up her kids on a daily basis.

BUT I did not drag my tired ass out of the house to be a fly on the wall in her private therapy session. I did not brush my teeth and spread on lip gloss to eavesdrop on her quest for professional validation. If I knew that was going to go down I would have used my free time to visit the local restaurant/bar and slam back a few pomegranate martinis.

...This woman brought out the mean girl in me like the ones I hated from junior high. It took great restraint not to shoot her lethal looks while whispering catty comments into the ear of the woman next to me.

I'm not proud.
I blame her.
Maturity fantasy - kaboom!

**Lee Hausner offers smart, practical tips on parenting. She advocates a middle ground of being tough and setting guidelines for your children while also giving them time to play. She stresses the importance of a true childhood with less pressure on grades and performance and more emphasis on personal responsibility. I highly recommend reading some of her books. I know I will because though I had the benefit of hearing her speak she barely got a word in edgewise.


InTheFastLane said...

It is HARD to be mature with someone like that. I might have been even less mature and said something at some point. That would have driven me up a wall!

Manic Mommy said...

I really don't think the problem was with you. You weren't unjustly judging her. She invited judgement.

I hate these women too and you're dead on with their struggle for validation and identity.

ByJane said...

Ohhhh, I loved this post. I've had exactly the same experience...and then I bet I've been the cause of the same experience at times as well. I really have to watch, control, curb, silence myself when I get excited about a particular topic. If it's one on one, that's not too bad. But in a classroom or a lecture--I tend to forget that the leader/teacher and I are not having a private conversation. I know this from both sides because I've been the teacher having to curb the over-enthusiastic participant. Sometimes it is the ego driving, but sometimes (as with me) it's enthusiasm.

slouching mom said...

she would have brought the inner cattiness in me right out as well.

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

I love your phrase "estrogen extravaganza".

And non-sequitorly speaking, one of Aimee Bender's novels is going to be a movie, starring America Ferrera - did you hear? I just heard about it and instantly thought of you.

Lori | BetweenUsGirls said...

I, too, hate know-it-alls and unfortunatley, I'm related to a couple of them!

I have worked long and hard to devise ways of dealing with such people while still maintining my sanity and my sense of humor. For anyone who is interested, I have a series of posts on my blog that cover dealing with difficult people and there is one that specificlaly deals with the know it all.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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