Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Recently, I seem to be surrounded by a lot of “girl drama”. I am the mother of three young daughters, so I well realize that the phenomenon of “girl drama” starts very, very early on. In fact, there is often a tight race among the three of them for the drama queen moniker. We’ve got the screaming, pouting, crying and finger pointing down pat. Sometimes their moods and overblown responses to life’s little curveballs are truly hilarious and other times quite frustrating, but it always amazes me how much drama they can squeeze out of supposed slights or unmet expectations. They get so worked up about whatever it is that has hurt their feelings and just have to let the whole world know how unhappy they are. They really want you to feel their pain. Come to the rescue. Avenge them. Give them satisfaction. As much as it annoys me, I can’t help but admire them sometimes. They are so out there with their feelings! They aren’t worried about how the other people around them might react; how their response will affect their friendships. They want to be heard!

The funny thing is that lately, I am not just dealing with preteen and toddler girl drama. It doesn’t seem to curtail with age. I’m talking 30 and 40 year old women still caught up in the drama. This person did that and made this person feel that and it goes round and round until everyone is upset and uncomfortable. And I’m guilty of it too! Part of me wants to say, “Oh for heaven’s sake. We are nearly middle aged. (My definition of middle aged, by the way, is further and further down the line the closer I get to it. 40 is the new 20!) Can we not let go of this petty stuff?”…but the part connected to my mouth more often says, “What’s that you say?” You know that old saying…”If you don’t have something nice to say…come sit by me!” The gossip is so tempting….I guess it makes the rest of us feel more successful in life if we hear about someone else’s struggles, more favored if they are now out of favor….and who doesn’t love a great story? Oh, the drama! And she said what? And then you said what? And then what did she say? Oh my! It’s so easy to get caught up and then we are hooked! We have to know about all the characters, and the plot, and the climax, and how did it all end? Who was the good guy? Who was the bad guy? We are smart women….we are good mothers….we teach our children well not to be cruel to others and that there are two sides to the story…but somehow, we cannot walk the talk. We cannot seem to overcome the drama and walk away…or directly confront those who have hurt us and work it out…we have to involve everyone else. Get their take on it before we are certain of our own. What is going on?

I find myself often living without integrity in this area. I blame it on my twisted interpretation of “nice” that my upbringing in Sunday school gave me. You know the “be nice” thing? That good girls were always nice; they made people around them feel good. They didn’t argue. They put others ahead of themselves….other’s needs before their own. You know. Be nice! To a point, I think that’s true. It’s nice to be nice. But I stretched it way out of proportion. My version of nice birthed a walk that didn’t match my talk. I wanted to be everyone’s friend, so that meant when the drama came my way, I was in a pickle. For too long, I have been content to try and make all parties feel good. Not take sides. I wanted everyone to think they were the good guy. The downside to this was that now I felt like the bad guy. I have had to ask myself the hard questions. When was it that I became so fixed on making the other person feel validated, that I was unwilling to be honest with them when I disagreed….especially when they were speaking poorly of someone I knew? Why was I so willing to listen when they were looking for a sympathetic ear? Why was I so hesitant to pipe up when I thought they had the story wrong? Or stay silent when I thought they were making a mistake? I want to have the courage to respond with integrity when the drama phenomenon envelopes me, but most times, it’s more tempting to just stay in my house and wait for it to pass. Is it really necessary? Don’t we have enough that drains our emotional energy without inviting more?

The more I think about it, however, the more I think that if you are going to step into the wonderful though sometimes tumultuous waters of relating to others, especially other women, this will mean from time to time, getting involved in the drama. It’s unavoidable. We are human…creatures with insecurities and flaws and we make mistakes and wound others and then we have to confront those inflicted wounds before they fester and really get ugly. When we step out into the world, we invite drama into our lives. So, what’s a girl to do?

I wish I knew. I wish I knew the secret to dealing effectively with the drama. I wish I knew how to diffuse and deflate it. How to be the peacemaker and but also trustworthy. Someone who is true to herself, true to her word, true to her friends. Someone who is not fanning the flames of dissension. I wish I was courageous enough to be like the hero in the movie that doesn’t slink back into comfort but steps forward to do the right thing. My favorite movie heroes are the unlikely ones. The ones who look like they are totally out of their element, or ill equipped for the battle, but step up anyway. They know in their hearts, it’s the right thing to do. I want to live that way. With integrity. Why is it so hard? How can I get my walk to match my talk?

I think the first steps for me might be to try and replace my own overblown responses to supposed slights and ill-informed paranoid delusions (“Do you think she is mad? She seems mad. What right does she have to be mad!? I can’t believe she’s mad!”), and my longing for the nodding affirmations that signal, “Go on, go on…” with asking some questions. Is it possible a misunderstanding or miscommunication has occurred? Is it possible to go directly to the source to clear it up? What can I do to bring about reconciliation? Is this consistent with my friend’s character? Am I dealing with assumptions rather than facts? It’s impossible to actually know another person’s motives, so shouldn’t I hesitate to assume what they may be? I want to give my girlfriends the benefit of the doubt rather than be so quick to judge. I’m hoping for the same in return. I’m hoping for some grace. In fact, I think I’ll need a whopping dose of maturity and grace to rise above the drama.

I hear screams from the family room….sounds like another drama is unfolding. Wouldn’t it be lovely if my girls could see in their mama a great example of how to confront and rise above the drama rather than a woman in the thick of it? I hope that in taking some uncomfortable first steps, I will find not only the courage and integrity to deal with the drama surrounding my life, but also the willingness to close the curtain on some of the drama within it. I’m ready for that closing act…at forty, I’m sure I’m due….no encores, please.

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