C is for Cliques: When Mean Girls Grow Up

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Women are wonderful, truly! I am grateful for each and every one of my female friendships. All of my female friends add different things to the pot pourri of my life.

I have an admission to make. It wasn’t until recently that I developed a real understanding of what it means to not only have but to be a good female friend. It’s funny how middle age has focused my lenses about certain matters. Looking back at my first act, I can see that I approached my female friendships with a certain wariness. I have a sense that I am now playing catch up. Better the getting of wisdom late than never.

Recently, I found I’m not alone in what was my wariness. I happened upon a book, The Twisted Sisterhood by Kelly Valen which explores the negative side of female relationships. It is a fascinating read and it demonstrates that women from all walks of life and levels of education have suffered at the hands of a fellow sister or several sisters. The behaviour cited tends to be insidious, passive aggressive and enduring. It seems to be particularly magnified when tribes or cliques of women are involved. This bears out my own personal experience of finding it easier to relate to women one on one than in a pack.

What I don’t get is why this adolescent sort of behaviour has to translate into adulthood. I have no issue with women bonding with each other over common interests or experiences. There is much solace and comfort to be gained from sharing. But does this have to come at the expense of the feelings of those that are not part of the sharing? Why does clique thinking have to be so black and white?

I’m in, she’s out.

I can’t be friends with her when I am with my clique.

I’m in the know, she’s not and she’s different.

And so it goes. Bonding through mutual jealously and dislike for others is anything but positive. Bitching and creating barriers and territories is short-sighted. Emphasising difference is self -defeating.

I have seen women who are wonderful change when they are in the company of a clique or when they encounter a conflict between their own personal interests and that of their clique. From friend to frenemy in a blink of an eye.  Most of us have insecurities in some way shape or form – but clique thinking only serves to feed these.

We all need to be a little kinder to our fellow sisters and a little bit more aware of our effect on others. We also all need to be kinder to ourselves and give ourselves permission to be who we are. Doing so, will only serve to make the world a better place and open ourselves to a wider array of friendships and more meaningful and empowering experiances.

After all, isn’t that what life is really about?

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

29 thoughts on “C is for Cliques: When Mean Girls Grow Up

  1. I totally agree with what you are saying about the way women treat each other. Sometimes I think we are really not a very nice species at all! You would think given all the struggles women have had to be taken over time we would at least be supportive of each other. Apparantly not.

    I am interested in the premise of your blog and am looking forward to taking a look at some of the other things you have written.

    • Thanks so much for that wonderful comment and feedback. Jealousy and insecurity are such terribly powerful and negetive emotions. I’m all about building bridges not blowing them up.

  2. I know what you mean, in school i sometimes found myself on both sides of the curtain so to say, but now in my mid 40s and for the past 10-15 yrs, my girlfriends have become my walls and the foundation, I know no matter which way I fall, one of them will catch and support me. I think as we age, we experience friendship more deeply. Oh, lol, we still love to bitch though 🙂

    • My best female friendships have been formed in my 40’s. I think it’s largely due to the way I see my own self now. I totally agree with you about age and depth of friendship 🙂

  3. Jealousy and insecurity happened in highschool. Then in leaps and bounds our married lives followed (competitive lives). By the timeyou reach 50 / 55, who can believe people were still in the competitive high school mentality. (I’d already disengaged when I divorced before I was 40).

    My girlfriends are my life-line. I’ve been lucky to have been involved in a couple of groups where it’s all about US and we like and trust each other (all that comparative crap: wealth, background. education—go AWAY). The equalizer is coming. We’re all going to get old. Howare we going to handle it? Enough said. We need each other.

    • Tess, I really enjoy hearing your perspective. You’re right we need each other. One can always find points of difference, the barriers need to come down. Your group sound lovely. And you’re right about another thing too – it’s all crap.

  4. Being a man doesn’t disqualify me from commenting does it?
    I have found that women, when out on the town in a group, tend to have louder mouths, are more inclined to throw moral restraints out the window (clothing too) and in general want to be the hero for the night. They are also far more inclined to be bitchy to anyone not included in this immediate circle of friends, men and women. I’ve also found that women are far more likely to run their husbands down when with their friends than men are inclined to discuss their wives.
    Women, when alone are not as brazen and in consequence are far nicer to be around. Well in the west anyway?

    • Geoff, I love that you have contributed to this topic from a male perspective.
      I agree, women in a mob are scary! I have always vowed never to join in those conversations women have where they compete to have the worst husband on the planet. I think negativity grows like a cancer. Anyway I think my husband is awesome! He cooks dinner every night and he even cleans the bathrooms. Nothing to complain about there!

    • I too love that you commented and urge any other male who wants to, to do the same. You raise some interesting points and I agree with most of them. It seems that in general women project their insecurities more than men and perhaps wrongly suffer from the notion that pulling others down will build their own self esteem. It reminds me of a saying I saw the other day “promote what you love, don’t bash what you hate”.

  5. This is so true and I can connect with this no problem. I think perhaps I shall buy that book.. Very interesting, i look forward to reading more!

  6. You make such a good point here. I personally have experienced only a little of it considering I’ve always surrounded myself with boys – not for any other reason than I understand them better and I can get along with them a lot easier than with fellow girls. There’s a lot less drama.
    However, I do regularly hear from a few of the girls I do keep semi-regular contact with that good friends of theirs just start acting like total bitches sometimes when they’re planning something with a group of girls. Make nasty comments or even sometimes ignore their friends in favor of the other girls.

    I guess I’m just glad that I spent – and am still spending – my teenage years in the company of guys who, on the whole, are a lot more laid-back and a lot less backstabby.

    • It’s funny you should say that Levyathan. Most of my friends to this point have been male, I have always been comfortable around them and love to hang out with them – laid-back and striaght forward is dead right. And now I have two sons (no daughters) I can hang out with them some more :).

  7. My co-workers and I were just discussing this because we recently experienced, as we labeled it, “The Leper” treatment. I find this uninviting behavior the most through the mothers at sporting events or school activities. They are always complaining how they can never find volunteers and they don’t understand why more people don’t get involved. The answer to that million dollar question is…..They don’t let anyone! They would rather do it all themselves for the recognition. I’m more of a more hands make less work sort of girl, therefore I sit alone at the table (Leper Island) and listen to their insanity. Great Insight this morning.

    • Thanks, I too have experianced the school mummy “them” and “us” phenomenon. I really think there is an element of turf protection involved. It seems to come down to how they define themselves. Personally, the more varied my friendship base, the better.

  8. I always thought this kind of behavior did stop at a certain age. Having always been a part of the clique blinds me to inhumane treatment of others unless I live my life with kindness, forgiveness, and the love of Christ as my foremost models.

  9. I’ve never been a cliquey person, more on the outside looking in. It took me some time to realise that men can also be catty though perhaps less cruel than women. Funny folk, people . . .

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  11. I haven’t really experienced this as an adult – but when I walked into work this morning it was to hear my supervisor laughingly saying, ‘Did you hear what E did?’ I said, ‘what did I do?’ and the subject was changed immediately. Yep, all women in the office. Sigh. I can’t imagine what they might have been saying about me that couldn’t be said to me. Feic ’em.

  12. Having been in a busy health care environment I was too busy to be a part of chatting and gossip at work (some people will make time for it no matter how busy the place is!) Leaving the hands on environment for the academic world opened my eyes to how little adults change from their high school selves to “adult”. My policy has always been to keep my thoughts about other coworkers to myself, at least until I get home! Yes, women appear to be worse than men. One exception, I have found gay men to be just as catty as women sometimes!

  13. Speaking as a woman and over 40 I feel I can say that women as a whole are generally not very nice – I have seen too many instances of the nastiness described above to see it as anything other than the rule rather than the exception. Maybe it’s a biological thing or a queen bee thing… I don’t know but it’s the reason why feminism will never work and why women will always be second class citizens – they do not bond and support each other as men do and therefore they remain weak. After a nearly entirely negative experience with female friends most of my friends are men. I think it’s interesting that some of the posters above talk about now having close groups of friends when they go towards 50. Well at that stage, the biological competition is over so maybe females can relax and actually be nice to each other.

    • i can tell when women are nasty and spiteful and clique forming at my own expense it’s revolting. I guess just don’t like treating others that way being known them for 10 or a couple of months just to be friends. Those of us that no the true meaning of friendship and being at peace get the short end of the rope. Oh well rather my own company than bad company. Never was good at the clique thing … well being to those of us that are pleasant and don’t resort to gossip, trickery or evil ways. I also find Christian cliques the worse. sad but true.

  14. I totally agree with what Maeve said. Women can really be spiteful creatures to each other, and I think nothing makes a woman more happier than tearing another woman down. It’s why I think feminism will never work out properly or why we rarely make the same leaps and bounds as men do in many walks of life. We can never unite because we’re too selfish, insecure and short-sighted to see the bigger picture, to put away our personal agendas and grudges and to work together. I don’t know whether this type of nasty behaviour is a cultural thing taught to girls from a young age or it’s an inherent part of being a woman.

    I’ll admit there are times when I do envy men and their ability to just get together and work, and when dealing with the weird and not so wonderful dynamics of relating to other females… is one of those times.

  15. I tried way to hard for about five years in my late thirties and early forties to make friends with the in crowd. Fortunately, most of my friendship energy remained invested in maintaining the true, deep bonds with those I had met throughout my life.

    The true friendships, young and old, grew stronger, while attempts to make friends with those who seemed more concerned with acting just so, material branding, and lavish partying failed. Being down to earth and direct only created more distance with these gals.

    As I gained confidence, I woke up and smelled reality…or perhaps I smelled the pheromones cliquey women secrete as they congregate and reject anyone outside their comfort zone. Either way, I realized these women wanted nothing more than a perfunctory “cute blah blah blah!” from me if our paths happened to cross.


    While I remain disgusted with the way these women choose to act, their superficiality makes me even more grateful for the true friendships in my life that have been cultivated.

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