Article originally written for The Upstate Clutch
“I’m fine.” Always my go-to answer when someone asks how I’m doing today. Why is it that women are always “fine” when that couldn’t be farther from the truth? Is it because saying that “I haven’t quite slept, can’t remember the last time I washed my hair, and I’m pretty sure I’m twenty minutes late for a meeting” is just too much to handle? We settle with “fine.”
Some of the verbiage that comes out of my mouth without trying I blame on my southern roots – staying in between the lines of pleasant and respectful with conversation. But why has this stayed with us for the long haul? I find that those lines remain in conversations far past the casual run-in at Publix. Have you ever been sitting across from a friend and just want to shake them? “I know you’re not FINE!” Speak! But we continue to act like our lives are perfect. And wonderful. And put together.
I can distinctly remember the lunch when I could no longer relate to a friend. After college, at some point, we started competing with one another. We were hitting the same life stages at the same time, and she was always measuring hers against mine. Friends exist so we can go through life together. I don’t want the highlight reel. That’s not why I’m here. I need you to struggle with me so I can feel comfortable struggling right back with you. When did we stop being real? Tell me what’s good in your life, but I’m here for the bad too. Walk with me.
My husband tends to not have much of a filter. That’s one of the many reasons why I love him the way I do – I never have to guess at what he’s thinking. That’s Ron. We were at a group breakfast one day and when the light conversation started coming to a slow roll, Ron looked at the guy he was talking with and said, “Well I guess I’m going to go this way, unless you want to get deep.” It was honest. It was probably slightly off-kilter, but it was true. Unless you want to go beyond surface level and get deep, then what’s the point of going past casual acquaintances? We have enough of those, we live in Greenville. If you want to be friends, then let’s do it. But enough of this “hey how ya doing” stuff that happens in Starbucks.
Social media has set us back even further than living below the Mason-Dixon. Scrolling through Instagram in the morning, you’re greeted with hammocks on the beach and coconut drinks. Carefully placed newborns in announcement photos. This new bag that’s outrageously expensive, but for some reason I can’t stop thinking about how good it would look with those shoes. And we can’t keep up. We fall short of everyone’s choreographed version of perfection.
We all know, or should at this point, that social media is constantly putting the proverbial best foot forward. It’s scheduled. It’s edited. It’s taking ninety seven photos to just get the one. Yet we continue to get caught up in the movie version of other’s lives. Making us feel inadequate. Making us not want to be real.
My social media is no different. I can tell you what I’m going to post three days from now. A week from now. The middle of next month. When followers comment and say, “this photo is so great!” a big part of me wants to comment back, “It was pouring down rain when we took it. People on the street were looking at me like I was crazy. And I probably am, for wearing a dress in fifty degree weather. But I appreciate you, and I am really glad this photo looks normal.” And sometimes I do respond like that. We all need a reality check every once in a while. Even on our own content. Even with our own lives.
Back during the election (don’t worry, this isn’t going to take a political turn), a Facebook friend posted something that stopped me from scrolling. It read:
“I am strong, intelligent, caring, independent, and hardworking.
I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a granddaughter, a niece, and a cousin.
I have been a property manager, a restaurant manager and a retail manager.
I am a 34 year old American woman, and in my entire life the only people that I have ever felt intentionally oppressed by in this country are other women.” – Caitlin Garber
When I was asked to write an article about five issues currently facing women my age, one issue kept coming to the forefront – other women. Do you not get chills when you read this quote? Do you not go back to how you felt in middle school when the other girls would scoot down a little further so you weren’t technically sitting with them at lunch? Do you not go back to high school and realize that the rumor about you was started by one of the girl’s closest to you? Do you not go back to sorority rush and relive middle school all over again?!
When I was a college sophomore I saw the other side of that sorority recruitment experience. When discussing the women that we had met that day, I heard someone mention that “well she’s not on our ‘pretty girl list’.” I’m sorry. Our WHAT?! Great idea, let’s shame these women before they even get started on one of the most socially challenging times of their lives. In no world should there ever be a ‘pretty girl list.’ Pretty smart. Pretty funny. Pretty creative. But not pretty girl. It can’t end there.
Life is going to hit us with some really hard stuff. It already has. And when that happens I need to know that I can be something other than “fine.” I need to know that I have other women supporting me, lifting me up, and wanting me to succeed. So let’s take a second to put down the filters, the milestone checklists, and the perfected life. And let’s take more than a moment to recognize the strength of the woman beside you. And don’t just stare. SPEAK. Tell her that she’s doing a good job. That she’s beautiful. That she’s an amazing mother. Friend. Colleague. You might be the only person that has in a very long time. And let’s start bringing some light into this overlooked darkness.