The ringleaderPosted: October 18, 2011
The last couple of weeks have been fraught with girl drama. I don’t like girl drama. Didn’t like it when I was in high school, and like it even less now that I’m old enough to have a high schooler.
Some people thrive on drama, feel energized by it. Like a vampire staring at a bulging vein, they swoop in and add fuel to the fire. Feelings get hurt, words get twisted, alliances shift, and everyone is miserable.
I made the very grown-up decision to excuse myself from the mean-girl games. I was done. Over and out. While the part of me that has a heightened sense of justice wanted to tell the erring party just where they were wrong, maybe even whip out an outlined, bulleted list of grievances, I decided to be the bigger person and let it go. Walk away from the fight.
But guess what? The fight followed me. The erring party spoke to several others with a stake in the fight and it all somehow circled back to me. The erring party made peace with the others, but the message she kept hearing from them was that it wouldn’t be over until she made it right with me.
Because I have a big mouth? Because I tend to say what I really think, instead of cloaking the reality in niceties so that the reality becomes blurred? Because I no longer care whether people like me? Because I’m content to live my life according to the standards I set for myself, and as long as I’m being the kind of person I want to be, I don’t give one flip what anyone else thinks? Because watching my sweet mama be eaten alive by cancer made me realize that none of that stuff matters? If someone is going to believe another person’s version of who I am, rather than think about the kind of person I actually am and the way in which I conduct myself, I say have at it. I’m ok with that, and that person is not someone I need as a friend. I figured out a long time ago that I’d much rather have a small, true circle of friends than a gaggle of not-so-true friends. Quality speaks to me more than quantity.
And yet, I found myself in the unpleasant role of the ringleader in this latest girl drama.
That is so not fair.
But neither is life, and I learned that a long time ago, when I was in the 4th grade. The age my daughter is now. There was a Jewish girl in my class who got picked on. I was friends with her, but I was also friends with the people who picked on her. One day on the playground some boys pulled her pants down. She was mortified and cried her eyes out, as I would have too. Kids can be so cruel. Her mother had a loud conversation with the principal. I was brought in for questioning as the ringleader. I told the truth: the boys pulled her pants down. None of the girls were involved in the pantsing. Or is it de-pantsing? I still don’t know.
Her mother thought the girl was being picked on because she was Jewish. The principal asked me if that was true. I didn’t even know what Jewish was. How strange to be thought of as the ringleader when I didn’t even know the victim was different. She was my friend. I didn’t care about her religion. I still don’t care about things like that.
Later the principal told me that I’d better get used to being thought of as the ringleader. That people will always look at me that way because I’m outspoken and opinionated. Because I’m a leader. I didn’t think of myself as any of those things at that age. But if the principal said it was true, it must be.
I didn’t think of it at the time, but I’ve looked back on that conversation a lot over my life and realized that there’s a heavy burden in being a leader. And that it seems unfair to place that burden on someone just because they’re willing to do something that others aren’t willing to do: lead.
Being outspoken and opinionated is not something I think about, it just is. Like how some people have red hair, or some people have long toes. It is an inherent part of me.
Sometimes it gets me in trouble. Sometimes people assume I’m involved in something when I’m not. Sometimes people assume I know something about a situation when I don’t.
I’m not complaining, that’s just the way it is.
That’s the price you pay for being the ringleader.