It was a banner Wednesday night for me last week. In what led to a late-night spot of weakness wherein which I bought cookie dough, cookie mix, and two kinds of cookies, I learned that an old crush was dating someone who, you know, isn’t me. I told my friends about this and their near-universal reaction was, “She is terrible. He’ll get over her. You’re way, way better.” My friends are the best.
I admit this is what I wanted to hear. I was feeling petty and vulnerable, and I was validated more deeply than I cared to look at by my friends’ assertions of my superiority. That moment in the cookie aisle, my friends knew to text me “You are smarter and prettier” and not “Aww, cute! Good for him!” But why did deriding some girl that I don’t even know palliate me more than being happy that someone in the world has found a connection?
This was not the first time I’ve jumped to insulting another lady. I was taking a magazine quiz a few months ago and there was a question about what you would do if you saw a girl at the bar talking to a guy you thought was cute. I think the answers allowed you to a) Throw your hair around b) Go up and talk to him or c) Do the bend and snap. “Oh no, that’s not what we’d do,” I said to the friend who was giving me the quiz. “We’d make fun of her hideous leggings, take a shot, and go dance with all our girlfriends.” She laughed, so I can’t be the only girl validated by deriding other women.
As a thinking person, I realize that calling people fat isn’t going to make me any skinnier. I guess the fleeting solace gained by insulting one’s competition can be explained by biological imperative. “We are animals,” Barbara Kingsolver wrote in her fantastic book Animal Dreams. “We live our lives around disguised animal thoughts,” says the narrator, a science teacher. I am validated by snarking on another girl because it convinces me that she won’t win the eternal struggle for the superior DNA of a smart, handsome male—or something.
Without getting too philosophical, I’m not purely science. There’s a biological imperative to getting pregnant as a teenager, and I ignored that one just fine. Not to be a pedant, but hating a girl who by any unbiased account is probably a lovely human being accomplishes nothing—not for me, and not for her. I don’t think the ladies always have to stick together, and you can’t come into my Kumbaya circle unless you’ve been invited in writing. But turning my jealousy into irrational, uninformed hatred is doing nothing but giving me scowl lines. (Nor would spelunking her Internet presence for infinite reasons to hate her accomplish anything—not that I haven’t done it before.)
So what’s a better reaction to finding out a guy you’ve liked for a super long time is dating a girl who is super not you? Next time it happens (and let’s be real, there’s always a next time that happens), try to train your thoughts towards the brighter side of finding out the guy you’ve had your eye on only has eyes for someone who dramatically isn’t you.
If those two have found love, I can be happy for them. Realistically, them being together doesn’t make me any less likely to find happiness. By giving myself a few cookies to think about it, I could actually become more hopeful about love by learning this news. I don’t have to love her, but I don’t accomplish anything by hating her. The lessons here are this: You never stop learning from Mean Girls. And that girl—whoever she is—doesn’t warrant my hatred.
But she still can’t come to our Kumbaya circle.