February 26, 2006

The other day a friend of mine and I had a conversation about a recent group outing.  One of the women with us spent a lot of time talking with all of the women but me.  I felt slighted.  I donít know this woman all that well, but I couldnít figure out why she would just blatantly be so rude.  My friend didnít think she was being rude, said she just felt uncomfortable around me.   She said I make her nervous and intimidated her.  Just a few days prior someone else said the same thing about another woman.  This isnít unfamiliar territory for me.   I started hearing similar things in 9th grade.   

I moved from one school district to another in the middle of 8th grade.  I came from a school where I had a lot of friendsÖwhere I was considered Ďpopularí (something extremely important to an 8th grader).  We moved during winter break, so I had a few weeks in the neighborhood before I started school.  This gave me a chance to meet some of the kids on my street. When school started, I had two weeks left at my previous school to finish out the semester.  In that time, my neighbor told everyone at my new school he had a new neighbor who was ďprettier than the most popular girl thereĒ.  My first day of school not one single girl spoke to me.  The next day the Ďmost popular girlí, who was obviously offended by my neighbors comment, threatened to ďkick my assĒ for Ďflirtingí with her boyfriend while walking to the bus.  I didnít even know who her boyfriend was. I told her that would be fine, to go ahead and try.   She didnít. Apparently someone overheard that conversation because soon the word was out, she was given a challenge and backed away.    

Shortly after that I learned she had told all of her friends  (or entourage, in my opinion) not to talk to me.  I donít think she said, ďListen, rumor has it this girl is prettier than me.  That really threatens my security and I want you all to still think Iím the greatest thing around so you canít talk to her because you might realize Iím not the greatest thing around and start being her followers.Ē Iím sure she said something entirely different and much more effective.  Whatever it was, it worked.  

A few days later we had to play racquetball in gym class.  Did I mention I grew up playing racquetball?  Well wouldnít you know, that just made the whole thing worse because guess whom I had to play against? Now Iím not that competitiveÖokay, maybe to some degree, but frankly Iím more of a ďdo my best and screw the restĒ kind of person.  If Iím better at something than someone itís not because Iím competitive, itís because I just happened to have put more into it at that moment than they might have.   You can probably figure out who won that gameÖand how quickly that got around.  

She must have been somewhat humbled because shortly after that I got an apology for the flirting accusation and acknowledgement that she was wrong.  I was shocked but honestly, I had no intention of investing any time in a person like that.   She asked me if we could be friends and I laughed in her face, telling her I didnít need friends like her.  Iím thinking now that wasnít the smartest move on my part.   

After a few months of no girls talking to me, having only boy Ďfriendsí and having one of the Ďpopularí boys ask me out but then break up with me due to the pressure of dating the worst girl alive I was able to make a friend.  Wouldnít you know it; it was Miss Popularís best friend. Do I have the luck or what?   We were friends for about a monthÖI was thrilled because I really liked her.  But when Miss Popular threatened to have her status rescinded, I was out in a flash.   

I dealt with this the rest of the year and the following summer.  I had no real girl friends but every so often I was blessed with the attention from someone of my gender.   I went from being a confident girl to something beyond insecure.  Thereís much more to part of the story, but Iím not going to bore you with those details.   

That next school year one of the popular girls who hated me in 8th grade was in one of my classes.  Our teacher hooked us up for a project and we had to talk.  We became friends. (Miss Popular was at a different high school, thankfully.)  I asked her why everyone hated me when Iíd not done a thing.  She told me straight out, ďBecause we were jealous of you.Ē I thought that was the funniest thing Iíd ever heard.  We were friends for many years.  She actually gave me a chance and decided I wasnít so bad after all.  She was one of the few thoughÖthings werenít really better that year.  Reputations stick and I had one, deserved or not.   

After my freshman year we moved again and I felt like Iíd been given a chance to be the person I was before I became the worst of all-evil.  Iím thankful to say I immediately met a great girl who introduced me to a lot of people and within a few days I felt like the old me again.  Of course this girlís Ďbest friendí hated me.  Imagine that. She threatened to beat me up, called me nasty names and tried to spread rumors about me.  Finally, after several threats to ďkick my assĒ I finally said, ďYou know what, just go ahead and do it. You seem to think you can, so go ahead. Youíve threatened me for months now.  Just do it.Ē  She backed down and really never bothered me again.  

I continued to have a great time in high school and had a great group of friends, but there was always girls who didnít like me.  Girls that had never given me a chance but decided they didnít like me for reasons they thought were justifiable.  In college I had a dorm mate who I got along great with on the phone, but when we met she instantly didnít like me.  At least she had the consideration to be honest about it.  She felt I was the stereotypical sorority girl; petite, blond hair, blue eyes. Nice of her to even give me a chance.  Oh, and I never joined a sorority.  I was a campus cop.  Those two didnít mix.  

After Miss Popular and the events of my freshman year, I made a promise to myself that I would never allow anyone to treat me that way again.  I worked hard to rebuild my confidence and do what I felt necessary to defend myself.  With that being said, I made a concentrated effort to become the person I wanted to be; confident, well-spoken and not afraid to say what I think or how I feel.  I wanted people to know that what they saw was what they got.  Youíd always know where you stood with me, whether you liked it or not.  

I am still that person today.  Add to that a few traits brought on by other life circumstances and Iíve been shaped into a fairly confident, sort of well adjusted, anal retentive, opinionated, strong willed woman.  Apparently people see that and some of those people arenít able to deal with it.  Add to those traits relatively decent looks (some say Iím attractive and though Iím not sure Iím that, I donít think I need to wear a bag over my head either) and a bit of intelligence (along with my fathers genetically transferred natural frown) and Iím pegged for a bitch.  Thatís usually everyoneís first opinion of me.  Iím married now, but prior I had a high paying job in a large company where I excelled at what I did.  Thatís a few strikes against me before I even get to up to bat.  After I got married, I quick working, got the big house, starting driving a higher priced (but certainly not highest priced) car and added even more stereotypes to my list. Women at work didnít like me and women who knew my husband didnít like me either.  Add to all of that, since day one, my comfort around men (I have three brothers) and Iím even more of a problem. 

Yes, if you see me, youíll likely think Iím a bitch.  Apparently Iíve got that look. And letís be honest here, when the feeling strikes, I can out-bitch the best of them.  Iím Italian, itís in my genes. But what you see isnít always the truth and it frustrates me that so often people feel threatened, maybe insecure for whatever reason (we all have our own insecurities, trust me, Iíve got hundreds of my own) or intimidated by me.  Really, this shouldnít be my problem.  Iím not the one that makes them feel that way.   They feel that way because of what they think about themselves, not because of who I really am.  Knowing that however, doesnít make it any easier.  It still hurts, the judgingÖ 

More times than not Iíve been told by good friends that when they first met me, they didnít like me.   Then they say they didnít really give me a chance but after spending some time with me, realized I wasnít at all what they thought.  They saw that yes, I may be confident, I may say what I think, I may have blond (albeit bleached now) hair, and I may drive a sort of expensive car, but Iím actually a pretty decent person.   

I have to work at making friends because itís never been easy for me.  Not because Iím not capable, because again, itís really not about me.  Since I know that, I always try hard to show people that Iím not whatís usually presumed.  I have to try hard to make people see me as human; as a person with feelings, just like everyone else out there.  Since friendships have never come easily for me Iím usually the one to put in the most effort.  Sure, I have friends whoíve given more to the friendship and friends who share the effort equally.  But for the most part, I work hard to prove myself, prove Iím the person I am, not the person they think.  

So I have to admit, when I was told these women felt intimidated and uncomfortable around me, it really hurt.  I donít specifically do anything to make people feel that way.  I have to believe itís their issue, not mine.  But honestly, that doesnít make it any better.  Doesnít make the fact that someone is basically unwilling to give me a chance, hurt less. It might even hurt more because I know that I am a good friend and I can give so much to people.   

Yes, by common standards, Iím relatively attractive.  I drive a nice car, have a nice home and our income is comfortable.  Iím intelligent, I speak my mind and I appear to have confidence (though sometimes I really have none and itís all an act).  None of that however should make me poisonous to others and you know what, thatís really how I feel a lot of the time.  Iím told those who may not have what I do, or look like I do feel as though theyíre poisonous to others - because of what they lackÖinteresting that I feel poisonous for what I donít lack.   

Funny world, isnít it?


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