Yesterday, My daughter and I were having lunch when an elderly gentleman sat at the table next to us. His cane fell to the floor and I picked it up for him, placing it gingerly on the back of his chair. He looked up at me, and his gratitude for this simple act of kindness was overwhelming. He thanked me for being such a "beautiful friend," and patted me gently on the hand. My daughter watched this and I saw the sympathy in her eyes. She expressed how badly she felt for him having to eat by himself and wanted to do something nice for him. As we were leaving, I suggested we ask the man if there was anything we could do to help him since he was all alone. On the way out, my daughter expressed how good it felt to offer to be of service to the kind man.
Lately, it has come to my attention that my daughter has been acting like a diva. She is eleven years old and coming into her own. While I both appreciate and applaud her self confidence, I notice she is starting to hurt the feelings of her friends along the way. Every night as I tuck her into bed, I try to instill the importance of being humble. I tell her to be grateful for all the wonderful gifts she has been blessed with in life, and most importantly, to be supportive of her friends. But especially, I tell her to never, ever make other girls feel bad about themselves.
Lately she hasn't been doing this and ended up hurting someone she cares about deeply. All it took was for me to show her how her actions caused consequences. I pointed out to her that she felt such warmth when she was kind to a stranger. "We should do this, especially for those we care about as well, not just little old men with canes." She understood this and quickly remedied the situation. She sent her friend the most beautiful letter telling her of all the qualities she appreciates about her. Because it felt so good, she wrote to three more friends telling them why she appreciated them as well.
I panic when I think of her future. Of how spiteful teenage girls can be. I tell her the next few years are going to be challanging for her, but in the end, she will eventually learn the lesson of how important it is for women to be there for one another, to cheer each other on as opposed to sabatoging each other's good fortune and happiness.
Years ago, my oldest sister told me that when I reach forty, I will learn to appreciate women in a whole new light. Yes, there will still be those pesky, catty women who delight in the misfortune of others, but I will learn to tune them out and surround myself with a group of friends who only have my best interest at heart. Thankfully, her prophecy came true and for the past six years, I have gathered a support system of beautiful women, all of whom I love and trust, all of whom have my back. I forgot that there were still "mean girls" out there, which is why, my recent encounters with them have been so unsettling.
For the past three months, I have been training to be a fitness dance instructor. I have been physically, mentally and emotionally challanged more than I have been in years; doubting myself, believing there was no way I could possibly do this, wanting to give up on myself, but the women in my life, especially my mentor, Neda, wouldn't let me.
The first time I stood in front of a class to teach a dance, my mind went completely blank. I had done the routine probably hundreds of times, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember a single step. I am a writer, an introvert, and to make matters worse, I'm also a Cancer, so I love to hide out in my shell where it's safe and warm. Yes, I was a majorette in high school, but other than that (oh, and going on the Dating Game. I was Bachlorette Number 1 and I won!) I am not a performer, so needless to say, for me, standing up alone on a stage in front of a crowded room, shaking my ass, having to actually speak is about 3000 miles outside of my comfort zone. But I did it, and on Saturday, I auditioned for a room full of fitness managers without a single nerve tingling. For me, that is huge.
Sadly, it has come to my attention that by putting myself out there, I am also setting myself up for encounters with the very women I am doing everything in my maternal power to stop my own daughter from becoming. While trying to teach her the importance of women being there for each other, I have forgotten that there are still women over the age of forty who don't have it in their hearts to be happy for others. For the first time since high school, I have been bullied, manipulated and have had women actually point and laugh at me, as well as say nasty things behind my back, but loud enough for me to hear while smiling to my face. There has been so much passive aggressive behavior. Twenty years ago, this would have crushed me, and I will admit, sometimes I do let it get to me. But then I call my friends and in a matter of minutes all is well again.
In a way, this is all apropos. I do feel like a teenager again since I'm starting a new lease on life. It has taken a lot of work, and I really wish these women could see the journey that led me to where I am today, and of the challanges I still face, including a difficult divorce. Maybe they would feel a little empathy, if they are in fact capable of such an emotion. But it doesn't really matter. Now, when I get up on the stage, I have something they can never ever take away from me. I have confidence. I have my friends.
I look at my daughter as she lay in bed at night; her soft lips slightly parted in a snore, looking so innocent and young. And she still is. I hate that in a few short years, she too will have to encounter her own set of "mean girls," girls who are incapable of being happy for one another, girls who are festering with insecurities. If they only knew that there is a simple solution to all of this; When they are happy for one other, they will feel happiness inside themselves. As my daughter has experienced these past few days, being nice really does feel pretty good.