I’m not a fan of frenemies, cattiness, or plain out women hating other women. I wouldn’t enjoy living that way and I don’t even enjoy books or movies that portray women that way. I’m a woman of the variety who compliments random women on their outfit or hair, who tries to comfort the girl crying in the bathroom at the bar, who genuinely appreciates the talent others have. There’s nothing to be gained from being shitty to someone else, but brightening someone’s day always makes you, and them, feel good.
However…every once in a while someone comes along that, for the sake of your own lady tribe, you have to band together against, even if she has done nothing but exist. This person is most often a perfect bitch. She has expertly applied makeup, gorgeous hair, an incredible body, enviable athleticism, fashionable clothes that sit on her exactly right, a successful and exciting career, the perfect husband, and nothing ever goes wrong for her. Or so we imagine. Most of this narrative is made up in our own heads because that’s the level of confidence and self-love she exudes. Nevertheless, we dislike her. We dislike her because we want to be her. Her mere existence makes the most competent, beautiful, and successful of us feel bumbling, dowdy and a total failure.
One such woman rankled us during our recent ladies getaway to southern Utah and Las Vegas. My psyche was not infected by her until post-race, but she haunted one of my friends for the better part of 13 miles. Her slender, muscular, tanned frame bounced along the race course, alternating between sprinting and walking, calling out cheerily to her friends for mile after mile, all in perfectly applied makeup, hot pink lipstick included, gliding over the finish line as if she were downhill skiing on the bunny slope, no exertion required.
I heard about her that night, but didn’t think much of it until she appeared the next morning. We had woken up too early for a second morning in a row in order to beat the crowds to the Zion National Park. We stood in line for the shuttle, geared up for our river hike in gray waders and neon yellow hydrolace boots, laden down with walking sticks and backpacks full of water and snacks. And there she stood in a tiny tank top and shorts, again coiffed and made up and looking alert, perky, and ready to go. Well, she certainly wasn’t going to be slogging through the slot canyons like we were.
Except she was. An hour and a half into our hike, she came prancing around a corner, the only addition to her skimpy outfit a cute pair of hot pink neoprene socks to match her lipstick. As we slipped and slid and struggled to keep our balance through the vertigo-inducing water, she danced through the water, sans hiking stick, pausing momentarily here and there for her handsome partner to take Instagram-worthy photos, and then she was out of sight around the next bend. We could only laugh at the impossibility of this woman existing, and we started to discuss what the one thing was that we all could best her at. We decided it was drinking.
Except it wasn’t. Hours later, sweaty and exhausted, we were seated at a brewery right next to you know who. She looked refreshed and giddy and smoothly two drinks in. We sat in relative quiet and starvation, doing little more than waiting for a waitress to take our order. And none of us could muster the energy for more than one drink. Bested again.
Fortunately, she did not appear at our restaurant in Las Vegas that night, nor at our pool the next day. She disappeared back in the world, gone to bring out feelings of inadequacy in some other poor young women, and we were free to feel awesome again. Released from her spell, I quickly remembered that I wouldn’t really want to be her. It seems like a lot of work to appear so picture-perfect in public all the time. I can’t imagine how much time she spends shopping and in front of a mirror and curating a digital life instead of just living. With the robust social media life we imagined she has, there must be a lot of pressure to constantly appear glamorous and put-together. I wouldn’t want that life or any other one but the one I’ve made for myself.
That said, if anyone has a spare half million dollars they want to throw my way so I can stop working for a while, get an MFA, and concentrate on writing, I certainly wouldn’t say no.