80s-girl talk game

 

The other night, I was with a group of women at an Italian restaurant. One woman was on the second night of a three day cleanse, and two had “Already eaten a gigantic meal of Thai food. Why did I do that? I wish I hadn’t done that,” earlier in the evening. So that left three of us eating while three people didn’t, which is by definition one of the most annoying things a person can do. Don’t nobody want to go out to dinner with a bunch of people who aren’t eating dinner. Just stay home with your hangry vibes and wilted kale to match that diminished spirit of yours.

 

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Eventually, one of the non-eaters caved and ordered some calamari (which she prefaced with a bunch of excuses and disclaimers about how it’s the only thing she’d eaten that day). Then, we were down to two non-eaters salivating at all the eaters enjoying bruscheta and breaded eggplant bathed in olive oil (it’s a healthy fat, okay?) and ingesting the battered pleasures of life. The sad one on the cleanse ordered some orange slices, which the waitress brought her two of, in a glass, which made it all the more sad.

As starchy plates made their way around the table in what should have been a family style meal but felt like a broken home, there was so much talk of who was eating, who wasn’t, and what the motives were behind said self-imposed deprivation (health or allergies or weight loss, but obviously weight loss) that I wanted to run home and stuff my face to the encouraging grunts of my bearded dude asking if we should order pizza for dinner for the second time this week. No, we shouldn’t. But we did. Gluten-free Dominos should win a Nobel Peace Prize, mmmm just sayin’.

 

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I know 2014 is the year of #sisterhood, and I’m totally, 93% behind that. But even with the popularity of female-camaraderie-glorifying shows like HBO’s Girls, and “femmepowering” articles on Slate and The Hairpin touting the benefits of prioritizing friendship over romantic relationships, I can’t help but pick up on how nit-picky and critical things can get when girls gather and gab. It got me thinking, in that Carrie Bradshaw thought bubble kind of way: is our incessant over-sharing about our quest for self-betterment having an adverse reaction? Are we really supporting our girlfriends and creating a judgement-free space, or are we fueling a competitive environment by being so vocal about our self-monitoring.

Is too much girl talk toxic? IS GIRL TALK SICK? Is this even a thing? Or is it that I’m just too insecure to handle the fact that other women have more self-control and discipline that I do, and therefore I sometimes perceive that I’m being shamed for “bad behavior,” when in reality I’m just engaging in a healthy discussion about differing lifestyles with individuals who happen to enjoy exercising more than I do. Am I the only person who feels guilty or just plain annoyed when someone attends a dinner party but refuses to actually eat anything because she’s been on this strict new blood type diet for a condition that she Web MD diagnosed herself with? Do I have to feel like I’m doing something wrong just because some phony holistic nutritionist is putting her kid through college by convincing everyone and their sorority sister that she’s allergic to 3/4 of every Trader Joe’s aisle? It’s fine that you’re on your third day of “getting healthy,” but LET ME WINE AND DINE IN PEACE. I don’t need you to tell me how lucky I am to be able to eat “that.” You can probably eat “that” too, you just don’t want to. And, also, that’s obviously just your passive aggressive way of making me feel bad about my diet. I see right through your platitudes.

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I don’t really know the answers to the questions I’m posing. But I have noticed the way we brag about juice cleanses and busy hiking schedules, and the ways in which we selectively share the components of our lives that we think make us “better,” or that at least give the illusion of “looking better.” For example: if we haven’t had an alcoholic beverage for a day or two, or if we’ve done Pilates a couple times this week, we talk about it like we’re freakin’ saints who didn’t show up at work bleary-eyed and morbidly hungover every day last month. I think, on our quest to become the best versions of ourselves – a quest which is admirable, might I add – we’ve become judgmental and inadvertently preachy, or maybe desensitized to our own narcissism (guilty as charged).

As a huge believer in the healing powers of therapy, I’m all for deliberate self-improvement –  the real, lasting, hard-earned kind that goes deeper than a carefully crafted social media personality. I think a huge part of getting where you want to be is remembering where you came from, to share about flaws and insecurities, and be open about the funny/potentially embarrassing quirks that make us human. And not just for the sake of fishing for compliments. With Instagram and other superficiality-obsessed social media tools creating a culture in which it has become possible for bragging to be a full-time job (and creating the appearance that people don’t actually have real jobs), I think we should all be a little bit more cautious about too carefully cultivating a godly image of ourselves. Not everything has to be a “a thing.” You can do yoga without being a “yogi.” You can take it easy for a few days without “getting sober.” You can just be.

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It was hard enough to be in woman before all of this photoshopped thigh gap nonsense bullied its way into the mainstream psyche. Let’s all give one another a break and alleviate some of the pressure by actually eating the pizza we Instagram, and not liquifying our elbowy-arms (the one enthusiastically but kind of ironically shoveling food into your face) by half an inch, perpetuating the cycle of impossible expectations for women.

Let’s really apply this whole #NoFilter thing we all like to talk about (with a filter). I’ll start: I haven’t been to the gym in four years but have been paying for a membership this entire time. I’m not proud of it, but it’s a reality. Also, I eat all the cookies, and have drained 72% of my battery life debating whether or not to post a bikini selfie in which I look like a powerful Amazonian warrior goddess, but also a little flabby.

Jane Helpern

About Jane Helpern

Writer & Over-sharer. @janeohelp jane@cultistzine.com