By Ciara Burke
One of the things I learned in school which has followed me in recondite pursuit into university and then the working world, is that one of the cardinal sins amongst the community of humans avec vagine is that you don’t talk shit behind a girl’s back.
You don’t talk shit behind a girl’s back.
I swear, it’s stained into my very soul like thick chewing gum on the bottom of a boot. Not talking shit behind someone’s back, be they friend or foe, mutant or mongoose, is pretty much an unwritten law in the teenage girl’s manifesto for surviving the snake pit. Breaking the law (breaking the law, breaking the law) is punishable only by social infamy, flagellation and in extreme cases, ultimate extradition.
The ironic thing about this law is that flying in the face of it is an imperative component in what makes these pits (See: nursery, primary, secondary, university, employment, life) sustainable. The premise of being a girl amid the gaggle is that you’ll spend your time bitching on other girls for breaking this law. Funnily enough, I’m not here to expose this double standard. This double standard can, frankly, bite me. Let she without sin throw the first stone, they say, and I’m willing to admit that I’m mucky as murder.
So, I reckon if I had a penny for every time I’ve had someone say something really horrible about me and then follow it up with “I’m just being honest!”, I’d probably be able to afford that William Shatner bedspread I’ve been watching on eBay for the last seventeen years. “Ciara, you should think about growing up”, “Ciara, you make one too many jokes”, “Ciara, why are you such a toe-rag bitch all of the time?”. Assassinating someone’s character to their face – or my favourite, on the internet – is justifiable in the name of saintly honesty but talking about someone behind their back in a context they will never be privy to, makes you a massive, snake eyed bastard. Am I really the only person that thinks this is a backwards sham? I know that I for one would gladly take people talking about how much of a hammer I am every time I leave the room over these self-congratulatory reptiles knocking me to my face, ANYDAY. It’s called self-preservation! If we focused on the things people say when we’re not around – and the thing is, this applies to absolutely everyone, because yes, at least five people have called you a dick in the last year – then we’d probably have to take a long walk off a short cliff. If we read a list of the snipes we’ve had muttered in anger against us, not only by our enemies, but our friends, we’d never be able to look another person in the eye for the rest of our lives.
But that’s life! People talk about you. They do for a multitude of reasons, be it jealously, loathing, cramps, boredom, a deep unsettling, but fundamentally intrinsic evil in their soul or merely because they genuinely care about you. The list is infinite and for every instance where you have been slated there is also a context. There’s no point making yourself sick over it, because no matter how amazing you are and how nice you are to everyone, how many sick puppies you canoodle back to health, they will always find a reason to criticise you. If I didn’t help perpetuate this horrid display of humanity at its worst, I might even get to feel sad about it.
The fact of the matter is the main reason this happens is insecurity. It’s ridiculously hard being a person, it’s ridiculously hard dealing with the shit life throws at you and on a second to second analysis it’s hard not to feel like you’re balancing in the red. I can understand this because I’m pretty weak as humans come. What I cannot understand and what I refuse to and will not understand for as long as my lungs pump oxygen, is talking shit to someone’s face. If someone has wronged you then sure, you are more than within your right to lay down the law. It’s self-defence and it’s having some respect for yourself and no one can fault you for that.
However, it does not make you a bigger person to lay down your law and to point out the weakness in others because for some bizarre reason you have formulated the belief that in life, your opinion is paramount. I have a lot of flaws, most of which I am aware of. I would wager that I am far more conscious of their ramifications than you are. In fact despite the knowing voice you are using to tell me the ways in which I fall short of your mighty standards on a daily basis, I’m willing to put high stakes on the fact that I have spent a lot more time thinking about my flaws than you have. See, one of the horrible things about girls, is that we spent most of our time dragging ourselves down to size, we really don’t need anyone else to do it for us.
I’m going to throw it out there, I don’t think the “mean girls” are the ones that talk behind your back. Boy oh boy, can I deal with those ones. What I cannot abide, what makes the sick bubble in my laughter chamber are the people who think their opinions on you even mean anything. Worse, who think they’re helping you when they rip you to shreds with their teeth because they think you deserve to be dragged down a peg. Life is so full of people wanting to make mince of you that kicking the ones that seem to have enough self-worth to get through the day just seems counteractive.
I want to change that girl rule and make my personal commandment thus: Think about it. Do I know what I’m talking about? Does giving my opinion on this person offer anything constructive to them? Does it make me feel any better? No? Well then why the fuck should I bother saying it?
Answer nearly always is, you shouldn’t. Be like Jill Scott instead.