Something disturbing happened yesterday in the dressing room at Nordstrom’s Rack. Fortunately, it wasn’t as disturbing as seeing the backs of my thighs in a mirror. Actually, short of someone committing a violent act in the dressing room, I can’t think of anything as disturbing as the backs of my thighs flashing in a fluorescent light enhanced mirror. What I did witness wasn’t criminal but it was despicable and was perpetrated with intent to harm. And it all happened with in the span of maybe a minute.
The Girl was in the dressing booth and I was stationed outside the door to give her choices thumbs up or thumb down. She was popping in and out at the doorway to turn this way and that if she liked it or she barely open the door for a split second and shake her head disappearing behind the door, like a ghost in an ill-fitting or poorly chosen garment, before I could offer my opinion. This dressing room ritual is something Walker forgot to mention in her encyclopedia of women’s myths and rituals. This same donning and doffing ritual was playing out next door to us, too. A twenty-something woman was standing outside the door next to us. Her friend--behind the door was chattering nonstop how happy she was she fit into a particular size now. . .wasn’t it wonderful she was beginning to look good in clothes and feel good in clothes. . .but she just wasn’t sure if the things she had with her really looked that good and if they matched. She was clearly a little overwhelmed with all the selection she had now she was smaller. Her friend was frumpy and ill-kempt and--frankly--fat. I’m not acting out of prejudice against large women here. On the contrary, if this woman waiting outside the door had been skinny she would still be frumpy and ill-kempt. That she had on a polyester dress a size or two too small just added to her list of fashion don’ts. And her friend was a larger woman, too. Although from the sound of it, Friend was losing weight.
Disappearing weight girl popped out of the dressing room with an extremely flattering skirt on in a lovely shade of blue and a wretched mismatched top over it. “So, so what do you think…I mean I’m not sure…does this match?”
Her friend leaned back, narrowed her eyes and thought for a few seconds, tilting her head to the left and then to the right until she nodded and enthusiastically assured her weight losing friend “Of course it matched! Don’t be silly!” Diet girl disappeared behind her door and I noticed Friend rolled her eyes and sighed a little too loudly. The eye narrowing aroused my suspicion and the sigh confirmed this vivacious young woman who was a couple sizes smaller had brought not a friend but a Ferenemy shopping.
The voices in my head were moaning: “Oh honey noOOoooo!!“ and I wanted to devise a split second scheme to get her friend out of the way so I could give a head up that the blouse she had on looked like ass and her “friend knew it. I found myself glancing at Ferenemy shaking my head in reproach and when I caught her eye and she turned away there was no doubt in my mind, Sister knew she was busted. An outfit or so later, the enthusiastic dieter left with her “friend” briskly chatting about how these clothes would be good for now because she had plateau and knew it would be a matter of time before she lost more weight. This chatter went on, nonstop at what seemed the speed of sound while they left the dressing rooms and away from my ear shot. My heart felt sick for this young woman. Yeah, she was a chatter box but her hard work deserved positive recognition and she had no idea there was a knife sticking in her back.
On the way home from The Rack with The Girl’s beautiful new jacket and blouses and my (score!) cute blouse and (yawn) sheets and (double yawn) socks I couldn’t stop thinking about all the girls and later women I have been friends with and in many cases still friends with. A few of us have had our snits and out set-to’s and in one case we stopped being friends in high school for God-only-knows-why but now we‘re friends again. I even had the sad experience of “divorcing” a friend a number of years ago because her negativity was such a weight on my shoulders I couldn’t stand to even talk to her. I’ve even had frenemies. Hell, I had--what felt like at times--an entire subdivision of them. But I took care of that because not only did Ward get the house, kids and the station wagon; he got the neighbor ladies; way back in aught zero. And my oh my my my did I give them something to talk about: leaving my husband because I was unsure of my sexual identity. Looking back now, I bet my desperate act disguised as courage scared the crap out of a couple of them. But aside from Stepford, I’ve never had a ferenemy. Co-workers who make me impatient and set my teeth on edge are one thing (it’s not hard to make me grind my teeth impatiently, I have a very short fuse) but choosing to be friends with someone you essentially don’t like and want to hurt is another thing. Couched in those terms it’s really kind of sick.
I don’t understand why women treat each other this way. What is the point of sabotaging someone out of jealousy? Does it change your own life or circumstance? No, if anything it leaves a big black mark on your book o’ karma which ultimately moves you further away from the ideal you see your “friend“ possesses. Maybe I’m mystified by this kind of behavior because I see myself as part of a sisterhood and it wouldn’t occur to me to humiliate or lie to one of my “sisters”. But in the larger scheme: Friends are a precious and privileged commodity. Why would I squander and abuse a friendship?
Don Corleones urged his sons to hold their friends close and their enemies closer. So what did he tell them to do with their frenemies? Maybe he advised a trip The Rack and lying to them: “Oh yeah, that skirt matches that blouse, it looks great!”