Tag Archives: friendship

The Devil Wears Pixels

(Originally a Facebook Note, posted August 2009 – but I have been thinking about it recently.)

I watched a deliciously girly movie tonight on FX – and amid the pomp and circumstance of the fashion and fuss, I was reminded of some amazing lessons I’ve learned in my career.

I’m not one of those people who is overly critical of movies. I consider films great if I laugh or cry and absolutely phenomenal if I get to do both. Beneath the gilded tapestry of lines in the Devil Wears Prada are some wholly un-materialistic value messages.

There’s a scene where Andy and Miranda are in a town car in Paris. Andy says “I could never do what you did” and Miranda retorts “You already did.”

If you’ve seen this scene you know exactly how cutting this exchange is. If not, it is like your mother holding a mirror up to your face the morning after an all-nighter.

You feel shame and disgust and guilt even if you didn’t do anything.

I am so fascinated by the way women treat each other in life and in business. One of my favorite sayings is that ‘only ugly girls are catty’. If one looks okay on the outside and is still obsessed with cutting and undermining, well… that ugliness lives somewhere.

I remember in my teens and early twenties, I proudly pitched myself as a guys’ girl. I simply didn’t have anything in common with other women. They were idiots or bimbos or superficial or prissy or backstabbing or bobbleheads. And then I realized I was simply hanging out with the wrong women.

In addition to a few, key teammates and some artistic types, I credit my friend Martina with helping me embrace my universal sisterhood. As a transplanted woman, she focused exclusively on cultivating friendships with strong, smart, fun women. Since we’re still friends, I’m going to assert that she was wildly successful in her venture.

It took me a long time to figure out how to navigate the treacherous and often treasonous world of female friendships. Admittedly, I sometimes still get it wrong. But for all of the mistakes I’ve made (too often when I felt my most awful and insecure), I have done some things right.

  • I believe in giving women compliments. I give them all the time. I give them to people I know and to total strangers. I don’t care if anyone knows or hears except for the recipient. Women don’t know enough good things about themselves. Women NEVER hear enough good things about themselves. There is nothing like a spontaneous compliment to plug the leak in the self-esteem drain.
  • I also believe in honesty. False support/friendship is a weakness and should be banished from our gender’s repertoire.
  • I promote the idea that two wrongs do not make a right. And a shallow, caustic comment should not inspire an equally biting retort.

This goes for work environments as well.

In advertising, I was privileged to work with a lot of women. I mean that. Privileged.

That doesn’t mean that I liked or respected all of them. And that doesn’t mean that my first impression was right all the time.

But here’s the thing…

It is a mistake to stab people in the back, or the front.

Anytime.

No matter what.

(SIDE NOTE: Have you seen the great speech Robyn Williams delivers to Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Patch Adams” about being a dick?  He says that it is a mistake of youth to think that one has to be a dick to get ahead in life and naiveté to think that it is a new concept. It is a brilliant statement to me. Simply brilliant. Because for all of our striving and struggling and studying and suffering… what, in effect, will our legacy be?)

In the movie, Andy goes to Paris instead of Emily. She says she had no choice – it was to preserve her future.

pumpsMiranda scoffs at Andy’s repugnance with the comment “Everyone wants this. Everyone wants to be us.”

I

think

not.

For me, I am laying down once and for all any feelings of betrayal or indignation or rage. People make choices that we cannot understand or explain or accept. But that is really, in the end, only their problem. It becomes ours when we hold onto it.

As for me, I plan to love and be loved. I plan to teach and to learn. I plan to hope and to laugh.

And to wear fabulous shoes.

Imposter Child

It’s been almost a month since my last post.  No, I’m not really that busy.  I’ve started and stopped a half dozen posts but always got intimidated by finishing the research, organizing the links or even establishing my position on the topic. 

This is really unlike me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m kind of an all hat, no cattle dreamer.  I LOVE to think of big ideas, get people all excited and then move on to whatever the next thing to catch my attention.  I’m not much of a “sticker.” 

But having an opinion?  Expressing it?

I’ve got that down pat.

Or so I thought.

It has occurred to me over the last few days that I’m suffering from an uncured case of imposter syndrome. 

In college, I reached a little too far.  I remember being corrected by my beau about the proper way to eat soup while out on a date at a fancy restaurant.  I felt constantly unqualified to keep the company I did.  Exposure alone had made my peers cosmopolitan and wise.  I was constantly in fear of being discovered as the simpleton, scholarship kid I was.

Fifteen years later, I find myself engaging with women whose professional accomplishments dwarf my own and I feel the creeping fear of discovery cast a cold shadow.

Maybe not on my interactions with them, but my actions reaching to join them. 

I have been invited to write with a professional blogger.  She’s completed one book and makes her living as a writer.  While I would LOVE to be a part of this project, I feel paralyzed when I think about whether my contribution would actually be worthwhile. 

Another women I’ve known of for years, suggested we meet for lunch.  We share many friends but have never had occasion or commonality to strike our own friendship.  I felt myself apologizing for myself because she is so effortlessly rebellious and cool.  Where I try too hard, she wouldn’t have considered trying worthy of her attention.  Yet, somewhere within the span of our lunch there were some raw honest moments that might grow into a mutual respect.  She too, offered up the idea of collaborating on a writing project.  The boldness of the idea, the nakedness of the truths she proposed we would tell appealed and repelled me equally.  I don’t even know if I’m healed enough to revisit the experiences that would have taught me the lessons I’d share for the project.  Like Forest says of Jenny’s childhood home, “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Finally, I discovered a really great potential friend almost by accident.  She’s my peer in years only.  Her career path has been nearly vertical, while mine has strayed from a flatline only to plunge occasionally. 

I’m the first to promote the idea that life, love, and work are not competitions. 

But my weaknesses have been baldly revealed by these new friendships and my self-consciousness makes me pause before proffering my opinion as anything other than the silly musings of a woman trapped by her own limits.

And so I’ve been silent for the last three weeks.

I just thought you should know.