Monday, January 20, 2014

Sometimes I Feel Like I'm Still in High School ...


Like many people, all my life I have always had feelings of inferiority and self-doubt, exacerbated by meanies and bullies.  While I was smart enough in high school to be inducted into the National Honor Society, I wasn’t quite popular enough or pretty enough or thin enough to be invited to join the exclusive sorority type girls’ club that had a Greek sounding 3-word name.  I hope to god that that club either doesn’t exist anymore or was forced long ago to open up their membership to all girls equally.  While many of my friends were good enough to be asked to join, I was excluded – and that hurt. 

Me, in high school
I had also tried out for cheerleader in high school and was good enough to make it to the list of potential candidates.  But at that time, the final selection for cheerleaders was done by popular vote of the student body - and again I wasn’t quite pretty enough or popular enough to be voted in.  I got enough votes to be 2nd alternate, but that meant nothing - and I never got onto the team, while the lucky girl who was voted in as first alternate did.  By this point in time, I would hope that this process of selecting cheerleaders at my old alma mater has been replaced with a method either based on ability or opened up to all girls wishing to participate - because the way it was done back then, based on popular vote, hurt those who didn’t make it and made us "losers" feel inferior or not good enough.   

In college and as an adult, I blossomed into my own and I have learned exactly how unimportant high school disappointments like those really are in the big scheme of things.  I excelled in my profession and was recognized and honored for my achievements.  And then six years ago, I moved to Saudi Arabia.  And sometimes I feel like I am back in high school all over again. 

One would think that women like me who are married to Saudis, who have given up everything to come here, would understand and be sympathetic to one another – because we are all in the same boat. The sacrifices we have made to be with our husbands are unimaginable to most people.  There are major cultural and religious differences to contend with, separation from our families and friends, feelings of isolation, and on top of all that, there is a tremendous loss of freedom.  It's extremely difficult for us freedom-loving western women to adapt to the much more restricted lifestyle of women here.  

Now don’t get me wrong: many of us “Saudi wives” are understanding and sympathetic.  But being here definitely affects some women’s psyche.  I know of many women who have needed professional help or medication coping with life here. There are others who have become a little whacky and haven’t gotten the help they need.  I’ve noticed that there are certain cliques here among women, and they like to play with other women’s lives. There are bullies.  There is jealousy.  Some women here are miserable and want to make everyone else just as miserable as they are.  And while we are lucky to have Facebook to keep us all connected, I also see it being used as a tool to make others feel bad, inadequate, or full of self-doubt.  Have you "unfriended" anyone lately?

During my first year in Saudi Arabia, I was befriended by “A and B,” a couple of American women who are married to Saudis like me.  I was just so happy to have a couple of friends because I really didn’t know any other women here at the time.  After some time “A and B” dropped me and treated me like a pariah.  And it hurt.  But then I thought, if they don’t want me as a friend, why would I even want to be their friend in the first place?  I picked up the pieces and moved on and have made some wonderful real friends here since then.  Sure, it’s uncomfortable seeing them in social situations but nothing I can’t handle.  Later, one of my very good friends (who has lived in KSA for over 40 years) told me that she had become close with “A,” who then abruptly cut off ties with her one day because “B” was jealous of their friendship.  Just like high school…   
  
I know these things can happen just about anywhere, but here in the Magic Kingdom, these problems just seem more pronounced.  I am in my 60s now and I like to think I am beyond this type of petty stuff.  I don’t want or need drama in my life.  But I have friends here who are younger (and don't have the wisdom of my years yet!) who have been very hurt by the actions of the mean bullies and cliques here.  I try to make them feel better and tell them that they don’t need “friends” like this, but it’s hard to see them be continually hurt by bullies, so I thought this post was called for.  I just hate bullies. Will they ever stop?

36 comments:

  1. Isn't it funny how some people just never "outgrow" that high school stage, they can be found anywhere, anytime. That's what makes me mostly keep my distance rather then making close friends,


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    1. Hi Anonymous - I think expat women here in KSA are particularly vulnerable because we ARE so far away from our families, and our friends here become our families. But when these friends are so fickle, it really makes us question our own self-worth and makes us ask ourselves "What is wrong with me?" It's just so indecent and wrong for these bullies to treat others this way.

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    2. Well, if I get there (next month or so should tell) I look forward to meeting you both. The coffee scene is not me--been there done that-- and I am more of a homebody myself. I have never been a clique person and am too old to start now, LOL. Life is too short. - J

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    3. Let me know when you arrive and we'll get together!

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    4. Susie...just for the record...I always admired you in HS and thought you were one of the kindest people ever. Those "bullies" did us a favor...they made us into strong, loving women! I will never understand the evil in people...young and old! Your blog is fabulous and so are YOU!!! Sending my love to one of my favorite fellow Bulldogs!!! ��

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    5. Thank you, Tina - I love you too. I agree that those experiences help shape us into who we become. Thanks for taking the time to comment here. You made my day. xox

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  2. Susie, I can identify with what you said about high school. I wish girls your age would believe that life goes on and gets better, for the most part, after high school years.

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    1. Hi Anon - Thanks. I think this is much harder for younger women to handle. I am at the age now where I can't be bothered to waste my time worrying about petty stuff when there are such bigger life issues to deal with. When I was younger, it was so important to me to be liked by everyone. Now I could care less. Take me as I am, or shove off.

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  3. I stopped talking to all of them, because they're all catty. Especially the ones who blog (not you Susie).

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    1. Well, I am older and much wiser! LooooL!

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  4. Susie, I really enjoy reading your blog. I went through a lot in grade school. I was very shy and it was hard for me to make friends. I had a terrible 1st grade teacher that made me afraid of all my other teachers. I was afraid to ask for help. I too am in my 60's, and seeing my girls and grandchildren grow up and be so open mind, makes me very happy. I do have a grand-daughter that was bullied in school because of her height, taller than the normal child, that she just could not fit in any school. She finally quit, didn't go to high school. I enjoy all your posts; I'm amazed how fast you know what happens in our hometown Douglas. You are a very special person. I remember you (faintly) from the First Presbyterian Church. True as we get older we do get wiser. You ARE living in a different atmosphere in which you were raised, I applaud you!!

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    1. Hi! Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, I went to the Presbyterian Church in Douglas! It's always great to hear from people I knew back when.
      I'm so sorry to hear about your grand-daughter. I would love to see an end to bullying, but the problem doesn't seem to be going away. I'm shocked at the number of young people who have taken their own lives or killed others because they have been bullied. It's a really serious problem.
      Thanks again for writing to me!

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  5. <3
    To answer your question, no, they probably won't. When they're done with one person, they just move on to the next one. The problem is not in the women that are bullied liked this, but in the perpetrators. The bullies need them to feel better about themselves. I learned that from a wise woman :)

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    1. Hi Layla - Glad you got my message. xxx

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  6. I have experienced this as well Susie in another arab country and have felt the effects of expat women married to locals 'sticking together' and in general just being too cliquy for me. Where do you live? who is your husband? Where does he work? what's the family last name? Do you live with your in-laws and in general just so many questions about your personal life and relationship with your husband that it is unnatural and feels invasive to me as my western friends do not care nor do they feel the need to pry or concern themselves with my relationship with my husband. This is not an excuse to build friendships based on the mentioned questions above. I certainly hope that my friends are interested in being friends with me for who I am, not who my husband is or who his family is or what part of the city I live in as if one side of town is more prestigious to live in than the other. I feel these questions are in most cases 'sizing up the competition' and I hate socializing with expat wives for this reason. (I don't mean to stereotype all expat wives this way it is only from my personal experience so please don't take offence). I like the fact that there are so expat wives living in my city to support each other but I just don't want to be apart of their 'circle time'. I prefer to to be at home with my children and my husband and focus on family and my hobbies rather than gossip and meet for coffee dates so I can meet new wives added to the circle who continue to ask the same old questions. I just don't find it useful. The sad reality is that if I am not with them, I am against them and have been labeled as a snob or a b**** or someone who isn't trustworthy because I chose not to share my life with the other wives?! I feel bullied and often guilty too because I think in general I am just misunderstood, but arguing or justifying my position to others ends up getting lost in translation. I just prefer a really small circle of friends. I have two best friends who are American married to arabs and I don't feel the need to impress, talk about other wives, or pressure to go to parties or to even hang out with them. We are just connected as soul sisters and rely on each for friendship but it's out of pure love and pure hearts. I have cried over this issue too especially with 'Facebook friends' who have misunderstood my silence and absence from parties and events. I have basically decided if you are not in my life in a face to face personal manner, we are not connected by the heart and the same morals and values, and you associate and keep people in your life for 'Facebook entertainment' or you don't want someone to turn psycho on you for deleting them as a friend then I truly don't want to be your friend in 'real life' either. I have better things to occupy my time with than pleasing the surface level friendships that exist in social media. If that makes me snob then I guess I can handle with society labels me as. My husband, family, and friends in real life know my character and know who I am on the inside and that truly is all that matters to me.

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    1. Hi Anonymous - I would much rather have a few really good friends than dozens of superficial friends too. It's funny, but I don't even know the married last name of many of my friends here, and I would never dream of asking anyone some of the questions that I have been asked here. You have got to do what makes you happy, and it sounds like you are doing a fine job of it. Thanks for sharing your view.

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  7. Hi Susie,
    I've always lived in Australia and have experienced many times the girls who have never left High School phenomena. I've also reached the stage that I don't waste time with these women as I've learnt it is generally an insecurity they have and they are too fearful to take the step to overcome it.
    Oh well, A and B have lost the opportunity to have a wonderful person as their friend.
    Stand up for the true Sisterhood,
    Sally

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    1. Hi Sally - Thanks so much. I do have lots of happy memories of my hometown and I love seeing my old friends at reunions. I just know now that a lot of the stuff I thought was so disappointing and devastating back then was really very insignificant and has had absolutely no effect on my life today - except maybe to make me stronger.

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  8. Hi Susie,
    I lived in Jeddah for almost 8 years, and I have very fond memories of living there - of the incredible friendships I made, and of the ALJ as a social outlet and a means to feel connected to others and home in the states...but I also remember how cliquey some of the women could be. Just like in high school, we need to surround ourselves with people we want to be like. Susie, I want to be like YOU;-)

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    1. Hi Lisa - Thanks so much for your comment. You made my day.

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  9. This is also true of the UAE as well and cliques rule here . Getting older and wiser has been the best thing. You are lucky to be here in the age of the internet where it is easier to keep in touch with family. I came out to the gulf in the early 80's when a letter or phone call from home was pure joy! There are even bullies who bully others who are married to arabs! You just need to distance yourself from those types of people.

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    1. Hi AnnMarie - I'm pretty sure it happens everywhere, but I really didn't notice it much once I became an adult in the states. The problem just seems to be magnified though when we are so far away and not surrounded by the protective and loving arms of our families.

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  10. Susie,
    You so rock! I always dream that i'll run into you one day in Jeddah (I've been here 9 years, originally from Seattle) but hasn't happened yet! Please keep up you're blog, I'm thinking that there are some more people than just me that aren't able to get out much more than a few times a year. I feel I'm not alone with so many of your posts! Isolation city! Thanks so much! keep up the good work!

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    1. Hi Anonymous from Seattle - Thanks for your comment! You do know that I spend most of my time in the states in the Seattle area, right? We must meet - Please email me at: susieofarabia@gmail.com

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  11. Most of us do get bullied in our life and it sure doesn't feel very good. It should get better in our older years (I am 64). I do worry about the really young children and it is awful that girls are doing so much of it now days. I don't feel it gets any better especially with all the social media, etc.
    By the way, you were pretty in your high school picture. :)

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    1. Hi Misty - The really sad thing is that it seems the bullying problem isn't improving, despite campaigns and efforts to educate kids about the harmful effects it has. Thanks for the nice compliment about my high school pic - I think we are all our own harshest critics.

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  12. This was a very interesting post Susie. I had a similar experience in high school when I tried out for a sorority. Everyone single person who tried out was accepted, except one. When I didn't receive an invitation extending the "privilege" to "rush" as it was called, and discovered I was the only one, I sorta cared, and sorta didn't care. I eventually figured out, decades later that the reason I wasn't sent an invitation was because of the sorta not caring part, which they sensed. I know now that the caring to be in a sorority wasn't in me to express.

    There is something else I would like to say, please hear this with the neutrality with which I intend it. When I was in high school, I thought (felt, really) "I'm not good enough", and "no one likes me." I realized in my late 30's (I'm 61 now) that the inferiority that I experienced was an illusion, and which perpetuated the same cruelty from which it derived. That is to say, when I reflected during that time period on the idea of "no one" and "others" I was only looking in one direction, and excluding 85% of the rest of the school population from that definition, as if they didn't count. I try to do differently as an adult.

    And yes, though I haven't travelled in the cultures you have travelled in, my sense is, from reading blogs by women, that many of these women live emotionally like perpetual high school students.

    In any case, it isn't the 100 people you meet that don't "like" you, or do you an injustice, it is the 2 who see when their eyelids are open, and demonstrate what justice is.

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    1. Hi Helene - Thanks for sharing your experience. I posted this on my hometown Facebook group and have gotten such positive responses back from my lovely friends. I've always been the kind of person who always has a smile on my face, no matter what, so many were surprised to read about my insecurities. I always wanted everyone to like me back then, and as I've gotten older, I have realized that it is just not realistic. Some people just aren't going to like me, for whatever their reasons are - and it really doesn't bother me any more. It's very tough though when we are teenagers. Thanks again.

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    2. Love your closing thought, Helene - J

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  13. I agree, very interesting post and am sorry for your experience and the younger women you are concerned about. Your attitude is dead on, who would WANT to be friends with women like that?

    I am 47 and work in the social services, many of my co-workers are younger and I too am seeing the bullying you describe. They poison the work environment and sometimes make it an unpleasant place to be. I have vowed to rise above it and refuse to be caught up in it (talking behind backs). It is unfortunate this behaviour happens at all and wonder if it is similar for men or do they just call people on it and tell it like it is?

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    1. Hi Maia and Olivia - I can maybe understand teenagers going through this type of thing, but grown women should be more mature and sensitive. I know there are plenty of bullies and control freaks who are men. I think there are both men and women who do stand up to them, and both men and women who are picked on.

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  14. Great blog, thank you for sharing! I experienced a similar situation when I lived in Saudi... I believe it is called being freezed out. It was so hard to deal with as those ladies worked at the compound school and vengefully took it out on my kids...at that point I realized this was a battle I was not going to win .... it was too much to handle and we left the kingdom. I resent these ladies, but also the other ladies who saw what was happening and remained silent and did not take a stand. Life does not need to be this complicated!

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    1. Hi Anonymous - I'm very sorry you had such a bad experience with this problem when you were in KSA. I can't imagine it being so bad that your family chose to leave the country over it - wow. Thanks for your comment.

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  15. Dear Susie, first of all very beautiful high school picture!
    Regarding one of the points you mentioned:

    a number of expats having turned wacky here in KSA: this has always been my fear and gut feeling about many westeners married to saudis and this is one of the main reasons that I have not really got to enter these circles....
    Added to that that I never changed my religion to muslim, and many have indeed- thus that would make me even more odd I guess....

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    1. Hi Anonymous - Thank you for commenting. I haven't been here all that long compared to many of my friends, but it seems that there is a higher percentage of women who get whacked out here and really need professional help than other places I have lived. I think there are aspects of this culture that possibly contribute to it, but that's another discussion. I would never change my religious beliefs just because I marry someone from a different religion. It seems disingenuous to me.

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  16. I have become pretty obsessed with Saudi Arabia lately (I cannot believe some of the injustices I read about! it shocks and fascinates me) so I really enjoy reading your perspective on things there. Keep on!

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