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 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?