I can’t remember who said it first (Thich Nhat Hanh??), but I heard this statement a while ago and it has stuck with me: “Never put anyone out of your heart.” I’ve also heard the disclaimer from another wise person that you shouldn’t lock someone out of your heart, but, when necessary, you should never hesitate to lock them out of your house. I like that – if someone has hurt you, it’s important to your own health to find forgiveness for them, but that doesn’t mean making yourself vulnerable to them again.

There’s a woman who moves in social circles somewhat tangential to mine towards whom I feel decidedly hard-hearted. And I feel terrible about this. When I examine them closely, I realize that many of the reasons I feel such anger for her have to do with the fact that she is very much the opposite of me. Where I was trained to be kind and sweet and amenable to anyone and everyone, she is brash and bitchy and perfectly confident in doing so. She strikes me as the kind of woman who was popular when young – she’s beautiful and always had plenty of guys around, eager for her attention. I’ve watched her shoot them down at bars, myself. It’s almost as if she’s laughing at them for having had the audacity to approach her-  but laughing at them would give them far too much credit. No, they are mosquitos, she swats them away. I’ve watched this happen – I, who have spent my life desperate for male attention and wondering how to get it – and felt angry with her for trampling on those poor guys’ emotions. No wonder men think women are callous bitches, I remember thinking.

And yet, this woman also prides herself on her friendships with men. Yes, she’s the type to say that she doesn’t like hanging out with women, they’re too bitchy and girly and just too much drama. This attitude makes me furious. Embracing the stereotypes in an attempt  to put yourself above them is pure selfishness, and cruelty to the women around you. (See, there I go – part of my acculturation is to see cruelty as the worst of sins.) A guy I once dated  said that talking to this particular woman was different, “it’s like talking to a man,” he said. God, the spike of anger I felt at those words! So she’d found a way into the inner circle had she? And did he have any idea how cultivated this ‘natural’ affect was? This woman builds her self-worth on a cultivated ‘tomboy’ persona which is downright misogynistic and you, a self-proclaimed feminist, can’t see through all the harmful bullshit?

Who am I say that this woman isn’t just being herself? [shrug] I don’t know. But I know that, in my interactions with her, I have known her to be completely insincere unless she has the full attention of a man — the right man. Despite the grounds for her supposed dislike of women, I have personally received several catty comments from her – comments meant to knock me down a peg, meant to establish her alpha-female status. I won’t lie – they hurt. And I feel a sincere dislike for her because of it.

But, to throw out another quotation for which I don’t have the proper citation, someone (Plato??) once said, “Be kind to everyone you meet. They are in the middle of a hard journey.”  Damn if that isn’t true for me, and I’m sure it’s true for this woman as well. Growing up in a culture that demeans women as much as ours does can lead to eschewing femininity entirely in the hopes of acceptance among men. Hell, even *I* hate all those stereotypes about histrionic women. And when you’re as beautiful as this woman is, I suppose at some point you start to wonder if men talk to you because they like *you* or because they want sex. That’s a de-humanizing, awful feeling, and I can see developing some pretty callous techniques to weed out those guys. It doesn’t excuse them, but hey – we’re all just trying to find some sanity here.

This woman has hurt me, and for that I must seek within myself forgiveness for her and empathy for her situation. But anger at her for her beauty and her confidence is completely misdirected and unnecessary. It’s like that post when I talked about people with spiky, rough boundaries – just because her coping strategies are the complete opposite of mine doesn’t mean that they aren’t serving an important purpose. I just need to find a way to hold on to that empathy so that the next time I encounter her my heart isn’t full of anger.