I found myself surrounded by a group of pretenders. Pretending to be who they thought everyone else wanted them to be. No, these weren’t the social clichés of hipsters or rappers or emos or anything like that. These were a group of women in their late 20s and early 30s – mostly single, professional, “stable” women – and they were pretending to be who they weren’t. They were hiding their own truth in order to fit in with each other. Seeing them interact with each other made me quite uncomfortable because I didn’t want to be like them and just try to “fit in” with their discussions. There was nothing really wrong with their discussions or their topics for discussion, just they weren’t being true to themselves and true to each other. I could feel this, see this, hear this, know this. It was like they were speaking in a false code that helped them identify as a social group that was different. Listening to their words but watching their actions (and hearing about their actions) was difficult – I wanted to scream at them to “be real!”, but it just wouldn’t happen. I felt very outside of conversation and outside of the little group they had created despite having been invited to join them.
Just being there and feeling their lies made me wonder what this world has come to in order for these beautiful young women to distrust themselves so much that they lie to each other just to fit in. I sat there wondering how I could contribute to the discussion and when I realised that I had nothing to contribute because I couldn’t lie like that: I just watched and listened. There were some blatantly obvious lies, as well; not about little things like how much they spent on something or what they ate for lunch (which they were not truthful about), but about big “life” issues – children, marriage, commitment…
For example, one woman was ten weeks pregnant and was telling the others to never get pregnant – it’s the worst thing ever – and that she never wanted to be pregnant. At all. Ever. Five minutes later, she mentioned that she had maternity leave written into her work contract four years ago. Four. It was something that she actively decided to do and that she planned to do because her boss was “impossible at best”, so she had to get it written into the contract. In another discussion a little while later, she talked about how easy it was to give up drinking, smoking, caffeine, processed meat, soft cheeses, long distance travel, and whatever else. She said she had no side effects, no bad moods, no cravings. This was coming from a woman who had been the typical “life of the party” girl who was never seen without a cigarette or a drink in her hand; someone who lived from coffee to coffee and cigarette break to cigarette break. Yet, as soon as she realised she was pregnant, *poof* she’s given up everything. So many people cannot give up just one of these things, let alone all of them. (Even if they really want to; even if they have strong motivation like creating another life inside them; even if it was a life-and-death situation.) If she didn’t care about her unborn child and if she didn’t want to be pregnant, why would she give all of this up? I’ve known others who did everything that they could to end their pregnancy early because they didn’t want to be pregnant. Here, a woman who claims to not want children, to hate being pregnant, to be dreading the next eighteen or twenty years of her life, she is doing her best to provide the safest and healthiest home for her unborn child. Is this not a contradiction between her actions and her words?
The list of blatant lies told in this conversation goes on – it really does. I spent most of those two hours just sitting in shock and wondering how this group of women would react if I told them exactly what I was thinking. Or if I told them that they were basing their friendship and conversations on lies. If they truly looked at themselves and truly allowed themselves to be who they are, then they would be shocked – more shocked than I was when I was listening to them. Really.
I wonder how we have gotten to this place – to a place where being honest with ourselves, and one another, is regarded as being a social taboo.