There is an epidemic attacking the minds of our nation’s adolescent girls. It provokes “relational aggression” and the urge to emotionally “torture” your peers. It threatens to pulverize us into trembling balls of “contagious and unhealthy emotional angst.”
The culprit, according to the New York Times, is “the female problem” of co-rumination, defined as “obsessively discussing” pressing lady concerns, like “Why didn’t he call?” and “Why did he dump me?”
The article, called “Girl Talk Has Its Limits,” cites “Mean Girls” and “Sex and the City” as useful windows into a woman’s world of obsesso-babble, BFFs, Frenemies and catfights.
Yes, girls, as a whole, talk it out more than boys. And yes, girls are more inclined to passive aggression. I indulged in it my freshman year when I lost my laptop charger and for four months shared my roommate’s. By “shared” I mean four months of brutal psychological warfare. Granted, it was really weird of me to not get a new charger for four months. But instead of saying: “Claire, it’s really weird that you haven’t gotten a new charger for four months,” my roommate would slyly unplug my computer and I, in retaliation, would do the same to hers. Until now, those four months have been an unspoken and largely repressed phase in our relationship.
The fact is that men have healthy, socially sanctioned ways to express their aggression. Like saying it. Or fighting. Or those couple hundred years when men were allowed to beat their wives with canes the diameter of their thumb.
I tried to release some hostility once. It was during that giddy first snow day of 2001 and I playfully hurled a snowball at a passing boychild. The boychild wiped the residue from his jacket, crossed to my side of the road and bitch-slapped me.
I taunted the enraged four-foot boychild: “Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to slap a girl?”
The boychild punched me in the face.
Girls aren’t taught to call each other on shit, to assert themselves, to act. Girls probably wouldn’t obsess over a boy not calling if they were encouraged to dial the phone.
Ladies are supposed to be passive, look pretty and excite male interest. They must be patient! But patience is just something that people tell themselves is a virtue when their lives suck. You know what I’m talkin’ about, Serbs.
So the crux of our present emotional contagion is passivity = frustration = co-rumination = angst ball.
I tested my own patience this weekend, when I spent three hours in the back of a Manhattan-bound U-Haul. The only buffer between me and the U-Haul’s steel, windowless walls was 15 other girls.
The all-female cast and crew of The Rocky Horror Show were on a retreat to see the midnight show in Chelsea. About two and a half hours in, stuck in a traffic jam in Times Square, shit got serious. The heat caused all our sweat to evaporate, co-mingle and condense on the U-Haul ceiling and we began our eighth round of “Never Have I Ever.” It was just like “Girls Gone Wild”: 16 sweaty, scantily-clad girls, a third of whom were unconscious and the rest borderline, playing a game that always ends up getting all sexual and weird. I’m sure if U-Hauls had windows we would have received many a “show us your tits!”
I hate bonding games. I really hate bonding games that end up getting all sexual and weird. And I especially hate “Never Have I Ever.” Half the people drop a shameful finger every question, while the other half’s fingers remain outstretched the entire game in prudish guilt.
Everyone’s a loser.
But I bonded! With people! And it wasn’t just boys- and clothes-oriented bonding, like the models of female friendships seen in “Mean Girls” and “Sex in the City.” We talked about life things. Like how we never appreciated oxygen before. About whether we did or did not smell fumes. And whether our need for food outweighed the nausea automatically induced by exposing a chunk of garlic bread to the air in this very, very enclosed space.
And when our co-mingled and condensed sweat dripped down on us, each drop seemed to symbolize a physical and emotional symbiosis. A little gross, a little beautiful and a little very illegal.
But we made it rain. We made it rain. We made it rain. We made it rain. We made it rain on them empowered, socially autonomous women.