One of my best friends, Jessica, came home from a night out with another friend -- we'll call her Lauren -- in tears. Apparently, Lauren had been making subtle stabs at Jessica all night, making comments about Jessica's "boyfriend," who did not exist, in front of guys they were trying to flirt with. At one point, Lauren patted Jessica's knee. "It's OK, I'm sure your thing will clear up quickly," she said, sweetly giving her friend a small hug. She then turned to the boys: "It's kind of a big thing. You know? She doesn't really want to talk about it."
There is no thing, just as there is no boyfriend. Jessica had just fallen victim to a girl attack.
Boy attacks are easy to identify. They usually involve two men yelling at each other, thumping their chests, occasionally regressing to wrestling on the ground and arguing over who killed the most woolly mammoths. OK, the last example is an exaggeration. The sad part is that the rest are not.
Girl attacks are far more shrewd -- a snake that slithers silently up to you, opens its fangs and bites only when you have no chance of escaping its poison.
Males attack each other in the heat of their testosterone-charged, machismo explosions, while girls tend to attack each other only after meticulous mental preparation during times of temporary mental illness caused by insecurity, self doubt, and overall negativity. I know this because I've been an attacker. My friend Carey and I used to get ready to go out together, lining up far too much makeup on my bathroom sink and playing '80s Madonna music.
"Does this look good?" she'd say, presenting her close-to-perfect figure in one designer outfit, then another. "Does this one make me look fat?"
Carey has no fat on her model-proportioned body, and she knows this; she also enjoys hearing that other people know this. But even someone with a great body has outfits that are less flattering than others, and when Carey tried those on, I would smile with all of my teeth. "Yes!" I'd say, watching the unfortunate way the fabric would cling or the odd cut of the pants, "You should wear THOSE!"
"Are you sure?" Carey would ask, twisting in the mirror. "I think ... "
"No, they're perfect. Come on, let me do your makeup." And because my makeup and clothes always looked good, she trusted me. And because she trusted me, I could make Carey look as awful as possible (which, in truth, is not THAT awful, considering her natural blessings) whenever we went out together. It was my insurance policy -- this way, I would be the prettier one.
And then one day, I was out at a bar with a friend of mine who is beautiful in an entirely different way than me -- she's crazy shoes to my simple black pumps; she's a vintage dress and highly styled hair to my jeans and air-dried curls. We were laughing over cocktails when a man came up to us and told us that he loved the vibe we had together.
"I didn't want to interrupt, ladies," he said, "Just wanted to comment that you guys look like you're having the most fun in here. And (here, he winked) you're the most attractive women, too."
Maybe it was the result of one mojito too many, but suddenly it clicked in my mind -- if you're having fun, you're attractive. If you're hanging out with people you like, you're having fun. And if you're hanging out with people you like, you should want them to look as good as they possibly can, because -- see long, detailed chain just described -- even if you view it from the most selfish of angles, if they look good, you profit, too. This was the end of my girl-attack phase.
And now, the cattiness with which girls attack each other seems ludicrous to me. Why are we letting something so petty as jealousy get in the way of something so significant as fun and friendship? Why can't we revel in the success of our peers instead of biting our perfectly lacquered lips and wishing those successes were our own? Or why, at the very least, can't we take a tip from the men and wrestle it out? A little grunting is good for everyone.
Liz Moody, a Johansen High School graduate, is a student at the University of California at Berkeley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.