Women need a village nowadays – or so we’re told. Not a literal village (a small community or group of houses in a rural area, larger than a hamlet and usually smaller than a town, and sometimes incorporated as a municipality – wait, what is a hamlet exactly?) but figuratively under the assumption that a village is a cooperative place where like-minded people support each other and help each other thrive. I think what it really means is we need a good group of girlfriends that we can trust and count on and who we know will be there for us through thick and thin.
But what happens when we’re rejected by a village?
I was recently rejected by a “village.” When I started dating my husband about 4 years ago, he introduced me to a couple that he was friends with. We hit it off right away! We went out for drinks together, went to concerts together and really enjoyed each other’s company. The wife seemed to be a little negative and complain a lot about her friends and her job, but I chalked it up to her having an opportunity to vent to a good listener. She almost never asked about my kids or my work, but I figured she was going through some stuff and needed to talk. I don’t have a big need to talk about myself, so I was okay with it.
One day the wife told me “We’re part of a group of couples and I’m going to try to get you into The Group. You would be perfect in The Group. You have to be approved by everyone in The Group to be let in.” Intriguing! It sounded very exclusive and it seemed to be quite an honor if The Group let you in.
Our first experience with The Group was a party that was hosted by one of the couples. Within minutes, the hostess of the party shared with me and a few other women in The Group how much fun she was having with “one of her boy toys when her husband wasn’t home.” For a moment I thought maybe I had been naive about The Group and it was something entirely different than I had assumed – yikes! But as the hostess revealed more, I understood that it wasn’t “that kind” of group and that the “boy toys” really were a secret from her husband. The other women didn’t look the slightest bit shocked. As I usually do, I just listened and made mental notes (mental note on this one: do not let this person spend time alone with my husband.) Other than the shocking news about boy toys, the party was great fun and it seemed our initial introduction to The Group was a success. My friend confirmed that The Group seemed to like us so far and our ‘membership application’ had not been immediately rejected. So far, so good in our bid to be approved into “The Group!”
After the party, we were invited to a few other gatherings. Bar hopping, dinners, pool parties, drinking (lots of drinking seems to be a requirement for The Group.) Every get together seemed to be in our favor for being allowed into The Group. We got along with everyone. We didn’t have any disagreements with anyone. Overall, we thought The Group was fun. One of the guys in particular made us laugh a lot. His nickname was Chief, and he had appointed himself the “leader” of The Group and let us know that we were at his mercy as he would be the one who decided whether or not we would be let into The Group. While some people might have considered him obnoxious (okay, some in The Group called him that) he was actually one of my favorites in The Group.
Yes, things seemed to be going well and it looked like we would maybe, probably, hopefully, be allowed into The Group. Still we couldn’t just relax and assume we were going to be let in. Chief let us know at every opportunity that we were still “being considered” and that it wasn’t a “sure thing” by any means.
There was one thing that I noticed about The Group that started to bother me a little more each time we saw them. I wanted to genuinely get to know the other ladies in The Group. Whenever we got together, I made a point to try to get to know them better. I would ask them questions about their kids, about their parents, about their jobs, about their interests. None of them ever asked me anything about me or my life. I would go over to them and try to start a conversation. None of them would ever come over to where I was to start a conversation with me. They loved to talk about themselves but had zero interest in learning anything about me. But I didn’t give up! I tried every single time. Well, I did give up on one lady, we’ll call her “Ginger.” It became painfully obvious to me that Ginger was unable to talk about anything but herself. I really couldn’t bear trying with that one anymore. There were several occasions where the ladies were all huddled together whispering and when I went over and asked, “What’s up?” they would say “Nothing” and shut me out completely. One of the times, one of them told me, “Oh we’re just talking about someone.” At another gathering I was shut out of another huddle and was again told, “Nothing,” when I asked what ‘us ladies’ were talking about. Then all of the ladies announced together to all of the husbands…and oh yeah, me standing there by myself…that one of them was moving. I learned that their huddles would never be opened up to let me in. (One of the reasons I liked Chief was he was the only person in The Group who ever asked about me or my kids or my life in general.)
I really started to feel like a total idiot when we were with The Group. Still I wanted in.
There were a few gatherings that we weren’t invited to, especially the gatherings that were centered around Ginger. I could tell that at least one or two people in The Group didn’t like me but I had no idea why. I’m the kind of person who prefers to get things out in the open and address them, so I asked my friend “Who in The Group doesn’t like me and why? Did I say or do something that upset them?” My friend clearly didn’t want to answer the question and did not answer the question. I know my openness makes people uncomfortable sometimes. I told her I would like to know because I was trying so hard to get to know everyone in The Group and if I said or did something offensive I wanted to try to remedy it, but still she declined to share it with me.
It was suggested to us by our friends who were sponsoring us to get into The Group, that we should host a party at our house. They suggested that this would be huge in the plus column for us on our figurative application to be admitted into The Group. So, host a party we did. We got the pool sparkling. I bought 20 outdoor chairs, so everyone would have a place to sit. (Would anyone like to buy some nice outdoor chairs?) My husband stayed up all night (literally all night) smoking a brisket. We were really excited to have The Group and some of our other friends (who had amazingly and graciously already accepted our friendship without an approval process) over for a party.
No group had ever made me prove myself to be worthy of being in their group before. No group had ever made me question if I was likable or not. I had to show them that I was worthy of being accepted into their group. I had to show them that “doggone it, people like me.” I wanted in. The party was a must.
The party went well. We made sure everyone had plenty of drinks (an absolute requirement for The Group) and lots of delicious food. It seemed a great time was had by all. When you’re hosting 25 people, it’s difficult to spend a lot of time with each and every guest as you try to make sure everyone is well taken care of. As people were starting to leave, I realized that I hadn’t spent much time with a few of them. As Ginger was leaving I said, “I’m sorry I didn’t get to spend much time chatting with you today.” With obvious disdain on her face and in her voice, Ginger said, “Well, you tried.” There was no, “It’s fine! We had a great time!” or “Thanks for having us! The food was delicious!” or “No worries! There were a lot of people! We’ll catch up next time!” (which for Ginger would have meant, “I’ll update you all about myself and my parents and my job and our house the next time you get to see me.”) Just “Well, you tried” with the look and sound of disgust.
Chief and his wife (who I also adored) were the last to leave. It ended up being Chief and one of my best friends and myself at a table. Chief shared with my friend that it was still very unclear whether or not I would be allowed into The Group – there was obviously something about me that was holding back our approval into The Group – it was never stated what it was but there was something. Chief commented that my friend was pretty cool and that he might be inclined to let her in The Group easily. My friend said “I wouldn’t want to be part of a group that wouldn’t let Wendy in.”
That was the moment that I thought, “What in the heck am I doing trying so hard to get into this group (village) that clearly doesn’t like me and doesn’t want me in it???” It didn’t matter how nice I was to them. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to show them I wanted to get to know them. It didn’t matter if we had a great pool party with tons of alcohol (again, really important to The Group.) They didn’t like me. They didn’t want me in their village.
Upon that realization, I decided it was pointless to keep trying. After that, I was invited to one more thing with The Group. It was a “ladies only” weekend and I was happily surprised to be invited. Unfortunately, the lady was I going to ride with had to cancel and so I canceled too due to the logistics of getting there. My friend assured me that everyone would understand my cancellation and would not hold it against me. After that, we were not only never again invited to do anything with The Group, but my husband and I have been “unfriended” by everyone in The Group including the couple that we were originally friends with who campaigned for us to be allowed into The Group. I’m talking a real-life unfriending, not just on Facebook. Yes, unfriended by every single one of them, even the few who seemed sincerely nice and who seemed to actually care about us. It was overall baffling and regarding those that we thought were genuinely nice and we assumed we would stay friends with even though we weren’t going to be allowed into The Group, it hurt.
The bottom line is this…villages are all different and not every village is right for you. Remember I told you that when I met the wife I noticed right away that she was negative, complained a lot and in particular she spoke badly about her friends? The friends she gossiped negatively about were her friends in The Group. I should have realized that if I was in The Group, I would become one of the friends she spoke badly about and would become one of the subjects of The Group’s gossip. Remember I told you about how the ladies in The Group only wanted to talk about themselves and never had any interest in getting to know me? It was very selfish and rude behavior. Although it took me a while to realize it, that is not the kind of village I want to be a part of. The rejection made me learn some important things about myself. I want to be part of a village where the villagers lift each other up. I want to be part of a village where the villagers support each other, both publicly and privately. I want to be part of a village where the villagers care about each other, not just themselves.
Today’s women are many different things and it occurs to me that most of us are probably part of several villages. I have a work village. I have a personal village. I have a family village. I have an advocate village. I have some friends that are not in any of my villages, but they are very dear and important friends. It’s not necessary to try to merge our villages into one. It’s not necessary to try to fit all of our friends into one of our villages. Our villages are different sizes and serve different purposes. A village can be 5000 people (like my online parental alienation support group) or can be 3 people (like me and my cool friend that could have easily gotten into The Group and our other friend.) A village can be 2 people, like you and your best friend or you and your spouse or you and a parent. It’s okay to have a lot of villages or just one tiny village.
The lesson I learned is: don’t try to force yourself into a village that doesn’t share your values. Whether the village is 2 people or 20,000 people, it should make you feel included, supported and cared about. If it doesn’t, it’s not the right village for you.
Other articles you may be interested in: