All the books that I’ve read and the films that I have watched and all the love that I’ve got couldn’t stop me from falling into hate with her. The operative word here is falling.
I’ll have to tell you the details to have your understanding if not your empathy. So let me open up all my scabs.
Last week I was off to an international workshop on leadership skills. We were put into groups on day one. And there she was….
Sitting next to me. Cold. Unsmiling. And not curious about what I am. Or where I come from. She knew more people and clearly had the upper hand socially.
So I tried to do that... pehle aap pehle aap thing… like an eager bridesmaid around the bride.
It was on day two I realised clearly that my presence is irritating to her. I could see her making an effort with the other three girls in the group… and they would often break into a shrill alien laugh. The more they laughed the more isolated I began to feel. And now comes the stuff I’m not so proud of.
I started to get all antsy. The more she didn’t make eye contact with me… the more louder I got with my arguments. The more she found my ideas too complex, the more convinced I got that I’m right. I used my language skills... and peppered it with enough spice so that her weak English just dies of stage fright in front of the faculty.
But this winning didn’t give me peace. I stayed up nights dreaming of her subjugation. And if not that…at least her validation of my creative self.
When men hate men at work they do it cleanly. We women make it messy. We hate the person. And the work. We suffer from a high degree of intra sexual competition and it’s not just power and domination… it’s laced with the most primitive form of envy and jealousy.
In just four days I felt threatened by her. I was the plump sweet wife and she was the mistress from hell.
No man. No male boss has managed to do to me what she did.
I don’t know how I gave her the power. Our work rivalry took us back to some medieval harem where I was a ball of insecurity.
Why do we let stuff simmer so much that our workplace starts to feel like the set of Mean Girls?
I wanted popularity not to enjoy it but to use it against her. I took the trouble to dress up before every presentation so that I could hide my troubled, insecure lonely self. I won all the creative battles but I lost my self. And that is the tragedy.
I love women. Their stories. The way they look at this world. Their struggle.
They are my intellectual blood bank and also my most therapeutic first aid box.
But I don’t understand what happens to me when a girl doesn’t like me at work.
Why do I lose my sense and sensibility? Why is it that likeabilty is a bigger prerequisite in my work life with women more than it is with my male colleagues?
We women could rule the world if sometimes we could just take the trouble to stand each other. If not with each other.
(The author is NCD at JWT India. Views expressed are personal.)