You’re a grown-ass woman, so you know new year’s resolutions are kind of a crock and are just actually called DECISIONS, and you can make them about your life whenever you want. I know you know this. I know this too, but this year I decided to make one anyway, because I didn’t buy a full-sparkles dress and I feel like I owe the holiday this much. My resolution this year is to be cool about That Girl. You know her. That Girl. I wish it could be “That Person,” but if we’re honest about it, 99.9 percent of the time it’s a girl. Woman, I should say (but I don’t, for mean-girl reasons that we’re going to get into). She is difficult for some reason. She rubs you the wrong way. She is a friend of a friend/works in your office/is related to you/dated your boyfriend/wants to date your girlfriend/knew you in high school when you were really into those belts that look like seatbelts/whatever. Maybe you’re just quietly aloof around her, or maybe you’re outright mean about it. Maybe you and your friends all dislike her but only talk about it over bitchy drinks when you can’t take it anymore and you feel like you HAVE to talk about it. It’s possible you’re her That Girl, too. Maybe you know there’s a mutual dislike there, or maybe you’re operating on rumour and intuition, or a certain tone of voice, or whatever. Regardless, 2013 is the year that I’m gonna quit it, and I invite you to join me.
First step as always: do some thinking
Why don’t you like her? Why do you think she doesn’t like you? What are you getting out of carrying around that dislike? How come it won’t just go away? Do you think you’re better than her? Are you worried that she’s better than you, maybe at something you really care about? I’m going to go ahead and suggest that there are only a few reasons for really super disliking someone, and that they are these reasons: 1) you’re insecure and this person either has or mirrors your own lack of whatever the thing is that you wish to have, 2) you’re jealous and you don’t want to admit it, which ties in to reason 1, or 3) maybe she does kind of suck. Sometimes people kind of suck! But that’s not an excuse to be a jerk, and if anything, is actually extra reason to be nice. The ultimate question, whatever the reason (and there are probably millions of others, so pick your own and run with me here), is: why are you letting it matter to you? Even if the person objectively sucks, why are you letting her put the burden of her suckiness upon you? What’s stopping you from turning your back into a fun slip’n’slide and lettin’ that shit roll off it like teens at a confusing bathing suit birthday party? You can! It’s a choice! It’s a resolution, in fact. And you’ve resolved to do it, so come on now.
Mom Reminder: you don’t have to like everyone, but you really should try to appreciate everyone
I am not above getting all Mom about this in an effort to achieve my goal. So: no one is 100% nightmare. You two don’t have to hang out all the time, or even be friends, really, but it’s toxic for you to carry around dislike for someone you don’t even ever see on purpose. Maybe you’ll have to look very hard, but it’s a better use of your time and energy to find positive attributes in someone than it is to sit there and pick out easy flaws. Even if most of a person is annoying to you, you have to admit that she is loyal to her friends/a talented musician/an interesting dresser/these are bad examples but the point is there is always something. Don’t be an ungrateful jerk about life—the world is full of interesting and beautiful people, even if sometimes you really gotta dig for the interesting and beautiful bits. (Looks like 2013 is also going to be about saying and writing really sincere things and hoping no one makes too much fun of you for it after.)
Do not—REPEAT, DO NOT—revel in it
Maybe she is a VERY bad dresser, or gets too drunk all the time, or is constantly checking in to weird places on Foursquare, or has a blog that like, oh my god, girl, why do you have that blog? Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter and all that other stuff make it really easy to just sit in one place, going through some lady’s vacation pictures and feeling superior because you would never wear that hat, but honestly, what the hell is that achieving? You’re literally sitting there rejoicing in your own dislike for someone. It’s like taking a bath in garbage water: you might feel like you’re doing something cleansing/getting that negative energy out, but when you’re done you’re still dirty/angry and now you reek of garbage. Basically, it stinks. Think about all the other things you could be achieving in your spare time. Imagine if you replaced the impulse to judge-stalk someone’s Instagram with mastering the art of French cooking or something. You’d be a regular Julia Child in no time AND you’d never know that That Girl put up 12 pictures of herself in a single week, because who cares? You get something out of learning to make the perfect souffle, and she gets something out of putting different vintage filters on pictures of herself with her mouth open. Everyone just gets to do them and that’s cool. Repeat after me: that is cool.
Think about the big-picture consequences
Pitting women against other women is misogyny’s greatest trick, basically. How come it’s so rarely That Guy? Maybe because you’re not constantly being pitted (overtly or implicitly) against the men in your life. You’re not constantly being told by films and television and advertising and other women that there are only so many jobs, partners, victories, or opportunities for women in the world, and if someone gets one of those things, that means you don’t. We’re told that stuff girls like is lame: chick flicks, pink cocktails, whatever, and maybe it is to you, but it’s not a big deal if someone else likes it. Focusing on a specific woman and being all fussy about the way she looked at you that time when you introduced yourself to her friend or the fact that she talks down to your friends is just distracting us all from the actual problems in the world. Problems like that Bic pen “for ladies” or the “best/worst beach body” magazine phenomenon. Let’s get rid of that shit first.
K, this one is hard. Sometimes they will not reciprocate your efforts and you STILL GOTTA BE NICE
So, let’s say as an example that you try some of the above steps. You notice one day that That Girl is really funny, or smart, or kind to animals, or whatever, and you try to think about that instead of that thing you heard she said about you to some other people you both sort of know. You’ve tried some kindly small talk or like, I don’t know, retweeted something of hers? (That counts for stuff now, guys, deal with it. #2013.) Emboldened by this, you decide to make a Friendly Approach at a party you’re both at. “Hey, I like your dress,” you put out there. “Thanks, yours too. It’s great that you can find so many clothes that flatter your body shape, I bet that’s a lot of work.” KNIFE EYES. Ooooooh rude. It will be tempting at this juncture for the mean part of your brain to be all, “I was right! She’s terrible! I am only trusting my snap judgements from here on out! I knew it!!!!!!” But nu-uh, ladypal. You have to be like hot woman-Jesus and turn the other cheek. Remember all those horrible messages you’re getting sent about women on the daily? She’s getting those, too. And it sounds like she’s not dealing great. Set a cool chick example and maybe she’ll come around. Or she won’t, but that’s not your problem.
Be nice to yourself, too, now
This shit ain’t easy, and you gotta give yourself some time to get good at it. Don’t freak out if you fall back into old habits or condemn yourself as a bad person for being bristly towards someone you’ve had beef with in the past. Take it a day at a time and work on it until it’s not work anymore: it’s just the new, hella-breezy, goodwill-towards-(wo)men you.
I have to apologize for the guide this week. I normally try to write about things I really know about doing—having huge hooters, pretending to be more affluent than I actually am, etc., etc.—but this time around it’s just me trying to map out a game plan so I can be a nicer person in the new year/stop hate-reading this one website and use that wasted time to maybe actually finish a screenplay or something. Whether or not you’ve had issues of the type I’m referring to above, optimism and kindness are pretty good goals in general, going forward into the new year. I do not want to endorse The Secret here, because, ugh, The Secret, but positive does have a habit of attracting positive. Being nicer and more supportive of the people in your life will lead to nicer and more supportive people in your life, and where’s the downside in that? For further reading on the subject, Amy Poehler, as usual, says it better than all of us.
Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey