This girl was blonde and pretty, in a fresh-faced, Colgate smile kind of way. She laughed a lot and was generous with her smile and she was always polite to teachers and younger students. She was also very good at sports – first team everything, and usually the one who scored the goals.
Her homework was always perfect, and she mostly got straight As, but she didn’t come across as nerdy – probably because she managed to look like a model in our ugly school uniform. On top of this she was really nice – to everyone, but especially to me.
I hated her with an ugly passion.
See, until then, I never considered myself to be a jealous person. This girl changed all that. I envied her with my whole being and it poisoned me.
I envied her blemish-free face, her gorgeous legs and her golden tan. I envied her swiftness and grace on the field and hated her for scoring well in tests – even when I did better than her, I still begrudged her good marks.
At that stage, I had no way of knowing her very strict father made her study for four hours every day, including weekends. I didn’t know that she got up every morning at 5:00 for a gruelling workout session before school, on top of all the training she did with the team. I didn’t know that she only got love and approval from her parents when she made them proud through her achievements.
Anyway, when we were in Standard 9, or Grade 11 I suppose, it was time to vote for prefects and ultimately our next Head Girl and Boy.
Predictably, but shamefully nonetheless, I didn’t vote for her.
I knew it was mean-spirited, childish and ultimately futile; her becoming Head Girl was a foregone conclusion and yet I felt a stab of pleasure when I didn’t make a cross next to her name. My little “eff you” to the girl who had everything.
And then the unthinkable happened. She wasn’t chosen to lead our fine school the next year.
Instead a perfectly fine, but perfectly average girl was chosen as Head Girl.
I was outraged. Gutted. I couldn’t believe it. She was robbed! She was so obviously the right choice for our school’s biggest honour and she didn’t get it! Despite her hard work, her good scores, her beauty, her personality and all her achievements on the sports field.
I guess there were too many other mean-spirited, bitter girls who shared my jealousy. I felt ashamed to be part of their ranks.
I cried that night. I cried for the ugliness I saw in myself, and for the years I’ve wasted feeling negative about someone else’s highs when I should have been focusing and enjoying my own achievements. I cried for the girl who was robbed of an honour she deserved because people like me were threatened by her. I cried about the injustice in the world and I swore never to step into that trap again.
This was about 17 years ago, and I’m proud to say I’ve never begrudged any women her success again. Sometimes I do feel the odd twinge of jealousy, but then I examine where it comes from and address that sore spot in myself.
Celebrating other women, supporting them, and lifting them up where and when I can has made me a happier, better person.
The other day I saw a quote: “Girls compete. Women support each other.”
I can truly say I am glad that I am not a girl anymore.