Dear Janice by Stephanie Lux
You don’t know me and yet, I know so much about you. I know about the many disappointments you have experienced in your young years; I know about your eating disorder, your fear of being too fat in a culture that values thinness; I know about your inability to leave the house without make-up; I know about the sexual abuse you have suffered at the hands of a friend; I know about the many times he cheated on you and I know about your embarrassing acts of jealousy in public. I know all of this because he told me.
Please don’t be mad at me; but I used to think you were crazy. I thought you embodied everything that is wrong with young women. If only I had known back then what I know now, I would have defended you, stood by your side. But then, I had not yet become intimately acquainted with the pain you feel inside: the slow and gnawing pangs of bitter feelings of inadequacy eating you up and transforming you into someone you don’t want to be.
Seen through his eyes, you were just another woman who lost it. I cannot deny that it made me feel good. How compared to you, I had my life together: I was confident in my body; enjoyed my sexuality and my newly acquired status of being a single woman, which promised long-forgotten freedoms. Your misery elated me to the status of a queen in his eyes-a woman he could have fun with, a woman more similar to his male friends than to the young women all around him who seemed to want to suffocate him with their demands and expectations.
Yes – back then I was free, confident and fun. But a lot has happened since then. We are united now – my far-away sister. I hope you will accept my apology. I never meant to hurt you, take him away from you or make you appear hysterical in light of my togetherness.
I understand you now. I have taken over your role of the jealous woman, the pathetic woman, the mean woman. I know this because I can see it in the eyes of the women around me, their pitiful gazes which are void of empathy and filled with disbelief at my behaviour. I can feel the alienating quality of jealousy. They have not yet joined us in this sisterhood and hopefully they never will. They may be able to remain safe, have enough internal strength to fight off all the outside pressures. Erect fortresses around their minds and bodies before they are invaded by a need to compare themselves to other women, for one can never win: there will always be somene prettier, thinner and wittier!
I have not heard from you in a while, maybe you have gotten stronger or maybe you have fallen deeper into the abyss. You have entered my life without your knowledge. You came alive in the stories he told me about you. But he has left my life long ago and so have you. Ok, I have to admit, I sometimes still look at your Facebook profile. Still compare myself to you and am glad if I discover a flaw in your appearance. It makes me feel good for some time; but then, I feel disgust at the discovery of my viciousness. I don’t know for certain what has made us this way. I became your follower and I know many young women will in the future.
How can we save ourselves and protect other women? When will we as women stop comparing ourselves? Stop exchanging ugly glances? Stop needing men’s attention to feel confident and beautiful? Again, I am sorry!
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