Friday, April 1, 2011

like dislikes like

When I was in 4th grade, a new girl named Julie joined my class.  She was smart.  I was smart.  She drew very well. I drew very well.  She loved horses.  I loved horses.  So naturally, we hated each other, and spent most of the school year exchanging negativity.  I don't remember what happened, but some how by the last month or so of school, we were best friends.  It was awesome. Sadly, she transferred to another school, and that was the end of it.

Looking back as an adult, it seems really rather silly doesn't it?  Logically, here was someone who was a perfect companion, shared a lot of interests and talents, and yet, we repelled each other simply because we each felt threatened by our similarities. It took us getting being really horrible to each other in order for us to come to our senses and realize we were both better off as friends rather than enemies.  We missed out on so much.

But the reality is, it still happens well beyond the 4th grade, and is actually quite prevalent in the dance community, probably because it's a really unfortunate competitive side effect amongst women in a given group.  Not to say guys don't do it too, but they seem to be able to cut through the crap quicker on this one.  I've seen it in all styles - Egyptian, Turkish, Tribal, Gothic, Steampunk, Folkloric, etc - "Oh, so apparently so-and-so does X, well we'll just see about that."  Someone comes into your niche, and immediately the claws come out.  There's rarely even a chance given, they're already have marks against them before you've ever seen them dance.  There's an attitude of "this is MY area, MY specialty, MY love, how DARE SHE!"

We forget that we're already marginal, and instead of considering building shared strength through solidarity, we do in our microcosm what the macrocosm does to us.  I think we were really lucky in the early days of Gothic Bellydance, because the earliest pioneers did not fall victim to this common scenario - we were so thankful to share our weirdness with others, the "like dislikes like" factor did not kick in right away - we shared our stories and helped each other, which in turned helped others.  As the movement grew, well, it was only a matter of time for this behavior to show up.  I'm seeing it show up now in other fusions and subcultures too, and it makes me sad.  "Oh look, there's another intelligent woman who shares my interests, instead of giving her consideration and reach out to her, I think I'll hate her instead." 

How much time do we have to waste with negativity before we realize we gain so much more by opening our minds and sharing our strengths - not only as a group, but personally as well? No one is going to take away your individuality.  No one is going to steal your thunder.  By having like-minded people to bounce our ideas off of, share our problems and successes, support causes and events, we become even stronger as individuals and really let our talents flourish and grow.  It truly helps us build a solid community.

So the next time someone new pops up on your radar, try extending your hand instead of your claws, you may be surprised where it takes you. No foolin'.


  1. Yes Yes YES!!!
    It makes me crazy! I would love to go to a workshop and just chat with people, but it's like watching a spiders-web of stink-eye cris-crossing the room.

  2. *Excellent* article--words to live by!

  3. I was just like this as a kid - and even through college. I always found it odd that my best friends were also attracted to and friends with the girls I would hate. Why? Those girls I hated - almost on automatic - were like me - or were like the me I would be if I wasn't holding myself. I can't believe how many friendships I missed out on.

    It goes the other way too. I used to be afraid to pursue an interest if a friend already had it. Just ask Badriya - I asked her permission to be into Egyptian dance. I was discovering that I loved it - but I didn't want to be a copycat. Turns out that there is plenty of room for all of us - and we all look different when we do it - no one is a copier.

  4. Excellent post and very well put. I hope everyone (including me!) takes this advice.

  5. This is so true. There is a great deal of middle school girl behavior out of the adults in this community. Really silly stuff. I understand the knee-jerk reaction - I feel it to in different places in my life (work, photography, dance) - but we are supposed to get over it and go from there. The world is big enough for all of us, even is we don't always agree with how things are being done.

  6. "She was smart. I was smart. She drew very well. I drew very well. She loved horses. I loved horses. So naturally we hated each other."

    I think I had this same exact experience in elementary school. I was really jealous when the other girl's parents actually bought her a real pony and I just had my Breyer's and My Little Ponies to play with. It was even stranger when another Desiree my age moved into my area during my school years as there are not too many of us around. There was some competitiveness at first in both cases, but we eventually ended up on friendly terms.

    When you feel like you fill particular niche (i.e. smart, art- and horse-loving person), I think a natural territorial instinct arises when someone else arrives who also shares your specific interests. I think often we can feel like we are no longer special if someone else with similar interests and traits comes along. Instead of being glad for someone to relate to, we feel resentful that we're no longer the special one anymore.