Drama Llamas are pack animals

26 06 2012

I’m gearing up for another girls’ group. These are generally the highlight of my professional life, so I’m rather excited. The thing that I don’t particularly enjoy about the girls, though, is the drama.

Now, I love drama. As in theater. The other kind of drama, though, I would prefer be saved for yo mama. (As a keychain I once saw instructed.)

Drama is free-flowing with teenagers, and not just girls. They can’t trust anyone, because everyone is two-faced. My girls really accuse people of being “two-faced” all the time. I kind of enjoy this because it sounds olden-timey. Like Sandy might have called Rizzo this.

They start spouting cheesy quotes that I assume they got from day-time talk shows and Jersey Shore.

“I like that people are talking about me, that I’ve got haters. It means I’m more interesting than they are.” “I know it’s just them being jealous.” Everyone is a jealous hater or has a staring problem. I remember being accused of these things in high school. I’m sorry, classmate, but I could see your underwear out the bottom of your skirt. I assure you it wasn’t jealousy.

“I’m the best friend you’ll ever have until you cross me.”  “I fight to the death to protect my family.” What does that mean? You’re talking like we live in Kabul. I believe the topic was infidelity.

“We’ll never be friends again, but if she calls me at three o’clock in the morning I’ll be there.” Why not if she calls you in the afternoon, like a normal person? You mean if she calls you because she’s being held against her will, or is on fire, or something? Is there a person you wouldn’t be there for in that situation? Is this such a likely scenario that everyone is always talking about it?

I can accept it from teenagers. It’s annoying, sure, but it’s developmentally appropriate. They’re becoming more independent, friendships take on increasing importance, and it’s normal to think that everyone is watching you with a hidden camera. When you haven’t experienced all that much, this minor nonsense feels huge.

When it comes from people my age, I start to have a problem.

I don’t know if this is more common with my clients than it is with the general population, or if I just don’t associate with people in my free time who get into this sort of thing. I suspect it’s a little of both.

Here’s a free tip–the easiest way to tell that someone LOVES drama is to hear them say, “I can’t stand drama.” It would be like me saying, “I hate line dancing.” I mean, I might, but since it doesn’t interest me, it’s not a part of my life, and doesn’t require a comment. Certainly not a Facebook status.

I hear it from my adult clients all the time. The parents are worse than the kids with the Facebook shenanigans. My constant refrain is, “If you won’t delete your profile, will you at least unfriend your ex/ex’s new girlfriend/former friend/asshole cousin?” No. They need to keep that person around. Know your enemy, and all that. “This way I can see what she’s up to.” Oh. Ok.

WHY THE HELL DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT SHE’S UP TO?!? You talk about how you can’t stand this person, thank goodness they’re out of your life, you wouldn’t touch them with a thirty nine and a half foot pole, but heaven forbid you not get to see the Instagram picture they uploaded of the bundt cake they made last night.

But you can’t reason with drama.

This is also what happened after I tracked down a father after his cell phone had been shut off. He begrudgingly gave me his new cell phone number, under strict instructions not to give it to anyone else. (You know, because I would do that.) He didn’t want people having that new number, because he didn’t want to deal with any drama. (You know, because people are banging down his door.)

I have a few theories as to why more of the adults I work with seem to attract drama. One is the lack of traditional employment. Most of my clients work, for sure. But most of that work is off the books, quasi-self-employment like Avon, or more casual like baby-sitting and odd jobs. The thing that helps some people reign in their nuttier impulses, especially on the social networks, is the need to keep up a professional appearance. If that’s not there, there’s less incentive to hold back.

Related to this is a lack of hobbies or activities. I would never say the families I work with have too much free time on their hands, because they don’t, but they don’t have enough mental stiumlation. A lot of the people I work with are very intelligent but under-educated, and can’t entertain themselves quite enough. Or they spend a crazy amount of time waiting for hours for appointments, and a fight might be just the think to break up the monotony.

Another is, of course, mental illness. I don’t work specifically with a mentally ill population, but of course, mental illness is everywhere.

Then there are poor examples. Growing up with violence and inappropriate anger in the family can make it easy to seem like that’s the best way you can show your love. Saying you’ll physically fight someone if they look at your kids or your partner sideways could feel like a nice compliment to let someone know you care.

And some of it is just lack of maturity. That sounds really judgmental, and it is, but I have a social work-y explanation. So many people I work with don’t get to be children. They don’t have the opportunity to experience that developmentally appropriate period of safely asserting their independence (and maybe their bitchy side.) Or this is when they launch themselves into the adult world, before they’re properly prepared, and they get a bit stuck in that phase. I hear parents tell me all the time that the kids need to get themselves together and stop acting up because, “this is my time. I raised her, and now it’s time for me to do me.” I don’t know what exactly “doing me” means in this context, but I usually have to remind these parents that the kid in question is seven, and their job as parent is far from over.

As annoying as it can be to hear about it, because it would be so easy to avoid it I have to remember that it’s worse for the person involved. As much as they might seem to glory in it, that is a stressful way to go through life. Never knowing who your real friends are, not trusting anyone, your guard always being up. If nothing else, it makes me grateful for my boring life.

But not so grateful for Facebook.

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3 responses

26 06 2012
Amanda

As always, your blog is enlightening. I love that you can find humor in serious stuff, and that you also are able to talk about something without pushing your opinion about it and still are able to bring a valid point across. As a student of Social work, I learn alot from your experiences. Thanks for sharing them.

Sincerely,

Amanda
The netherlands

26 06 2012
carolynsocialworker

Another fabulous blog. A little scary though ‘cuz in your paragraph about maturity — I’ve heard my younger sister say basically the same thing. Now her youngest is 18, but she has just lost her dad. Her mum is demanding way more maturity from her daughter and wants to get on with “her” life (including a boyfriend) so she doesn’t want to give her daughter enough time to recover from….

26 06 2012
Packing for Hogwarts

At an old job, I used to have the joy of seniors telling me that they weren’t petty, but that so and so needed to stop looking at them.

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