Here’s a little Mamas & Papas on the subject…
Bookish and awkward, with appalling glasses to correct my myopia, I wasn’t what you’d call cool kid material growing up. So it came as quite the surprise to find myself in the In Crowd during my fifties.
It all happened in an online world – a dating site in fact – where there was an active discussion forum to meet the owner’s desire to cater for both friendship & social networking alongside the primary purpose. The joke always went that for those of us who used the forum regularly, the site was way more successful at friendship than love. While most of us are now in relationships, friendships formed there have remained strong.
Regular forum users tended to fall into certain categories or interest groups. There were the boffins who were obviously the clever crowd, the ones who usually initiated the serious heavy weight topics of discussion. The word game gang popped in & out, adding to one or many of the online word games they’d either started or popularised, only rarely engaging in other discussions. There were special interest groups like film fans & gourmands, sports & music aficionados. The fluffies were an exclusively female group, posting about all things lightweight & happy, cute & cuddly, but also pictures of beefcake. The nice but middle-aged encompassed those who liked to talk about everyday life stuff – family & home, cooking & gardening, DIY & dogs. While those topics weren’t ones I’d choose, I expected to be put there if only because I fitted nowhere else… so I was surprised to find myself one of the bad girls, for they were the cool kids, the group everyone wanted to be in – the In Crowd.
Of all the groups, only two formed friendship groups offline – and both were all female: the fluffies and the bad girls. The fluffies regularly fluctuated in size, adding new recruits and losing others. Most were absolutely lovely – happy, gentle natured souls, fun & funny… but there was also a mean girl core. Tales of manipulation and Machiavellian behaviour abounded from those who’d dipped their toes in the fluffy water and not found it to their liking, and those whose faces had stopped fitting.
In contrast, the bad girls were a group of independent women with a diverse range of backgrounds and personalities. While fun, lively, and definitely not shrinking violets, there were strong personalities a-plenty, and I think outsiders were often surprised how those friendships weren’t challenged by widely differing opinions and political affinities. The bottom line was we liked each other and saw no reason to allow such matters to cause a falling out. Unsurprisingly, the core of that group remains close.
I’d always worked in largely male environments and had as many male friends as female, so came to this all girl friendship group experience having only heard dark tales of bitch fests and fallings out. The fluffies seemed to fit this stereotype, yet the bad girls did not. From time to time, I’ve wondered about this disparity, and came to the conclusion that the key element was the fluffies seemed determined to act like little girls – you know, sugar & spice and all things nice, whereas the bad girls never bothered with hiding anything, they were authentically who they appeared to be – something those meeting us in real life regularly passed comment on.
It was a new and rather unsettling experience for me being in the In Crowd, and it took me a long time to get used to the idea. In truth, what I liked was being part of a solid friendship group I knew I could utterly rely on. It was where I was confident of finding support, honest answers even when the questions were tough, kindness, the best company and a lot of laughter. Being “In” genuinely wasn’t important at all.
In Crowds: are they more “Mean Girl” or supportive friendships from your perspective and/or experience ?