Monday, October 10, 2011

Cliqueless in Connecticut

I’m not a fan of cliques. I like groups. I love groups actually and I’ve been a member of dozens of influential core groups. But a group becomes a clique when the doors shut. When there’s either a spoken or an unspoken underlying sense that all positions within have been filled. No need to apply. No come back later. Door is locked.

I’m a fan of open doors. The whole open door, anyone’s welcome mentality—that’s what I gravitate toward. Maybe because I always felt a crushing empathy for the underdog in school or because I’ve been thrown to the curb a time or two and I know how excruciating it feels. For whatever reason, I simply don’t like cliques.

Does any of this surprise you about me? I hope not.

My thoughts about cliques were triggered when my daughter reminded me of the lovely dynamics that begin to bud at her age (fourth grade). Man, oh man, I could write her a book about what I’ve witnessed when it comes to females and their treatment of one another. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll continue to remind her to be kind to everyone, to make conscious decisions about including others, and to branch out when it comes to establishing friendships.

I get why people hunker into tight knit groups. It makes perfect sense to me. There are even things about that kind of loyalty (and perhaps boundary setting) I can appreciate, but all too often I see the inadvertent ostracizing that those groups partake in. I see the weakness in shutting others out.

But this is me. And perhaps I’ll grow to feel differently. I’m open to that.

I’m open.

My door remains open. And I have no plans on closing it anytime soon.

So welcome. And while you’re at it, welcome a friend as you step on in and process these thoughts.

What say you on the matter?

*photos by flickr


  1. I'm not a fan either. My daughter is almost 13 and I'm blown away at littles girls, but I suppose it was the same when I was 13. Maybe I've blocked it out! :)

  2. Wendy, this post speaks to me on many levels. First, as a 4th grade teacher. I've seen girls bewildered by the shutting doors and sweet girls who mysteriously morph into being the ones shutting those doors. It's a really tough age for girls.
    We have Friday afternoon meetings where we address things like this. It helps, I think.

    Unfortunately, it's no less painful when it happens to adults.
    Bravo to you for taking on the topic.


  3. As a 5th grade teacher for four years of my life, I can confidently say I hate cliques. They are so damaging. And girls are so good at forming them. I've had so so so many conversations with my students about this issue.

    I'm with you Wendy. I love open doors.

  4. I'm surprised that it starts so young! I saw the cliques take hold in my daughters' school starting around 6th grade. We found that it helped to join activities outside of school too, like the Teen Advisory Board and Book Discussion Group at the library. It connected my kids to lots of other kids with the same interests, outside of the school environment.

  5. Definitely not a fan when that door closes. Great insight, Wendy.

  6. Not a fan of cliques, wounded by them early enough in life to have a lifelong immunity to the disease, I hope!

    The door's open. Wander on in. :)

  7. I feel the same way as you do. I always thought that it wasn't a good witness to be so exclusive. Good Monday food for thought. :)

  8. I like the open concept. I think it's great to include everyone if by include you mean being kind to everyone and treating them as a friend. But I do think it's important who we choose as our close friends. Sometimes we think we're strong enough to not "follow the crowd" and we feel we can "save" people by being their friends, but we end up compromising standards and losing ourselves. It's kind of a fine line imo.

  9. I used to work with the six grade girls at our church, and it was so hard to see those cliches forming.

  10. I remember experiencing this as a child. Watching this with my two oldest girls and seeing it yet again with my youngest.
    One of my daughters said, "Who decides who is popular?"
    Good question.
    I mean, the girls know it ... but where is that decision made?
    Our family has a motto: There's always room for one more.
    Another way to put that: The door is always open.
    I like the way you live life, Wendy. Open doors, all the way!

  11. I love open doors too.

    Life would be a bore with no open doors.

  12. Open doors are inviting. Closed doors say keep out. I've spent too much of my life feeling like I was on the outside looking in that I'll go out of my way to make someone feel welcome.

  13. Wendy, I love your open doors and open heart. I'm so grateful for being one of those you welcomed so warmly into your ever-expanding circle of friends. You bless my cat socks off on a regular basis!

  14. I'm not a fan either.

    For my daughter it started in 3rd grade. The teacher made me aware that it was going on but that my daughter never got involved and she was really impressed. But that is so my kiddo: the more the merrier. :-) (It was a proud moment)

  15. Wendy:
    I saw this when our son was in school. He was usually the one who was intentionally left out of things-until some people got to know him.
    I see this happening among adults. It's like some women really didn't grow up- they just got older.
    In case you can't tell, I don't care for them either.

  16. Wendy, I have three daughters and know all about this "closed door" policy that girls go through. it causes tears, tears, and more tears.

    I'm definitely an open door girl and I continue to pray that my girls haven't been so tainted by all the closed ones they've met that they begin to close their own.

  17. The more the merrier, for sure! Girls can be so mean, and they start so young, unfortunately. We talk about this quite a bit in our Wednesday night youth group.

  18. Yes! Total agreement. And if anyone is having trouble with adult cliques and needs a reference, try "Mean Girls All Grown Up," or the even more chilling "In the Company of Women." Not easy reading, but enlightening.

  19. Oh yes, open doors. I pray I'll be someone who invites others.

    This is a welcoming place.


  20. As the odd kid out, I can empathize with your daughter. I'm glad I've found lots of open doors among my writer friends. :)

  21. I am grateful to have two boys. While they aren't totally immune to cliques, it does seem less likely that they will be hurt by being excluded from one. I remember that all too well from junior high.

    On another note...does your post title mean you are in CT? If so...I didn't know you were a New England girl! I was just there this past weekend -- in MA actually, but flew into CT. Although I am a Nebraska girl now, I will always be a New Englander in my heart!

  22. Loved these comments...every single one.

    Encouraged me.

    Rosslyn, Thanks for the book recommendations.

    And Michelle, I intend to write a post about this soon titled, "I'm in the Witness Protection Program". Stay tuned and I'll shoot you more in an email about my location. How's that for mysterious? :D
    ~ Wendy

  23. People can be mean, especially little girls--like cats with their claws extended and eyes narrowed.

    It helps the most when love reigns at home--I know it does in yours.

    I always feel welcome here. Thanks.

  24. We have a lot of conversations with our kids about kindness and including others. It helps that my kids have moved a few times--they understand what it feels like to have to start over with friendships. I think one of the best things we can do as parents is to be firm about doing the right thing, model kind behaviour, and nip those petty attitudes in the bud. :)

  25. Oh man, 4th grade...I remember that being the first year when cliques formed in my class too. Ick! I do think it can be difficult as we grow older to have deep friendships with certain people and avoid making others feel like they're outsiders. Sometimes I develop a deeper bond with someone for whatever reason, so the tricky thing is to revel in that friendship while making others feel loved too. Not an easy balance.


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