Shame Chicken is the dangerous game we play to test the limits of our female friendship. Here’s an example:
Mom 1 – Hey, friend, how’s it going?
Mom 2 – Ugh you know, survival mode!
Mom 1 – Totally, I guess our cheese-based diet will have to continue to Night 3 of quesadillas – that’s all my kids will eat and I’m not fighting it.
Mom 2 – Woman, please, my son licks the salt off of dry dog food and was lunch today.
Mom 1 – Yeah? Well one time I dropped dryer lint in my toddlers mouth and I was too tired to scoop it out, so I just gave him a sip of my diet coke to wash it down.
You get the idea. It’s a race to the bottom. There are no winners. It’s just a game of Shame Chicken in which each player is just daring the other one to look away in disgust. I play Shame Chicken over my messy house, my kid’s sleeping habits, but probably most of all my postpartum body. And, just so you know – I’m excellent at it! Don’t step to me, I will come at you with the fire of 1,000 suns.
Does this conversation sound familiar?
Mom 1 – OHMYGAWD, I love your dress!
Mom 2- (witheringly) Thanks, it’s the only thing in my closet that doesn’t rub my C section scar in a weird way.
Mom 1 – Ugh I know, I have to shop for circus tents in the Woman’s World section now.
Mom 2 – The wind created from flapping my arm fat once knocked over 2 small children.
Mom 1 – I found snacks in the fold of my double chin last night…
Maybe you’ve played this game? Maybe you’ve overhead women engaged in a round of Shame Chicken. The point is we can be hard on each other and even more crushingly hard on ourselves.
Zoom out of these conversations and what do we see? Women who are desperate to find acceptance just as we are – stay at home moms, working moms, single moms, moms of teens, trying to conceive, thigh gap, never had a thigh gap, what is a thigh gap? Shame Chicken players are just asking each other –
Will you accept me, even if (fill in the blank)?
Let’s say a friend kicks off the Shame Chicken game by laughing about her stretch marks. My first instinct might to downplay it – no way, you’re beautiful, it’s not so bad, you should see mine! Amazon sells burka swimsuits.
Look closer, what are we really asking? Am I OK? Will you accept me? If you immediately discount your friend’s pain by trying to convince her it’s not real, you are subtly adding to her fear.
Hear me out! I tell a friend that my boobs have dropped down to knee-level. My good friend says, “No way, you are lovely”. I get the hidden message that boob-droppage IS just as shameful as I feared it would be. While my boobs are not quite knee level, they might be in the future and that is the point that I will be a disgusting hag unfit for society. Do you see how trying to be “nice” can increase your friend’s fear and shame?
Here’s the balm to the Shame Chicken diaper rash. Say, “Friend, you are worthy and accepted by me. It’s OK if your house is a mess and you don’t work out. And you might have stretch marks, that are probably not that bad, BUT EVEN IF THEY ARE – I love you, dear friend, and when I think about you my world is brighter.”