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Books by
Hayley DiMarco


MARRIABLE: Taking the Desperate Out of Dating

MEAN GIRLS ALL GROWN UP: Surviving Catty and Conniving Women


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MEAN GIRLS ALL GROWN UP
Surviving Catty and Conniving Women

Hayley DiMarco
Revell
Christian Living
ISBN: 080073100X

The woman at the office who stole your great idea. The gal who spread the gossip about you at church. What do we do about the difficult women in our lives? In MEAN GIRLS ALL GROWN UP, Hayley DiMarco offers some good and some arguable ideas for navigating through the relationships of women. She bases her advice on her own experiences, scripture, and spiritual heavyweights such as Richard Foster in a format that is younger-woman friendly.

Not a teenager or even a twenty- or thirty-something, but having had some recent conflicts with mean girls, I am intrigued by DiMarco's approach to the problem. However, I found there was much I disagreed with, and I would hesitate to give it to my daughter without one-on-one discussion and caveats about her advice. Read on.

The main goal, DiMarco believes, is to get the mean girl to leave us alone. To do this, she first helps us understand the mean girl's motivations. Does she perceive us as a rival? Does she believe we are somehow better than her? Does she gossip about us? If so, why?

Our response, she believes, is to keep our mouth shut and try not to justify ourselves to those mean girls we don't have a relationship with (pulling from the wisdom of Richard Foster's CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE). Feeling a need to adjust our image, she believes, is proof that we are serving humans rather than God. Rather confusingly, she admits there might be a time to make the truth known (if a lie is being spread about us at the office that we are stealing, for example) but not to the perpetrator. Instead, tell the supervisor. "The spiritual truth is that God never calls us to stand up for ourselves to the Mean Girl. Psychologists teach us that standing up for ourselves is healthy, but in my study of God's Word, I can't find any biblical support for this notion," she writes. This is a very discussable point that many readers may take issue with.

If we consider the mean girl our friend, the advice seems more realistic. Talk to her about the problem (her complaining, the gossip she spreads, her need for control). There may also be a time to bail out of the relationship, if the mean girl is unwilling to change.

Confusingly, although DiMarco eschews self-examination that isn't upwardly focused ("So much freedom comes in removing our eyes from self and placing them securely on the Father that any attempt at self-justification or analysis would be wasteful if not faithless."), she prods women toward it through quizzes, questions ("What would you have done in that situation? "You have to be honest and really assess how you live, what you do, and how you do it.") What I came away with was the idea that as long as my self-examination is God-centered, I'm on the right track. Fair enough. It seems as if she advocates "dying to self," which is admirable, and avoiding too much navel-gazing, also admirable.

However, it's not terribly clear how to balance the two, and the flow of information isn't always conducive to figuring it out. I ended the book feeling confused. There's a tendency, especially in the first half of the book, toward a "woman as doormat" tone that, in my understanding of scripture and myself as made in the image of God, doesn't work. Humbleness is good. Being a doormat is not. How do I know the difference? The second half seems stronger, as DiMarco urges girlfriends to talk things over and confront problems in love.

Despite some arguable points, there is some advice worth taking, including the reminder that changing mean women isn't our job; loving them and forgiving them is. Much of the power of a mean woman --- or a mean man, for that matter --- can be defused with those two simple actions. Also applaudable: Mean-free women are happy when their friends do well, they leave others feeling good about themselves, and they aren't afraid to confront their friends in love, they learn to let go of past hurts. Good advice.

The page layouts are twenty-something friendly, if sometimes a bit all over the place for this 44-year-old reviewer. Lots of pull-out quotes, short quizzes, and boxed tips ("Surviving the Mean Compliment Giver") will make this appealing to women whose acquaintance with reading revolves mainly around their laptop or the latest girl-friendly magazine.

There is solid value in DiMarco's call not to focus on our image, but to focus on God and how he helps us grow through difficult people. Yet, women might be better served to use this book in small groups with an eye to discussion and discernment rather than embracing the advice --- which is of mixed value --- as gospel truth.

   --- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at phrelanzer@aol.com.

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