Petty is the New Black

Elementary school is the earliest memory I have of pettiness. Nasty girls who were your friends one day and complimented you on your new Fila coat and Poetic Justice box braids to your face.  Then they’d turn around and slam you the next day because some boy (Lamar Black) you don’t even know or care about gave you a compliment…

This is an old memory, but important nonetheless because it pretty much served as a compass for choosing all of my relationships going forward. It also showed me that things can get ugly. And because of my experiences, I have one guiding rule when it comes to friendships: choose.nice.people.

As an adult, I find myself living in these moments in which being the most quick-witted, spicy person you can be is of the utmost importance and even revered, and it’s not just among women. Men are getting in on the fun too and behaving in ways that have traditionally been deemed “girly” or “bitchy” and it’s all completely acceptable.


In this day and age, it’s prevalent to be petty. The petty takeover started on the Internet, mostly in the form of memes and via comment sections where you can completely hide behind the safe shroud of the cyber wall and say whatever you feel and think. But then the lines blurred and over time, pettiness started to bubble over and spill out of people’s mouths and into everyday life and a whole new language was born (not really a new language, much of it was hijacked, don’t believe me, watch Paris Is Burning). Being insensitive and tactless was disguised with terms like “petty,” “shade,” “tea” and “read.” Having no chill was cool and building and bonding happened over dismissing and belittling others. All of this left me with the question of whether or not being mean was in style.

We are all human and if we are real and honest, sometimes it’s downright fun to say what we feel with reckless abandon. Everybody loves that warm feeling of accomplishment you get after telling your friend how you “told him” or “let her have it,” and usually, the story is embellished and altered to make it juicier.  None of this is new, but for some reason it seems like adding the extra stank-factor, not allowing someone to “come for you unless you sent for them,” “throwing shade” or showing that you can “read someone for the gawds” or until they cry is very popular and almost award-worthy. It’s all pretty laughable but can get old quickly after witnessing it too much, especially from the over-30 crowd.

If you type in the hash tag #petty on Instagram, you will get close to 2 million posts, so there’s definitely something tantalizing about it. Have we been so oppressed and afraid to stand up for ourselves and defend what we believe in that now we don’t care at all how our words affect others or make us look?

Not to blame reality TV, but after watching it for a few years I had to stop–(that is, unless I was at a friend’s house and it just happened to be on). Then, to be honest I’d indulge like a kid with vegan parents at my class’s end-of-the-year pizza party blowout. Watching made me feel frustrated and honestly, I wanted to choke somebody after watching just 2 episodes of RHOA. It was adult women (and don’t forget the men) behaving in a way that said, “I will unabashedly and shamelessly revel in the fact that I’m the queen of throwing shade at you bitches AND I’ll do it while the cameras are rolling.” It then became acceptable and empowering to some women who watched it, even if they claimed they didn’t agree with the behavior.

None of this is new. We have become desensitized because we’ve been exposed to so much. What may seem like lighthearted banter or jokes can actually be completely hurtful. It also causes divides between women and creates a level of distrust. We need to be careful to not let pettiness become a religion, unless it’s already too late.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying what you feel, but at the end of it all, it’s OK not to give into the pressure of being sharp-tongued. Being nice and keeping it classy will never go out of style and unfollowing the crowd, especially when it comes to cattiness, is actually not a bad idea.

Gigi Gray is a lover and observer of life. You can randomly find her deejaying on a rooftop in NYC or sitting in a café writing her next story.