Throughout my life, I have never really been what one would consider a “girly-girl.” I was raised by my dad. I don’t own a lot of pink clothing. I have a raunchy sense of humor. I step in puddles, on purpose. I don’t wear shoes very often, and when I do they aren’t stilettos. I dislike thong underwear. When I come back from a run I am usually covered in sweat and dirt, and sometimes a little blood too. I’m totally comfortable in a room full of dudes being dudes, and it’s not because I need reassurance that I’m attractive…it’s because I like to drink pints of beer, eat spicy food, swear and tell dirty jokes. I typically forego the whole mani-pedi business and prefer to keep my nails super-short and unpainted. I go out in the rain with no umbrella. I’ll hold my own door and kill spiders myself. I don’t get grossed out by Porta-Johns (in fact I’m usually grateful to see them). Nothing in my house has flowers on it. I don’t spend an hour on my hair and makeup when I go out. I prefer beer over fruity cocktails. I go to hashes on the weekends. I don’t want to be a mother. I don’t believe that a man should have to ask a woman on a date, or pay for her dinner. I make more money than my husband, and I shun most gender roles.
I’ve often been told by guy friends that I’m the perfect wife-material (I guess you’re a lucky man, Shawn!). But when it comes to girl friends, I have historically had a difficult time figuring out where I fit in.
When I was in fourth grade I switched schools and tested out of 4th grade English, so I was put into a classroom in another building with all the 5th graders. I’ll never forget lining up at the end of class each day with all the older girls, who were starting to grow boobs and shave their legs. I loved listening to them while we waited for the class bell to sound. They were always so glamorous to me, as they talked about makeup and boys. I was too intimidated to participate in the conversation, so I mostly just listened, while pretending to be occupied with a doodle in my notebook.
One time, while they were comparing notes on hair washing, drying and curling techniques, I pointed at my straight, mousy brown, all-one-length locks and interjected: “I don’t do anything with my hair. I just wake up, comb it, and it looks like this!” I smiled, waiting to be included in the conversation. After a moment the prettiest girl looked back at me, rolled her eyes, and replied, “We know, it’s obvious.”
It’s not really that I don’t act or dress feminine at all, or even that I’m exactly a tomboy. Being a creative type, I enjoy fashion trends, cool home décor and acquiring things that look nice. Heck, I have a job as an art director for a company that makes wedding invitations and gifts for women. But with that said, I still have always felt like I don’t quite understand the typical woman. It started out early on, with me being intimidated by them – I always felt less pretty, somehow less feminine, with my messy, mousy brown hair and my penchant for catching toads in the back yard. I would always rather play King of the Hill with the boys than have a Barbie tea party with the other girls. I eventually went on to participate in girlish hobbies like ballet and gymnastics, which I liked, but I never lost that less-than-girly edge, even into my adult years.
A lot of women like to say things like “I can be one of the guys!” Very often, that’s not true at all…at least not as true as they want it to be. A lot of women like to hang out with men because they want a boyfriend, or because they want attention and reassurance. And sure, at times in my life I’ve been as guilty of that as the next girl. But even now after most of that insecurity is gone, I still feel more comfortable around men in general, than I do women. In a lot of ways, I really do feel like “one of the guys.”
See, when it comes to making friends, men are mostly non-superficial and non-judgmental. They don’t have hidden agendas and they don’t play the drama game. Unlike that of many women, I love the way the typical guy friendship works. They’re light, easy-going and frank with each other. They don’t get mad at you for not wanting to talk on the phone or for cancelling on them that one time. They don’t make friends with which to compete, instead they make friends to play backgammon. If two guys don’t talk for six months, their next get-together feels as if the time never passed. If one guy friend doesn’t want to talk about his relationship, the other one changes the subject to what flavor of hot wings they should order. It’s simple.
I’m lucky enough to have made a few girlfriends who are just as care-free as this. I respect and appreciate them. Even if I go through periods of frustration with those friends (as you do with anyone), I tend to give them much more forgiveness and leeway, because I owe it to them in exchange for their easy friendship. They are the ones reading this right now and nodding their heads, rather than being offended that I am talking about them. They are fantastic people and I wish there were more of them.
Since moving to California and having to make new friends, I have had the opportunity to observe myself becoming extremely particular about the types of people I am willing to spend my time with. I have had moments where I’ve revisited that bad hair day in 4th grade, feeling ugly and intimidated. And I have had moments where I’ve felt as if I was exactly where I belonged. While discovering this, I have become fascinated by the fact that I can meet someone and know almost right away what kind of relationship I would be capable of having with them. Just the way they wear their clothes or how they stand while speaking to me. Many of us seem to be rather good at gravitating toward and leeching out the people who are the most like ourselves, and we are better at it the more we know and understand ourselves.
So maybe this post could be thought of as a self-indulgent study on being judgmental about people. But perhaps, I am just at a point where I know myself a little better, and perhaps that means I’ll make better friendships, and be a better friend, for it. Maybe it means I’m finally okay with the fact that I don’t like lipstick and stiletto heeled shoes, and that the girlfriends I’ll make will be okay with it too. I like believing that.