There is a certain magic to a man telling you, “I love hanging out with you. You’re just like one of the guys.”
It’s intoxicating. Just like one of the guys, he says, and what you think that means is that you’re easygoing, have a ribald sense of humor, and common interests. What you never think is, this guy is setting me up to fail.
I spent most of my teenage years feeling and being told that I was “one of the guys”—for my taste in music, which trends toward hard and classic rock and heavy metal, for my straightforward nature, for my inappropriate sense of humor, and my love of all things macabre. Even now, I know I get a lot of attention in the dating world because of my personality and musical interests; the only difference is that I don’t hide my love of clothes, shoes, glitter, tarot, astrology, sex, and other things deemed traditionally feminine, inappropriate, or unscientific.
What I didn’t realize, until much later, was that branding me as “one of the guys” also branded me as “the girl who can’t have any contradictory opinions,” lest I also be branded as “high maintenance,” “temperamental,” and worst of all, “just another girl.” You know, the kind you have to treat with respect.
I could hang in mosh pits and shove men who had 200 pounds on me around. I liked angry music and acerbic wit. My dad took me fishing and to shoot guns, and I dissected cats in bio lab without a second thought. I love football and read comics and watched movies like The Crow and raged against the machine. I wasn’t “just another girl,” right?
“Intoxicating,” obviously, contains the word “toxic,” and that’s no coincidence. Just like alcohol is a poison (a delicious, fun one) to our systems, so is this myth of the “cool girl.” Gillian Flynn said it best in Gone Girl:
“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
Trying to be the “cool girl” is the same as drinking heavily: for awhile, it’s great. You’re on top of the world. You are the hero of your own story, someone brash and bold and wild. But there’s always a comedown, and this one provides the worst hangover of all: some random guy telling you that you are less than, because you’re not just like him. You’re not the fantasy.
The reality, the one where you worry about weight and skin and age and hair and clothing and how you appear to others? How early in the relationship you should have sex and whether they’ll call you when it’s over? That’s a bummer, man. And not one you should pass on to the men in your life, lest they have to reflect upon you as a human.
That, and the sheer amount of shit that is marketed to women so that they’ll continue to buy into this, is also something men don’t want to hear about. You are supposed to show up looking pristine (but not TOO pristine), thin (but eat that goddamn cheeseburger), and stay young forever. Also, please be interested in Star Wars, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, and other male-dominated entertainment, because they are. Split the check, too, because you’re empowered, and pay gap be damned.
You can’t tell me any woman rejects a man because he doesn’t love glitter and shoes in the same way she does.
It is exhausting.
I actually had a man tell me, before we met, “…and you should feel free to eat whatever you want, not just a salad.”
Thanks, but I didn’t need your permission.
The funny thing is, he has been one of the good ones—or at least the fairly decent ones—and while he was expressing it clumsily, it was revealing. While I, luckily enough, have zero shame about my appetite, it struck me: how many women does he know who have just eaten a salad so as to appear not “too” hungry? Or worse, in the “clean” eating parlance, “good?”
The mind boggles.
I have shoved much larger men around: sweaty, angry men who aren’t afraid to take up space. Men who want to express themselves to music so much, that they form a giant circle where they can slam into anyone they want, whether the people on the outskirts want it or not. Years ago, this was exhilarating.
Today, I just shake my head and sigh, and move out of the way. My anger manifests in a different way.
I hope they’re ready.