Being Good at Being a Girl

Nope, this isn’t a how-to. I’m going to come right out with it: I’m really bad at being a girl. That’s been different amounts of ok with me over the course of my short life. It’s actually been really helpful for me to grow into the woman I am proud to be. That said, there is still a part of me that knows that I don’t “fit in.” Even as an adult, the expectation is that you’re either part of the T-Swift #squad, or you’re the socially anxious chick who’s joking-but-really-serious about being scared to ask a new friend to coffee. Turns out, I’m neither one of those girls.

I wasn’t overly insecure as a kid when I was actually a girl. I did my thing and I was pretty happy about who I was. I had a lot of friends and interests, and I was able to freely explore myself as someone who wrote poetry on the bus in the morning and played football with the boys at recess and sang in a girl band after school and spent my Saturdays in synagogue and went to science camp during the summer and shopped at Limited Too at the mall and played magic cards with my brother and his friends and…and you get the picture.

Flash forward through a 10-year montage of creative writing in the woods at Interlochen, to amazing adventures abroad, and then back to NYC for a few years of dancing late and dreaming big…the woman I am now is somewhere in between hyper career oriented and on the couch watching a movie with my husband on a Friday night. I realize that I’m not alone in this routine, and at the same time, I’m a bit lonely. The one area I’ve had trouble managing in my adulthood is spending time with my existing girlfriends and getting to know other awesome females.

Here’s where being bad at being a girl goes against me. I think getting my nails done is a chore–not an activity, boozy brunches are out since I’ve been working on my private pilot’s license for the past year, and although I do love exercising, I realize not everyone does–so spin class isn’t always inclusive. I also hate the beach, prefer to go shopping on my own, and have no appetite for anything I have to stand in line on the street and wait for 2 hours to eat. I am probably the last woman standing in NYC who hasn’t had a cronut.

I mentioned earlier that being bad at being a girl, however uncomfortable at times, did help me to become my own woman. An important turning point in my development as a woman, it turns out, has to do a lot with how my relationships with my girlfriends have changed. This idea–a lesson that I hadn’t even fully articulated to myself until now–came up while I was watching Taylor Swift’s Vogue 73 Question interview as part of my brainstorming for this piece. I think she’s an incredibly talented yet introspective female force, and I’m inspired by the energy she puts into her girlfriends. I really respect her ability to bring powerful girls together.

I’d like to think that I was like this when I was 26. Part of me wants to retain some of this spirit as I stare down my 30th birthday. Nonetheless, something that resonated with me and shed a light on my own development in the past 3 years was when she mentioned that she told her girlfriends “absolutely everything.” I can’t quite put a finger on when I stopped doing that. I certainly used to. Even by the time I had my first “grown-up job,” I would spend hours chatting to my girlfriends, stream of consciousness style, dissecting recent dates, dissing new girlfriends of ex-boyfriends, and deciding where to go dancing that night.

Was this our way of desperately trying to replicate preindustrial, it-takes-a-village kind of womanhood? Camille Paglia put it simply in the 2015 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, “Women have lost the natural solidarity and companionship they enjoyed for thousands of years in the preindustrial agrarian world, where multiple generations chatted through the day as they shared chores, cooking and child care.”

I don’t disagree with Paglia, and at the same time I’m increasingly finding the need for female relationships and am consistently coming up short. I’m not sure if I’m more troubled by the possibility that they simply don’t exist anymore versus the dearth of productive and actually powerful ways for women to come together, group selfies aside.

Getting Married Is An Accomplishment

I disagree with Natalie Brooke’s recent piece in the Huffington Post. Beyond the hallucious writing style, I think she embodies exactly what makes most women feel horrible about themselves vis-à-vis romantic relationships, whether they’re in one or not. Let me start from the beginning. Brooke recently got engaged, and it’s clear that her views on marriage and her upcoming wedding is quite conventional in that she states although she does not think getting married is an accomplishment, it “is absolutely a huge event, and it’s so very exciting to find your ‘other half'” (just add a PSL).
What’s more, Brooke gets on her soap box and says that now she’s got the ring — lest she be called embittered — she feels at liberty to speak the gospel that “getting married should never be put in a higher regard than the academic and professional successes that women work hard to attain.” 

I think that getting married is an accomplishment. 

You win the game of life. The way I see it, I was going to succeed on my own, even if I died alone. What marriage means to me is that I get to build the world the way I want it to be by furthering my genes, propagating my values, and propelling them into the future long after I’m gone. I think that’s a hugely important responsibility that one should be proud of and that others should revere.

More importantly for this argument, getting married doesn’t have to not be an accomplishment. Even in the face of any academic or professional triumphs. The fact of the matter is, I’d like to say that there’s a lot more to me than either a ring or a brain. I’ve got both. Deal with it. I’m proud of each and I’m not going to apologize for any of it. I’m certainly not going to put anyone down for it. 

This is where Brooke really gets me. She’s made it clear that she finally “has it all” and considers getting engaged as an anointing of power and insight to dole out advice. “The built-in vapidity, the vagueness with which ‘having it all’ specifies everything and therefore nothing,” (Szalai, 2015, The New York Times) leaves just enough room for everyone to hate themselves, no matter what they actually have or where they actually stand. 

To me, getting married is a serious project, not a piece of jewelry and bragging rights. I treated my engagement like I do when I consult for early-stage startups and our wedding as our launch party. I continue to run my household accordingly with budgets, goal setting, and follow-up discussions. This might sound joyless to someone who mindlessly goes into a marriage and blithely believes it’s what they deserve, but I think that’s the most dangerous place to be and the reason why there are so many divorces. The notion that we’re just supposed to be happy, that life is meant to be fun, can be very disappointing and at least, much less rewarding.