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My Friendships With Women Taught Me How Not To Be A "Good Girl"

On women and the vital spaces for development we provide.

07/28/2017 13:34 EDT | Updated 07/28/2017 16:33 EDT
Art by Emily J Moore

My foundation of close friendships blossomed much later in life. More specifically, when I was 15.

During class introductions, one of my now-best friends said “My name is ___ and I am an aggressive person.” I had never heard “aggressive” in a positive light, let alone a girl describe herself as such with this much admiration. The class laughed. She had the reputation for being a comic and for being fierce. It’s an odd combination, really, to have the ability to frighten someone and also make them laugh. I was particularly intrigued by her because she owned her traits with the utmost pride. She wore rugged cargo shorts, a digital watch, and sandals to class; she was always loud and in no way did she fit the stereotype of how girls were supposed to be. But she inspired me to own my perceived imperfections and taught me to laugh at myself. She added excitement to her difference and was seen as much more than a sore thumb that stood out.

Growing up, I heard the phrase “lady-like” and “be a good girl,” a lot. Being a good girl meant complying with obedience, not sitting with my legs wide, hiding my period like it was the family’s will, not using cuss words, having neat braids, and smiling. To always, always smile. Being a girl came with an instruction manual; and the best ones, the “good girls,” checked everything off that list. One of my most precious friends embodied this completely. Her hair was always neat, her eyeliner was always on point, she even held an umbrella with grace. She is still very soft spoken, very patient, and one of the most organized people I know. But being the textbook definition of a woman is not only where her strengths lie and it’s most definitely not how she wants to be viewed in the society. Her strengths lie in the her powerful fidelity in friendships, in her ability to embrace change and challenge herself to grow.

...there’s an unbelievable level of support that’s derived from familiar misery."

I think insecurities are like an unwanted sibling we’ve grown up with as women ― about our bodies (mostly), the rejection to our personalities, the casual and serious sexism in everyday language, the shunning of our beliefs, our puberty and the wrath of periods, the silly customs that come along with the periods, and blah, blah, blah.

You know what’s the worst thing about developing a culture of insecurities? It also stimulates an air of hate. If daadi claims that you’re too dark or tan to be viewed as beautiful, you not only begin to dislike a part of you but also dislike the same part in someone else. I know I have, on several occasions, over the silliest things. There goes the scope for one good friendship to be built! It’s a vicious cycle, and if we get sucked in and become accustomed to aspiring toward society’s definition of perfection, we may dangerously harbor hate and negativity for someone else. Yet funnily, there is no “one size fits all” definition to this said perfection. Magazines still continue to pit two beautiful women against each other under a ‘who wore better?’ poll. Nothing is ― or will ever be ― enough.

Strangely, insecurities also make for the the best jokes; and if you shared one of yours with someone else, you’d be surprised at what a hit you will be at that party. My old workplace had five of us who would compete on whose moustache hair grew the fastest. Objectively, ours are the most insignificant body hair that has ever existed, but it was the root of so much self shaming until they became the most popular joke at the lunch table. The women in my life are some of the funniest people I will ever know, because there is no joke funnier than the trauma of underboob sweat and the reality of leg stubble. Even if the world won’t stop adding to our list of insecurities and the threats to our safety, there’s an unbelievable level of support that’s derived from familiar misery. It’s like we’re spiders working at making webs of connection, shared sensibilities, laughter, validation and assurance. Lots of assurance.

I don’t even know what cave person version of myself I’d be without these women in my life. Not only have I grown comfortable with my moustache hair and dark circles, I have also found a safe space in my habitat that not only acknowledges my existence, but also values it tremendously. I have learnt that cohesiveness can initate change and that we’re not horses bred for a race that have to constantly compete with each other. The patriarchy forces us to welcome and service authority since we’re little girls who are constantly told what to do and what not to do, what makes us worthy for someone else and what determines our identity in the world. It’s like being born for assistance to everyone else first. It never, NEVER educates us to be something for ourselves; leaving us confused, hesitant and even guilty when we make a decision that will only gratify us.

Female friendships are so important, because they teach you that you’re not the only one who cries in front of a mirror to see if you’re an ugly crier; they show you that if you felt embarrassed about your jiggly thighs, you have a weirdo by your side who will also jiggle her thighs to check for equal speed and velocity; they hear you when you lose a promotion for being pregnant or when you’re too afraid to confide in anyone about partner abuse. These friendships offer room for our experiences to breathe, nourish an environment of vulnerability, and teach us compassion. They allows us to cuddle with our emotional tendencies instead of carrying the shame that can come them. They change our relationships with our allies in the world, and more dramatically, change our relationships with ourselves.

Thank you, my lovely baboons, for just existing. You give me confidence to be who I want to be, not who they ask me to be, and I will always be grateful for this consistence romance.

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