The Girls Club & Female Friendships: All Access
Casual examination of codes and dynamics.
All my friends are equally important but when it comes to close female friendships, I pull all stops to make it work. I cherish that shit. I don’t subscribe to the ‘girls are drama, boys make better friends club’. It’s just delightfully different. There’s base level of attraction that gives opposite sex friendships the kickstart. Same sex female friendships need something on par with muted primal attraction to give it momentum and so it’s a combination of things: ‘wavelength’ which encompasses taste, getting me and opinions. Friendships with a female start with a base criteria of that so you know it’s going to be solid, even if it takes a while.
It’s not that I was a tomboy in the typical sense. I liked intellectual stimulation more than anything and for whatever reason, girls just don’t brag about being trivia nerds. And whenever we had ‘color dress’ day, I knew I was screwed. I would always feel especially unspecial in my whatever (dungarees or cargo shorts) and become acutely aware of the fact that I didn’t look like my friends. I was not skinny, I wasn’t fat but I had these damn thighs. We hear about this harsh truth so much — girls getting the message very early on that the way they look is the core of their existence.
Girl Talk: Be Guarded
I could talk to my girlfriends about TV shows, music, teachers, cartoons, hang out plans, even crushes (super censored). But beyond that, issues and questions about sexuality bursting at the seams of your average 12 year old’s psyche & body were left untouched. Maybe because nearly all my girlfriends had older sisters or perhaps secrecy and shame reign supreme in South Asian circles. I remember forming a second girl gang with whom I would discuss more ‘adult’ things but it was still about boyfriends and gossip rather than the deal with boob hair. Are movies misinterpreting what goes in female locker rooms or did I just grow up around girls who were totally unaware?
A strictly all girls environment (school through undergrad) means any and all validation from females, who aren’t as easily enamored as pre teen boys I imagine. There’s two scenarios: girls who discover they are pretty and then those that realize they aren’t adhering to standards of conventional good looks and so bank on humor, nerdism or sport but nevertheless aspire for likability. In time, group #2 realizes sexuality isn’t exclusive to the popular chick, a comforting truth once I eventually ventured into more co-ed spaces.
Boy Friends: Respect The Gap
Now there’s other fish in the sea. Male friendships were new, exciting and great overall because at best, you’d be having crazy, incessant hi-5 ing levels of discussion and at worst, he’d ask you out. Yup HE because steeped in patriarchy, remember. Guess I got real comfortable with this dynamic and at any given time, I always had closer guy friends and maybe 1 or 2 female friends. Another awesome thing with boys was group hangouts weren’t required. For some reason with females it always got group-y. I never met a girl who just wanted to hang out with me. It would always be a tad bit contrived. Like we meet at a class and SO we become friends, we take the same bus and that evolves into a friendship. With guys, it was always more selective. All goes back to that primal aspect.
All fun and games until you reach your 20s and realize platonic friendships are becoming a farce. That natural instinct rears its head sooner or later. If both parties are mature about it, the friendship can still be salvaged but the need for emotional intimacy becomes something that has to be satisfied with exclusivity and consummation, cause hey that’s what adults do. I also want to highlight severe FOMO here. I suspect that when girls were finally ready to talk about bras and dicks, I was possibly hanging out with ‘outcasts’ of the opposite sex who were just as wet behind the ears (*insert all the puns*). You can’t get the lowdown on sex from a guy. That’s some girl code stuff. I just happened to miss finding girls at the cusp of this realization at every stage. This meant the girl friends I did make, were also ‘naive’ like me with an interest in comedy and pranks, oblivious to the true calling of female form (being visually appealing lovers #sarcasm).
Anyway, I really wanted a fulfilling, emotionally rich relationship that didn’t cause a lump in my throat and so I headed back to the girls club where with sexuality now part of the equation, things had changed quite a bit. Bottlenecks in my scout for female friendships 2.0 came in the form of:
Here I was shielding my eyes from La Senza billboards and echoing mom’s take that underwear is worn underneath your clothes so who’s going to see it anyway. Due to the notorious lack of full length mirrors I suspect, I was quite happy with granny panties and unpadded sports bras. Mismatched and conservative. And I would like to emphasize that the rule was try to not be aware of yourself as a sexual being and if so, CONCEAL IT. Turns out lacy bras and thongs make a woman feel good about herself. She does it for her, not for a man. When an ex commented on his ex’s nice choice in underwear, I remember losing my shit. This unknown clan of sexy lingerie owning girls making me feel super threatened and unlovable. I bought a complicated $40 bra from Victoria’s Secret to see if this theory of ‘sexy for you’ holds true. A spurt, an instinctive high that’s not very reliable if you don’t have financial stability.
Manis & Pedis
Long nails weren’t ever a thing due to temporary guitar playing phase and more legit contact lens regime. My deal with manicures and pedicures is that they take SO MUCH TIME. You just SIT there. And then one hour later, you’re doing the dishes and running around the house sock-less. What’s the point? Two precious hours. Can’t look at your phone or even read a book. I guess this is a team activity where you rope in a bestie so you can talk her ear off, but regular grooming of nails to me just isn’t something I enjoy as much. Pls. let me keep my girl credentials.
Enough has been written about brown girls and body hair. Yeah, it’s our thing. But there’s levels to this shit. Most chicks dutifully do their ‘eyebrows and upper lip’. And then some go laser away their entire face (why you gotta rig the competition yo). I didn’t sport a unibrow and more fortunately, didn’t grow up around Asian and white girls so the occasional smooth hairless Indian chick didn’t faze me. Keeping hair in check is one thing, but then comes the question of technique. I didn’t have much choice in the matter and so my underarms were always waxed (so that the skin doesn’t grow dark. Fuckin’ brutal stuff). But moving around so much, I grew to befriend the razor.
In true old-Sandhya fashion, I never inquired about down there. I figured everyone was razoring it because only movie stars put themselves through that agony right? Wrong. My last vacation I was horrified to find out that I was the only one who didn’t get the memo on bikini waxes. I frantically Whatsapped random female contacts asking if they waxed down there or shaved (didn’t even conceal it with a ‘for research purposes’) and lets just say not enough people chose the latter. I can’t explain but I felt super betrayed by my two best friends who had been getting Brazilians for years now. It angered me to the extent that I had them explain this choice.
WHY would you consciously choose to go through such a painful process when there is a less painful option?
One of them had been single for the longest time and so this was even more puzzling. And I got the same response — “I just like it better that way”, “it’s just personal choice” and one vaguely admitted something about a boyfriend’s preference. But they were shaving their underarms! That’s painful and makes you feel soft too but for some reason you don’t care about perfection there? At this point, you may dismiss me as a loon but hear me out.
It’s a problem when women have internalized standards of beauty to the extent that they vehemently argue they prefer being near hairless out of choice.
Their guy can safely declare things like ‘it’s her body and she can do what she wants’ when a girl’s idea of looking acceptable by default means grazed cooch. I have a really loud argumentative inner voice that doesn’t let me enjoy things in life. After a Brazilian, I may look conventionally f*ckable and closer to the #allnatural IG models but *voice chimes in*
I know I should be good just as I am.
Girls want to be sexy but shy away from honestly exploring sexuality. The look, more than the feel. Nobody cares about how women feel, not even women. Instagram, again. A woman posts a hot picture of herself, the reaction is mostly ‘praise’ and a few ‘slut’ comments. Slut commenters are usually taken down by others and before you think yay feminism… Same sexually provocative user posts an opinion and the feedback is brutal. The dissonance is so diffused in our everyday life that you cannot point fingers anymore. And the truth is if you think different, if you’re a woman who speaks her mind and is intellectually fierce without the cushion of sexual acceptance or likability to fall back on… you are not going to have an easy life.
Nobody warned me about the maddening idealism. You may personally feel nothing when engagement/marriage updates pop up, but trust your female friend to subtly bum you out. Add the stigma of labels, secrecy and thinly veiled judgment, and it becomes weirdly competitive ground. Men can talk about relationships far more selfishly, and it is liberating to partake in that. The average female just can’t be as chill owing to the ongoing battle of social norms that usually aren’t fully conquered. The narrative of childhood love to one that lasts a lifetime, an unparalleled proposal ceremony, humble brags galore… it might not even be your dream but when you’re surrounded by ladies who hold that as an ideal, it’s time to peace out for your own sanity.
I think conformity is a huge part of female friendships, and I have always had trouble with that.
It’s a deal breaker in the girls club if you stand out. With a boy, you expect and accept differences in opinion so even if you hold completely opposing points of view, there’s solace in the understanding that you’re just different. When you don’t agree with girls, especially when you’re young and impressionable, the difference can easily make you feel invalidated. There’s terrible loneliness in confronting the fact that you’re very different. And so for some time, you may engage in these friendships that have secrecy and shame as driving forces, all the while feeling more and more distanced from ‘being a woman’.
Teetering on the lines of objectification & patriarchy when pushed out of either comfort zone. Women being nothing more than free-to-access objects of pleasure to being stored away in a glass case. Both instances, of the women’s accord.
We are not one thing or the other.
We operate in certain light. It is not who we are, it’s an awareness. Instagram, popular culture and societal norms point it towards a self objectification, but there is a female in you — a feminine you devoid of these influences — who coexists. You remain in one of the two conscious states depending on where your awareness lies. Where your awareness exists is dependent on the kind of life you lead. As awareness soars, mindfulness is slowly able to take charge of the moment and the ‘right thing’ happens.
The easy way out is picking a side on principle and defending it to death, blinded in self righteousness. The organic route is one of honesty, where you constantly step out and remind yourself that the perfect winged liner is only embellishment to a glorious force of thriving beauty and vigor.