Will You Be My Girl Friend?

Image credit: @nataliamadej

Girls are so hard to make friends with.
Ugh, I can’t stand chicks, most of my friends are guys.
Females are so bitchy, I’d rather be one of the boys.

These are things I’ve said. Things I’ve genuinely felt. Things I need to apologise for now.

Women-hating sentiments like these were once my mantra for making friends. I was always certain that the reason I couldn’t make friends with women was no fault of my own. They were the enemy, the competition – roles they chose for themselves. Now, I’m only certain that we need to talk about why so many women feel this way.

I didn’t want to be soft and lame, easy to hurt. Like a girl.

Whenever I’d hear women sharing my sordid sentiments, my ears would perk with intrigue. “Girl, me too!” I’d exclaim, my eyes glistening with feverish contempt. Together, we’d spew women-hating vitriol and throw our heads back in fits of gossip-y laughter, generalising and judging all women ever to be carrot-arsed, prissy bitches unworthy of an olive branch.

Rife with internalised patriarchy, we’d boost each other up onto misogynistic high horses and ride off into a dick-clad sunset, only to part ways when the credits began to roll. Oh, the irony of two female strangers brought together solely by a mutual disdain for their own kind.

I’d proudly proclaim, “I’ve always been one of the boys.” I swallow puke knowing this, now that I hate the patriarchy more than I ever did being friends with females. The truth is: I wasn’t always one of the boys. In fact, I was not ever. Not once. I thought that’s what I was because that’s who I surrounded myself with, who I so badly wanted to be as an insecure girl broken by trauma, an identity-lacking teen. I didn’t want to be soft and lame, easy to hurt. Like a girl.

I wanted to be a rule-disregarding, spit-flinging, tough-and-invincible, emotionless skateboarding bro. While I didn’t have the psychoanalytical skills to know this about myself then, I was subconsciously attracted to their male confidence, one born of privilege. I was envious of their ability to pass through life doing whatever they wanted largely sans accountability. Instead of interrogating that unjust privilege, I sought it as my own.

I was protecting myself from the “truth” that had been drummed into me by bullies and boyfriends: you’re not as pretty as other girls.

As an about-eighteen-year-old who had been broken by every man I’d come into contact with, I was drawn to becoming more like men, more like the people who hurt me. Perhaps, I thought that boys never got hurt and only did the hurting. Perhaps being a man, a white one no less, seemed the safest thing to be in this world. 

At the time, I was totally unaware of this yearning to be one with bro culture. I thought I just wanted to learn how to skateboard because it looked fun and badass. And that’s true in itself too. I did want to stop watching boys skateboard by me, having what looked like the time of their young and wild lives, as I sat bored out of mind, studying the sidewalk.

I wanted to be the one whooshing down the way. So I was. I taught myself how to downhill skateboard and, resultantly, surrounded myself with bros – a handful with the most genuine hearts I’ve ever known, but most with none at all.

I became as enraptured by bro culture as I was by skateboarding and pushed women in my circle even further away. By becoming a bro’s girl and othering women, I was protecting myself from the “truth” that had been drummed into me by bullies and boyfriends: you’re not as pretty as other girls. Beyond being beguiled by the thought of skateboarding so fast I could die if I fell off, I was also subconsciously drawn to the cool factor.

Image credit: @lauraklinke_art

Perhaps, deep down, I thought that if I could skateboard and be badass, then I didn’t need to be just pretty anymore. Bros, the objects of my doting platonic-affection, would respect me more. I didn’t need to be friends with women then, the people I was constantly comparing myself to and in competition with. I could be a bro. The only girl. No competition. Always winning.

Girlfriends of the guys in my skating crew were often ‘maringly jealous of me. I got to spend all the days with their significant others and they didn’t like it one bit. I’d hear them say they found me intimidating, scary. More like intimidated and scared, lol.

And while I was never romantically interested in any one of their boyfriends, I lapped up their jealousy like a homeless dog does a hot meal. Without realising it, their insecurities gave me power over my own. I didn’t need to be in competition with anyone anymore. I was cool. Or so I thought.

One of these girlfriends often came to watch her boyfriend skateboard in the chilly backroads of Hout Bay. One day, when she thought I was out of earshot, she went off at him with ferocious gusto for looking at my ass and laughing at things I said. From then on, she came with every time she knew I’d be around. I laughed it off in the moment, allowing my ego to bask in the ambience and distract me from aching insecurities of my own.

Some of the guys were using zoom lenses to take pictures of my crotch to figure out if I was wearing underwear.

I wish I’d taken her aside. Chatted to her. Made her feel like she was the most important person there. Because Lord knows, he sure didn’t. I’m so sorry for that now. If you’re reading this, you should know that I think you were always worth more than how that trash bag treated you.

Deeper into my skating career, once the novelty of bro culture had waned, I became aware that no matter how bro I tried to be, I’d always get treated differently. I’d always get treated like a girl. Bar time spent with my genuine male friends, there was generally little room for sensitivity or display of emotion. Also, there often seemed to be an underlying sexual expectation or tension from their side.

At a competition, I found out that some of the guys were using zoom lenses to take pictures of my crotch to figure out if I was wearing underwear or not. Another time, one of the boys asked me blatantly to my face, “So, when do I get to fuck you?” I was seeing his friend at the time.

Another time, I was sitting in the back of a bakkie and was trying with all my might to keep my stubble-covered shins from touching anyone. We went over a bump. A hand grazed my leg. “Your legs feel like grip-tape! Do you even shave?!” Everyone began to laugh. 

Image credit: @hazel.mead

One wintery afternoon skating “with” a group of juvenile-stage friends. A towering pine canopy cast a chilling shadow over me, transforming my nervous sweats into frosty apprehension. My belly filled with the drum beat of anxiety and excitement at play as I  positioned myself at the top the hill. It was a winding beast of steepness that, coupled with my inexperience, would be a dish of disaster I was not prepared to taste.

I’d only just begun learning to skate better and I knew I couldn’t keep up with them. Just then, an epiphany dawned on me like darkness upon daylight: guys that aren’t romantically involved with me, or looking to be, will probably never look out for me. Even when boyfriends did hang behind the rest of the crew to help me, I felt burdensome.

My belly would swirl with anxiety when my ill-execution of orders was met with poorly veiled irritation and the darting eyes of impatience. I can count on one hand the amount of times I knew a guy was just genuinely keen to help me learn, sans romantic obligation or sexual expectation.

One of them even carved the word “SLUT” in angry, jagged letters onto the side of my freshly-sprayed helmet.

I made it through all the gnarly bits of the hill that day, only to attempt a slide at too slow of a speed toward the end. Subsequently, this ended in a feisty make-out session between my knee and an unforgiving pavement. I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk. I was 8km from home and I made it back on my own, limping and bum-boarding, with not one concerned enquiry bothering my phone.

Was I hurt that no one checked on me? No. I was already just a girl, I wasn’t going to make it even harder to befriend me by saddling them with the expectation that they should care about my safety. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me anyway. I wanted to do it on my own. I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I wasn’t just a girl. I learned not to expect tenderness, empathy, and concern from unfamiliar boys and men.

I always spoke so highly of boys and friendships with them, but I was quick to forget all the times the scummy ones only referred to me as an orifice for sex. One of them even carved the word “SLUT” in angry, jagged letters onto the side of my freshly-sprayed helmet. Probably because I turned his sexual advancement down and fucked his brother instead. No doubt.

Today, the suspected culprit has three kids with three different baby mommas and the hair of a greasy plumber. Shem. He even got everyone to call me “The Hout Bay Bus” because “anyone could hop on and hop off”. I slept with a few people between long-term relationships, but not nearly as many those who shamed me slept with in a weekend. Not that I would need to explain myself, or feel ashamed, even if I was The Hout Bay Bus.

There’s nothing wrong with a woman knowing what she wants and having it. I was slut-shamed because I was in touch with my sexuality and that’s intimidating for little boys that can’t stomach rejection. And, lest we forget, my cheating boyfriends were hailed “macdaddies” for being unfaithful and contracting STIs as often as they could. Lord forbid I did the same.

Another guy slut-shamed me after a fall off of my skateboard broke the zipper on my jeans, leaving a tuft of pubic hair peeping out. How disgracefully unnatural of me. How dare I have pubic hair sticking out after I hit the pavement at 60 km per hour?! What a fucking slut.

I am so sick and tired of men calling women sluts at every chance they get. Won’t sleep with you but will sleep with someone else? SLUT! Got pubes that stick out for a second after you fall of a fucking skateboard? SLUT! Sleeps with whom she pleases? SLUT! Has a vagina? SLUT!

I’m so sorry for all the times I held my acquaintance with dickheads so highly above making friends with a girl who was probably just shy.

Throughout my obsession with male friendships, I managed to gain three friends that I know will have my back for life. Bar them and all the other wonderful male friends there are in the world, I was too quick to talk so highly of having friendships with males over females.

I was too quick to partake in misogynistic banter, too eager to encourage competition and foster insecurity between females. I was too slow to ever stand up for myself because I was too busy wishing I wasn’t what I disliked: a woman. And I am so sorry for that now, because I am a woman and I am prouder than ever.

I am so sorry for all the girlfriends that were intimidated by the friendship I shared with their partners. So sorry for all the times I ignored those girls in return, instead of trying harder to break down the barrier that this patriarchal society encourages us to build between us. So sorry for all the times I enjoyed it when girls were intimidated by me. So sorry for all the times I capitalised on your insecurity to feed my own.

So sorry for all the times I held my acquaintance with dickheads so highly above making friends with a girl who was probably just shy, and not bitchy after all. So sorry for all the gossip I’ve engaged in. So sorry for all the times I retaliated with anger and ruthlessness when I could have reached out and been the bigger woman.

Image credit: @sophierosebramption

The truth is, I was not the bigger woman and so many of us have never been. So many of us continue to engage in malicious gossip, breaking each other down because that’s all we’ve ever known: comparison, criticism, competition. Every time you make harmful commentary, or allow it space to exist, you are adding a brick to the wall that divides women.

We should be cheering for each other, protecting each other, uplifting each other. Sister, you are not my enemy. You never were. And you never will be. If you’re hard to make friends with, I understand. The world is unkind, and as much as the world would have me believe you are too, I know you are not. So, I’m going to try anyway.

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