“You’re being very girly.”
A dear friend of mine said this to me somewhat accusingly not that long ago. Naturally, I instantly took offence. I am not girly. That is what I always say whenever anyone ‘accuses’ me of being girly.
Now that’s a whole pile of crap right there, isn’t it? I’m always on this blog writing about women’s voices, advocating for women’s writing, for chick-lit, for female-authored books, and for the power of literature constantly dismissed and sidelined as ‘girly’. Yet, as soon as someone calls me ‘girly’, they get a whole load of ‘excuse me, but no.’
At least part of this is all tied up with the way I see myself; I remember being specifically identified as not girly all of the time I was at primary school. I was the one with torn clothes and mud all over me charging around playing tag rugby and breaking things (including myself). But it’s probably about twenty years since I grew out of that. I started wearing makeup, being interested in pretty dresses and ‘doing’ my hair more than just in a ponytail. And you know what? There’s this narrative wriggling through society (and bothering me) that somehow I must have become more shallow, more silly and more superficial to care about those sorts of things.
I remember coming home from my first term at Oxford. It wasn’t too cool there to care about how you looked. The truly dedicated to study wouldn’t have had time to care about such silly things. I, wanting to be one of them, had adopted the quintessential uniform of college hoody (NEVER the University hoody – that one was for the despicable tourists) and baggy old jeans. I went to visit one of my friends, the glamorous Lily (now of Lily’s Vintage Salon fame) who was, as usual, dressed in something unspeakably fabulous with her hair done and a full face of makeup (even at 18). I felt drab and entirely unlike myself.
It has taken me a long time to find a place where I am comfortable in the middle; some days I wear my old jeans and a jumper and don’t do anything with myself. Some days I get dressed up in something nice and do hair and makeup. I still run about and break stuff (sometimes) but I also don’t stress too much if I want to sit in front of the telly and paint my nails, or go for a spa day. If someone thinks I’m stupid for doing that, more fool them. This wouldn’t be the first time someone had thought I was stupid for doing something girly, and it wouldn’t be the first time they had been wrong.
So what I should have said was “excuse me, but so what? You say that like that’s a bad thing.” Telling someone that they’re being “manly” is always good. “Boyish” is even quite a compliment. I’m going to make an effort to take back “girly” and next time someone tells me that me talking about something is too “girly” I’m going to tell them to STFU, and yes I can talk like that and still be girly, thank you very much.