If we were to rewind the clock back to 2006 and focus our sights to a small house on Long Island, we’d see a little girl sitting on her bed. She’s wearing her soccer uniform, complete with pungent shin-guards and cleats caked in dirt. In fact, the girl herself is caked in dirt. Her knees are scratched and covered in dried blood. This sight isn’t unusual, in fact, it’s a very common state for this girl to be in. What is unusual, though, is the magazine that lays open on those scratched knees. The girl is tracing her fingertips, not manicured also rather dirty, over the image of a sun dress. She guiltily admits to herself that the dress is pretty and that she wants to wear it. As soon as the confession crosses her mind, she closes the magazine and hides it under her bed. This way no one would ever find out that she, even for a second, wanted to wear a dress.
I grew up with the strong desire not to be like other girls.
I was a proud tom-boy complete with the backwards baseball cap and baggy jeans. I played sports at recess and burped loudly in class. I looked down on the girls playing with dolls and makeup as silly and frivolous. When the boys in my class told me I was ‘one of them’ my face lit up with pride. I thought I was cool.
I wasn’t. I blame this attitude on internalized sexism. An internalized sexism that was nurtured by years of romantic comedies and novels. That’s right Nicholas Sparks, I’m holding you personally accountable. All those scenes of the hot teenage guy, who’s actually in his mid twenties and in no way looks seventeen, holding hands with the misunderstood girl really stuck with me. He’d stare into her eyes all dreamy like and say, “You’re not like other girls”. This girl wore beat up converse and didn’t have tons of girlfriends. She didn’t go to dances and seemed annoyed at everyone and everything. This made her cool and desirable and something worthy of the hot teenage boy. If possible I would insert myself into one of these scenes and slap the makeup off the pretend teenager. I’d demand to know what exactly is wrong with being like other girls.
The truth is there’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing wrong with wearing dresses and makeup and going to dances. Dresses and dances in no way affect your level of intelligence or determination. There’s nothing wrong with talking about boys and sharing your emotions. Wearing converse doesn’t make you any better than the girl wearing heels, just like wearing heels doesn’t make you any better than the girl in converse.
I was under the impression that we all had to fit into these already written out archetypes of people. If I liked soccer, then I couldn’t possibly like makeup. When I developed my love for rock music I vehemently denied dancing to a Taylor Swift song. I liked reading, which obviously meant I couldn’t like partying. It took me a while to realize that being cool didn’t require pretending not to care about anything. Having emotions and feelings are what makes us human. No one looks more attractive than when their eyes light up when talking about something they’re passionate about. Being excited about life and caring about things is so much cooler than feigning disinterest. Despite sounding completely cliché, I found being cool was just being yourself and not judging others for being themselves.
Some Friday nights I stay in to re-read Harry Potter and some nights I take tequila shots and dance on the bar. I wear dresses with my combat boots and listen to whatever music I’m in the mood for that day. I don’t look down on the girl that walks into her 8am class in heels with a full face of makeup on, even though I’m in my glasses and pajamas. Instead, I hope she feels good about herself.
This world is determined to make girls feel bad about themselves just for being girls. I refused to admit I liked One Direction because I didn’t want to associate myself with the girly fan hysteria. This same fan hysteria is exhibited by adult men when it comes to sports teams, but for some reason that’s never mocked or frowned upon.
Being different just for the sake of being different is just as wrong as being the same just for the sake of being the same. We’re all these wonderfully odd unique individuals, and we should be proud of that. So if you like playing football and reading comic books own it. If you like makeup and drinking beer, grab a lipstick and a keg. There’s no set thing that we should mold ourselves to be other than ourselves. So no, you’re not like other girls. In fact, other girls aren’t like other girls, and other boys aren’t like other boys. We’re all beautifully different and should be. So take that Nicholas Sparks.