When I was 12, I wasn’t like other girls.
A lot of girls were vapid back-stabbers obsessed with boys, makeup and gossip. I was a bookworm interested in creative writing and online role-playing games.
I strutted around in frumpy, oversized hand-me-downs while all the other girls wore the latest Abercrombie & Fitch apparel. I listened to Paramore and Panic! at the Disco religiously, since pop music was uncultured and meaningless. I was proud to be out of touch with mainstream tastes, since it meant I was occupying myself with more worldly pursuits.
I wasn’t like other girls. I was different.
… Wasn’t I?
Give me a break.
Looking back at my tween angst days fills me with cringe-inducing humiliation that only the wonders of puberty can dredge up.
“I’m not like other girls” was my mantra for the majority of my middle school career. Each utterance was another protective layer against confronting the true source of the problem: my low self-esteem and crippling insecurity. In an effort to elevate my self-worth, I sought to tear other girls down.
I didn’t resort to anything as drastic as cyberbullying or hanging effigies, but I didn’t have to. It was enough that I had these poisonous thoughts in my head. I would unfairly dismiss women even before I really got the chance to know anything about them.
However, even at the peak of my internalized misogyny, all of my closest friends were girls (girls I’m still friends with today). It’s as if some part of my subconscious knew how much of an idiot I was being and surrounded me with amazing and talented women.
To this day, I’m still surrounded by a rich variety of thoughtful, interesting and supportive women who show through their actions that being like other girls isn’t a death sentence.
They are passionate activists, aspiring doctors, creative advertisers, hard-hitting journalists, talented photographers, successful entrepreneurs, genius coders, inspiring leaders and future lawyers. They answer my calls in the middle of night when I’m feeling stressed or send me links to cute animal videos when I need a pick-me-up. They rope me into philosophical discussions about morality and fate, tutor me in subjects I know nothing about and accompany me on bad reality television binges. They may drive me crazy with their antics at times, but they love me for who I am, flaws and all, just as I love them.
So if being like other girls means being a loyal friend, compassionate role model and diligent student, then I can only hope that I have even an iota of their likeness within me.
In the words of the great philosopher Hailee Steinfeld, “Most girls are smart and strong and beautiful / Most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable / Most girls, our fight to make every day / No two are the same / I wanna be like, I wanna be like, most girls.”
The “I’m not like other girls” mentality can manifest itself in different forms. Sometimes it’s “I only have guy friends because girls are just so dramatic” or “I love and support all women, but … ”
It’s 2018. Let us move away from these toxic ideologies that force us to pit other women against one another.
I am in no way saying we should fall to our feet for every woman for their every action. Instead, I am proposing that we move away from pigeonholing women into unattainable and unjustifiable standards and that we see them for who they are: flawed, multi-faceted individuals trying to live their life like the rest of us.
Happy International Women’s Day — here’s to the other girls I aspire to be like each and every day.