I love being a girl. Partly because it’s socially acceptable to draw on my own face, partly because I can make men cower in fear just by wearing the right spiky shoes, but mostly because of the wondrous ritual known as Girls’ Night.
It starts with seventh grade sleepovers, ordering pizza, crying over Moulin Rouge and trying not to wake up your parents. It continues with post-eighteenth excitement, staying with your friends after a night out because you’re too tipsy and footsore to make home. But the Girls’ Night I’m talking about come later. They come after you’ve realised that no club in the world is worth going to, that over-priced drinks, sticky floors and droning RnB remixes are not your idea of a fun night. I’m talking about the nights when your best friend comes over already in her pyjamas bearing DVDs and homemade cookies. You drink too much wine, build a blanket fort, stay up too late and sleep until noon. That’s my kind of Girls’ Night.
To me, Girls’ Night is sacred. It’s more than an excuse to get tipsy and watch movies – it’s a safe haven. For so many girls, a night out less a chance to let off steam and more of a chore. I need to dress up and look pretty, but not too pretty, not like a slut. I need to loosen up, have a drink, but not too much, that’s unladylike. I need to dance, have fun, but not too much fun lest I attract the ‘wrong sort of attention’. At some point, inevitably, I’ll be hollered at by a car full of over-muscled P-platers, or stopped by a drunk demanding a hug, or groped by a strange who likes my ass, and when I dare to be offended, to be angry, I’m almost always told to lighten up, take it as a compliment. Then, at the end of this ordeal, tired, grumpy and disillusioned, I have to keep my wits about me and make it home safe, my keys clenched between my knuckles like little knives, because walking alone at night is one of the most terrifying things you can ask a girl to do.
A Girls’ Night has none of that. I can wear whatever I’m comfortable in, drink as little or as much as I want, have fun without worrying about attracting the wrong sort of attention, and when I’m tired, I can crawl into my own bed without worrying about late trains or memorising taxi numbers. It’s a chance to revel in my femininity rather than refining it for public consumption, to talk without being branded a bitch, to watch movies without having to stifle my female gaze, to unashamedly enjoy being a woman and bask in the company of my favourite women.
During Girls Night a few weeks ago a guy friend started texting, wanting to know why he hadn’t been invited. When told it was Girls’ Night, and that Girls’ Night was a thing long before he was in the picture, he declared it sexist and exclusionary. Because establishing a safe space for ourselves, enjoying each other’s company, having a night that is about us and not others, is sexist and exclusionary. I wondered, if we had invited him, how he’d have liked joining us while we snuggled in front of a Coldplay DVD, belting out ‘Fix You’ out of key, swigging butterscotch schnapps from the bottle and complimenting the bass player’s butt.
Coincidentally, we were at his place last weekend for Eurovison, and while it was a good night, it was nowhere near as good as Girls Night.
I love being a woman for a lot of reasons. I love my wardrobe and my shoe collection, I love the softness of my hair and hips, I love the pretty scents and sparkly things I wear. I love that I can express emotion and affection without ridicule, I love that I’m allowed to feel pretty, I love that the sound of my heels on the pavement can make me feel like a goddess marching to war.
But as much as I love being a woman, sometimes it can really suck to be a woman. That’s why female friendships are important. That’s why I cherish my female friends and will protect those friendships at all costs. That’s why, every now and then, we kick the guys out, drink wine and make plans to take over the world.