Girls’ Night In

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.

Bath Time Woes

On Sundays I give my dog a bath.

He knows this. He’s a creature of habit, and he loves his routines. He knows he gets two biscuits in the morning, he knows he goes outside for a drink before bedtime, and he knows exactly what’s happening when I get his towel out and say ‘bath time’. Yet he still turns bath time into a production.

For reference’s sake, this is my dog –

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His name is Macs. He’s a border collie x kelpie, he’s pushing 11, and he still freaks out over bath time.

He’s fine until the water starts flowing. When I call him in from the garden, he quite happily takes himself off the the bathroom and waits for me by the shower. But as soon as his fur gets wet, he seems to remember he doesn’t enjoy this very much, and spends the rest of the ordeal looking deeply, deeply betrayed. How could you hurt me like this. I trusted you.

I try to get bath time done when no one else is home because my one-sided conversation tends to go something like this –

“Relax, it’s just water. It’s water. You drink it. We’ve done this before. Calm down. Good boy. I know, I know. Now I’m just gonna NO COME BACK HERE. Stay. Stay. No. Stay. Okay, go over there, whatever works. Relax. Stop whining, I know that doesn’t hurt. You’ll thank me for this, I promise. Don’t lick the soap. Macs, do not – okay, fine, lick the soap. Come here. No, here. I need to – Macs, will you just…you couldn’t stay still a second ago, why will you not move? All right, nearly done. It’s still just water. It will not hurt you. Good boy. Don’t shake. Do not shake. Macs, no, don’t you dare – thank you. Thanks a lot. We’re done, get out. Don’t drip on the carpet”.

A friend suggested that he panics over bath time because, as far as he knows, the water could be dangerous this time. He’s had hundreds of baths, but this one might be the one that hurts him. He trusts me enough to get in the water, but he can’t relax until it’s over and he knows he’s all right.

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it makes sense. I can understand that, in a way. I’ve walked home from the train station thousands of times, but I’m always careful. I never quite relax until I’m safely home. I’m the same with driving – I’ve been driving for years without incident, but when I’m going new places I still get a little nervous. No matter how many outstanding results I got in exams and assessments, I was always terrified of the next one – maybe this one would be the one I failed.

it’s not so hard to believe that Macs might be the same. It would be a lot easier for my dog to put up a fight and make bath time too difficult to bother with every Sunday, but he doesn’t. He lets me herd him into the shower and make him smell pretty, as much as he dislikes it. He’s always a little scared, I think he knows he’ll be okay. With that in mind, a little nervous shaking and sad puppy eyes don’t seem so bad.

As usual, there’s a lot dogs can teach us. Sometimes things suck, but you’ll get through it. You’ve done it before, and you can do it again. You probably won’t enjoy, but you’ll come out the other side, and you’ll be better for it.

Macs can relax for another week, and I can go on knowing my dog still loves me. Tonight, at least, that’s all I really need.

The Hat is a Lie

May is upon us, which means I am officially graduating this month. After years of lectures and essays and telling myself that 2-minute ramen is totally and acceptable dinner, I am absolutely, definitely, really really graduating. I get to wear the gown and the hat and frame my fancy degree, and word has it the reception will have a cupcake tower. Sweet.

Graduating is pretty exciting in itself, but it’s especially exciting for me because I almost didn’t get there.

I started my degree as a psychology student. I was a pretty miserable psychology student. I liked what I was learning, it was interesting and I picked it up pretty easily, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I struggled with the decision to transfer my degree. I got it in my head that I couldn’t pull out now I’d started. I remember sobbing down the phone to my parents on their holiday in rural France, confused, a little scared and wishing someone would just make the decision for me.

When I finally – finally! – made the decision to transfer to Arts and study writing, I immediately knew it was the right choice for me. I got recognition of my completed units and managed to squeeze my new required subjects into two years. I had to reassign some of my courses to meet the university’s requirements for graduation, which they told me wouldn’t be a problem. It all went very smoothly.

Until it didn’t. When I applied for graduation, I was told that, because of my transfer, I didn’t qualify.

What followed was long weeks of terse inquiries and carefully worded emails, countless variations of ‘you said this was fine two years ago, please let me graduate’. Most of these were sent from Starbucks wifi networks as I hopped around Scandinavia, on what was supposed to be my post-uni celebration holiday. My case went before two faculty governing bodies and made it all the way to the academic senate before they finally agreed, months after the fact, that I was allowed to graduate.

By this time, all the April ceremonies, the ceremonies all my classmates were in, were full, which meant I wouldn’t be able to graduate with my friends. Instead, I got squeezed into a last minute ceremony at the end of May, with all the other leftovers that didn’t fit anywhere else. I could be bitter that someone else’s screw up meant I missed out on graduating with my friends, but but this stage, I’m just happy to be graduating at all.

So last week, after this seemingly interminable struggle to confirm my graduation, I logged in to hire my academic dress for the ceremony. After I’d grudgingly paid nearly $300 for the robes and fancy diploma for my future study wall (hey, we’ve just charged you thousands for your education, give us more money for robes you’ll wear for 40 minutes!) I read the fine print on my receipt.

“Throwing the hat is a breach of hire contract”.

I went through all of that, and now I don’t even get to throw the damn hat.

Well shi-