friends and freeing influences
talking to someone ive gotten to know in recent times has been a singularly life-changing experience. after another evening of absorbing conversation and friendly banter, i was just thinking that something felt different in the way i relate to him (as opposed to my interactions with everyone else). as i drove home, i was musing on why it was so. when i did spot what had changed, it took my breath away.
you see, i have always been an asexual being : non-male, non-female. but now, its the first time in my life that im learning to interact with a man, and allowing my femaleness to exist. you could say that it has been my standard procedure to remove the element of my being female from the arena of interaction. ive always made a very deliberate effort to be perceived as "one of the guys" - i'm sure i dont have to explain that the kind of acceptance that a woman gets like that is very different from when she is first perceived as being a woman.
through school and college from the colours of my clothes to my speech and mannerisms, ive always been uncomfortable with anything that would overtly mark me as "female". without ever really analysing it (criminal of me!), ive subconsciously given men around me to understand that they neednt treat me as a woman. i used to send cues that said "please feel free to discuss gaming and gears, to lounge in faded t shirts, to not open doors for me, to not put on your "posh restaurant" voice for me". it was a not-too-consciously learnt impulse.
as a schoolgirl who was never very interested in mainstream music, bestsellers, movies, love or relationships in addition to being interested in the political, my ability to make small talk with girls who were brought up in the usual, traditionally cramping way was very limited. (though i daresay being a tomboy is just as much a stereotype in its way!) it was never a question of intelligence though, because quite a few of them were toppers and pretty common-sensical. though much better now, i can still feel lost with certain women - for instance ones who are passionate mainly about fashion. thats when i look around for the two girls are who are my best buddies *
but since of the whole class, there were only these few specimens, i figured i wasnt really cut out for the "proper" girl stuff. plus on the other hand, there were the experiences of being able to listen raptly when dad talked about engines, forgetting time when grandad and i decided to do some handiwork at home (i still love pliers!), having absolutely brilliant memories of childhood from time spent with cousins, all of whom were male excepting my sister and myself.
so you see, i thought that for political conversation i would have to turn mostly to men and that the M.s and D.s were in the minority of women. the trouble with talking to men is that many of 'em clam up if they notice you're Female. many's the time when ive come away feeling cheated because the whole conversation was perfectly mundane when i could listen, but awesome when it was a "guys only" thing. i didnt (and dont) really see why discussing machines, logic, capitalism, economics, literary critiques or art should be impossible in the presence of a woman, but if that was so, i would be non-woman because i was dying for company to toss ideas with. (it went against the grain to try to imitate male behaviour because heck, i felt proud to be a woman.)
and then after the blog, i discovered that guys who started talking to me often either explicitly or implicitly expressed their surprise that a woman could have such strong views and produce some reasoning (how valid or invalid wasnt the question) for having them as well. i know by now that theres nothing exceptional about it; i know several highly intelligent women who are better informed and more well-read. (however we started out in school, we've grown up, thanks very much!) this friend never once expressed surprise at my knowledge or regarded my ignorance as a gender-based given. (S., you too are awesome in this regard!)
i've also often been grilled in psuedo-scientific spirit about my views, feminism and what feminism's take on something would be, what being brown-skinned means to me, about the issues i raise here, etc. and many times, the questioning takes on an interrogative tone: i seem to be expected to apologise for my existence and for having ever voiced any views! again, i've enjoyed hours of really nice, genuinely open-minded discussions with this friend.
i find that it's a freeing influence on our friendship and on us individually that he's so refreshingly non-stereotyped. that he does not suffer from a compulsive need to be the Macho Male. (he's about the only guy i know who *giggles*. and calls it so himself. that should tell you an awful lot! :D)
it's lovely to spend time with someone who isn't assessing you like you're a prize cucumber, who doesn't suffer from a programmed impulse to flirt with you or put you down because you're female, who can attack your reasoning with total detachment and judge you as a person, not as a gender role being played out. i find it awesome to have the freedom to be able to just say anything i think, no baggage attached. it's a great big gulp of fresh air!
i daresay there are many more folks like my friend out there : i've a handful of very good male friends like him, though sadly i've not met all of them as yet. may your tribe increase! - its been terrific knowing you :)
feminist issues, my life