Fire up those friendships

First published as ‘Happy Galentines Day Ladies’ in issue two of Cinders Magazine.

Cinders editor, Méabh McDonnell, explains her take on ‘Galentine’s day’ and the importance of celebrating female friendships and being seen as a woman in today’s society. 

“February 14th, Valentines day is about romance, but February 13th, Galentine’s Day, is about celebrating lady friends.” Those were the words of the great Leslie Knope, America’s most optimistic government worker and protagonist of the late, great, Parks and Recreation. I think that Galentine’s Day is a day to take note of the positive female relationships in your life and let those women know just how much they mean to you.

I truly believe that Galentine’s Day is something that we need.

We need a day to celebrate the other women in our lives, whether they are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our best friends, our cousins or our nieces; because we all have some positive female relationships in our lives and it feels so good to celebrate those.

How many of us have said, or thought, the words ‘I don’t really get along with other girls.’ or ‘I’m not really a girls-girl’ or the queen-bee of them all: ‘I’m not like other girls’. I’m willing to bet most of us have. I know I have. And it begs only one response: ‘What’s wrong with “other girls”?’

This is a foundation stone of feminism. How can we believe that women are equal with everyone else when as teens we spend our time trying to distance ourselves from one another?

I believe that this is a narrative created by young (mostly male) screenwriters who have descriptions of impossible ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girls’ who ‘aren’t like other girls’ and are ten a penny in their movies.

These are girls who typically: listen to the music the boy likes, don’t wear makeup unless the boy likes it, has an impossibly upbeat personality all of the time, and likes whatever obscure author/concept/movie that the boy likes. She is his dream woman. A complete fiction.

But every girl who goes to see this movie comes away with one single goal: to become the girl who is ‘not like other girls’.

Because we all want to be unique and memorable. And this male hero is telling us that completely distancing ourselves from other girls is the only way to do it.

Now everyone wants to be unique, to put their own stamp on life, that’s not a crime. In fact it’s a good thing, but why must we do it at the expense of other girls? Why can’t we all be awesome together?

There are more articles than I could count that talk about this phenomenon, but I’m not going to talk about them here. Instead I’m going to give you my teen perspective on it.

We need a day to celebrate the other women in our lives, whether they are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our best friends, our cousins or our nieces; because we all have some positive female relationships in our lives and it feels so good to celebrate those.

The reason I thought I ‘wasn’t like other girls’ was because as a teenager I had bad relationships with some girls who were my own age. Girls who jeered me, girls who made fun of me, girls who made me the butt of every joke they ‘whispered’ to their friends. These girls often seemed to be popular, were fashionable, had the right make up and spent – to my mind – most of their time talking about makeup, clothes and boys.

Let me point out – those were all things that I was interested in. I like makeup – but would be the first to say I don’t know much about it. I adore clothes and will frequently binge watch Project Runway, and talking about relationships and whether a boy liked me or not was one of my teen self’s absolute favourite past times. But when I would hear those girls talking about it, I felt like those things were no longer ‘mine’. How could they be when these girls who had made me feel so bad were clearly experts in them?

So I decided that I would be different. I wouldn’t be like these girls. I would be ‘different’. I made a point of it too. I once wore a pair of dungarees (which really weren’t in fashion at the time) to a non-uniform day simply to show just how much ‘I was not like other girls’, and to show how much I didn’t care what anyone else thought of me. Which is complete rubbish. Of course I cared. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have selected it so carefully. I was so determined to be seen as ‘unlike other girls’ that I was making elaborate statements about it.

Which is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because most of the positive relationships in my life were and are with women. I used to say because I have two brothers and no sisters that I understood boys better than girls. But looking back through my life my closest friends have almost always been women. I have had many male friends but the women out-number them, no question.

My problems at the time were with me. With figuring out where I fit in the world. And I decided that it was better be ‘unlike other girls’ than celebrate my friendships with them. That was something I had to work through by realising the many incredible women who surround me, I was able to.

Both then and now, the people who had some of the most positive influences on me are women. From teachers, to friends to my mother who is definitely the most positive female relationship in my life – I mean, we’re not Lorelai and Rory Gilmore – but no one gets me like my mother does.

While that may not be true for every girl, I do believe that the women in our lives shape us positively. I’m not saying that every woman that we meet is going to be someone that we will like, but that’s true of men too, so why feel the need to say that we’re ‘not like other girls’?

Even when I think back to the girls of my childhood who I ‘didn’t want to be like’, for each of them there were older girls, cousins and teachers and aunts, women who I desperately wanted to be like, women I admired and confided in. Women who took the time to talk to me and inspire me.

And I wish there had been a day where I could tell them just how much I wanted to be like them. A day when I could tell them that I do want to be like other girls. A day where we celebrate our friendships and each other. That’s why I believe Galentine’s day is something we need.

How many of us have let our female friendships slide because we were feeling competitive; because we were more interested in our romantic relationships; or just because we didn’t make the time to see each other? I know I’ve done it myself more times than I’m proud of, but that’s why I believe that Galentine’s Day is so very necessary. I’m lucky to know so many incredible women, from my mother, to my aunts, my cousins to the fantastic people who work on Cinders and my very good friends.

So I’m taking this as an opportunity to say to all of you fantastic women in my life: happy Galentine’s day ladies.

I love you.

-By Méabh McDonnell

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