Why I can’t keep a girlfriend.

Women are weird.

That’s been my big revelation over the week. The shower is over and I was the “odd girl out,” what with being the only person there not married, getting married, or pregnant…I kept running into the other room, slamming the door and chanting:

I don’t want babies. I don’t want to get pregnant.
I don’t want babies. I don’t want to get pregnant.

Those women were trying to trick my ovaries. I could feel them tugging with every baby picture or flash of diamond. There’s something about showers that makes the single girl look like Pippi Longstocking. “Oh, she just doesn’t understand, that poor girl.”

The conversation was about people I didn’t know, things I hadn’t experienced, and babies that weren’t mine. Not that I wasn’t interested, but I just didn’t know how to react. Everyone would laugh at the secret girl joke. Damn, I never paid my dues to that club.

Then I’m in a bar the other night and I walk into the bathroom to see one girl on her hands and knees talking to the other girl in the stall. They are talking to each other about how long it’s taking the one girl to pee, while the other is screeching, “You saw my panties! You saw my panties!”

Then the rest of their friends come into the bathroom and start talking about whether or not one should wear her shirt tucked in (prude) or out (slutty). They decide that the point is moot anyway, because she’s spilled ketchup on herself and she’s just gonna look like a slob no matter how she does it.

Then my new issue of Bust came in the mail. The “Girlfriends Issue.” In it, they discuss the many reasons that no guy could ever take the place of a good woman in your life. I was groaning before I opened the page.

I’ve never kept a girlfriend. Ever. They always leave. They stop calling, they accuse me of things I didn’t do. They all break my heart.

I’ve moved around a lot growing up and I never had a solid group of friends. I never had “girlfriends” growing up for very long because I’d leave eventually, and we always lost touch. But the friends I’ve stayed in contact with over the years? All boys. The boys always seem to call me or write me or ask how my family is doing. The girls? Well, many of them went on to date whoever it was I was dating before I moved, or they thought that I was really trying to date their boyfriend, or they listened to some gossip that told them I was lying about something.

I’ve never had that kind of treatment from a boy. I’ve never had to say, “And you believed her?” after a three month cold shoulder. Because they ask me right away instead of it festering.

I’ve always marveled at how men relate to each other. A bunch of men who have never met before will get together on a basketball court and play full contact ball. They have no idea what the other person’s history is or if they are fair or a good player, but they all play together, patting each other on the ass after a good play, arguing over fouls, but generally getting along.

Try putting a bunch of strange women together someplace. Take the doctor’s office, the bus, a store. Do we instantly bond? No. We stay to ourselves. We don’t want to bother anyone, and if someone starts talking to us, we wonder what this “crazy woman” wants. We aren’t open from the beginning. We let people in gradually, because we are concerned about getting hurt. I wish women had that openness men have, because then maybe I’d understand them more. I’d understand that need to share each other’s thoughts in a bathroom stall. I’d know why women whisper at each other and stare at me if I’m talking to a “male” friend.

When I was a kid, my best friends were always boys and it was never a problem until I was eight, and my best friend Dale used to come over after school to go swimming with me. My mom freaked out that we were home alone in our swim suits. I never thought of Dale in any other way than just a friend, and it had never occurred to me that he could be a boyfriend, because I wasn’t thinking about boys in that way. But then we started getting teased by students and teachers and parents that we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and we got so mad at the label that we drifted apart…confession: I drifted away. I was embarrassed. I just wanted my friend back and now I had all these rules and we weren’t supposed to hang out together if no one was home and it was only because he was a boy. I’m sorry, Dale Freeman, wherever you are.

I’ve never considered myself a threat to other women, but I’ve often been treated as such. Being “one of the guys” my whole life has made things very interesting. I am always included in “guy talk,” but for a while that made me “like a girl,” but not quite. I could never get the object of my crush to stop looking at the cheerleader and see that the girl giving him so much advice was totally in love with him for who he was and was female to boot.

As I got older, being “one of the guys” meant that women didn’t trust me. Would I tell the guys what they talked about? Was I a spy? Or the very worst– was I actually just trying to steal their men? All three ridiculous notions, but things I have been told as I ask another woman who used to be my friend why she doesn’t call anymore.

I’ve also noticed that being a “cool chick” to guys makes you a weak link in girl cliques. They have tighter bonds because they are united in trying to understand men, and since I hang out with men regularly, I was usually the last asked to tag along to shop or see a film. I missed out on pining for men with women and consoling over Chocolate Chocolate Chip. Don’t think I don’t miss the friendship of a woman, but I resent the fact that women seem to think that a man could never be the best friend in your life. My closest, closest friends my entire life have been men.

I once had a man tell me that every man that I think is my friend is just telling me what I want to hear to get me into bed. The whole “When Harry Met Sally” thing. I rolled my eyes to that (but inside become terribly paranoid that I’m fooling myself about everything, everything, everything) and told the guy that at the time no one had broken my hymen yet, and I wasn’t doing anything to make them think that by watching MTV on the phone with me late at night was the best way to between my legs.

But I guess that’s it, isn’t it? Trust. Who do we trust to be our “Best Friend.” The title passed around so often when we were younger, with some girls wearing three necklaces that said “Be Fri” or “Est Ends” and nineteen beaded saftey pins on her shoelace. But as we get older, the name becomes more sacred, and we start looking at the Best Friend in a very Survival of the Fittest sort of way. We start testing each other. We start trying to figure out what she really meant when she said that thing about our hair. We get paranoid.

Because we are afraid of getting hurt. And with a male best friend, who may even be your boyfriend, those stakes are incredibly high. It’s safer to have a girl as your best friend. But it sure is a blast to have a guy.

Sure, it’s been harder having boys for best friends because inevitably they have guy friends who don’t want a girl hanging around on some nights, and you get shuffled to the guys’ girlfriends, who you don’t know very well and have nothing in common with and you look like Wednesday Addams to them, but it’s always been worth it. I don’t have to wait six days to call a boy, and if he calls me on Thursday to see if I want to do something on Saturday, you bet your ass I’m going. Fuck the Rules. I am my own girl…
But seriously, if someone could explain women to me, I’d really appreciate it. I’d just like to feel good about myself after a conversation with a bunch of women. Why do they like “Ally McBeal?” What’s the big deal about Matt Damon? Why do they want to know about my yeast infections? Why do they talk to me when I’m peeing? Why do they stare? Why do they stare?

“I know.”

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  1. dale freeman

    december 29 2014
    as i sometimes throw my own little personal pity party when thnings just arent going my way i like to look for child hood friends that helped to shape me into the person i have become. pam you being the first to come to mind when i think about this topic. you dont owe me an apology. we were just kids but to say i didnt have feelings for you would be a lie. i was crushed to find out you were gone the following summer. i want to say that im happy for your success. keep your knees toward the wind and your back to the sun old friend

    1. Carol ckword2art

      I, too, am a person who looks back into my past relationships for touchstones that reconnect me to who I was and still want to be today, when things are difficult and complicated in my life right now. As a girl who had deep friendships with guys through out my life and felt like an alien when trying to relate to standard girl types , I can so relate to this post by Pamie honoring her friendship with Dale and the sorrow for the loss when interpretations altered it.. But I am most touched by the fact that you, Dale, remembered, came out of the past and honored the friendship and were honest about your feelings for her then. That you could find her and her words about you online and send her warm wishes is a gift, that you chose to do it is a gift. I hope that life treats you well. I think you are good people.