men & women, boys & girls.

my parents sent me to a private, all girls school. a common assumption made about young people in these instituations is that they don’t know how to interact normally with one another, and i’ve spent a good deal of time arguing against that fact, trying to find proof. complicating these matters is the other assumption that it increases a likelihood of homosexuality, and whilst the assumption itself sounds preposterous, the fact of my own sexuality is less clear.

i can’t escape the fact that i have a history of forming strong, healthy friendships with other girls, and none with boys. i care deeply about the opinions of other women, will go to the ends of the earth for another girl. that unspoken loyalty is something that i don’t offer to the boys i know. at times i’ve joked that i’m probably quite callous with men, as though they don’t have feelings, or aren’t quite human in the same way as us girls. i don’t feel safe in opening up in quite the same way to them, or allowing myself to be emotionally vulnerable around them. holding them at arm’s length feels like a defence mechanism. they have disappointed me in the past.

i am currently in a situation where i wonder if i have gone too far on this occasion, if i have been thoughtless in my treatment of a man and will now be tortured by my conscience. and yet, whilst this anxiety rages on, i can’t help but be aware that historically men have treated women in much the same way. ‘they don’t see us as human’, ‘they don’t take our feelings seriously’, ‘they don’t see us as worthy of friendship’. these are all valid criticisms of the way men have treated women for centuries and, in all honesty, still do in alarming numbers. in asking whether this makes me as bad as them, or if it’s a fair retaliation based on the way we’re all socialised, i’m aware that the dissertation i am struggling through carries the exact same ethical question. perhaps this is why i’m struggling with the dissertation. i can’t work out the right answer in my own life, and feel terrible that i have to ask the question in the first place.

my religious upbringing, whilst a source of adolescent repression and frustration with its teachings, inescapably drilled into me the importance of knowing right from wrong, being kind, all the usual saintly stuff. and i like to think i follow these principles – i think of myself as a kind person, or at least someone whose kindness is less conditional than that of others. and underneath all the turmoil i’ve laid out above, i know that i shouldn’t take one person as a stand-in for a whole gender. and yet i feel that i need to acknowledge how my treatment of others has been shaped by my how i myself have been treated in the past.

some people would say that once you know you’ve done wrong by someone, the good, kind thing to do is to resolve it as soon as possible, to own up to your failings before the situation snowballs and you hurt the other person even more. but i’m a coward, and perhaps i’m a little too at ease with being that person, that terrible person who continues to fuck someone over because it’s more comfortable than doing the right thing – ultimately, because i’m a girl and they’re a boy.

i’m judging myself even as i write. i think this may be good subject material for my art, but i ask myself, do i really want to wallow in that? because you do have to wallow, have to swim in that feeling and let it wash over you completely in order to externalise it creatively. or shall i do what i always do, and push it down, and deal with the repercussions as and when they come up?

one thing i’ve never called myself is strong. perhaps, by default, that makes me weak, but i’ve never called myself that either. maybe it’s okay to not feel fantastic about yourself. maybe i’ve been feeling like a good person for too long, and it’ll knock me down a peg or two, if i remember that i can actually be a bad person sometimes. isn’t everyone?

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