I did a tiny fist pump to celebrate International Women's Day this year, and thought of all my female friends, and even posted photos of many of the women in my life, past and present, here on this blog. But what about the men? I like men. I really do. I like male company. I think I always have. I was never overly girly, possibly because my mother dressed me like this...
Anyway. So I wanted to be with them.
Run with them.
Play with them.
Beat them. (at sport, not like, abuse them)
Hang out with them.
Talk to them.
Oh, and kiss them.
I was a bit of a tomboy when I was young. It was a running joke in my family that I may have to be knocked out and sent to surgery to remove my Levi jeans, Dunlop Volleys, and Golden Breed Tshirts/Hawaiian shirts if ever the need for a pretty dress and shiny shoes arose. It almost happened once, but at the last minute I was bribed, probably with new Adidas runners and a tracksuit jacket, to conform. I loathed every minute I spent in a full length lime green bridesmaid's dress, big floppy hat and white shoes at my sister's wedding.
Yeah, that's me on the left of the pic, wishing I was at home on my skateboard, or shooting goals, or in the pool, or anywhere but there wearing lime green (this shady photo doesn't do it justice, it was vivid, trust me).
I had a dad, a brother, and by the time I was 16 I also had 2 brothers-in-law and 4 nephews. I liked hanging out with the boys at school, although I didn't do it as often as I would have liked. They were active. Cricket, tennis, football... they were always doing something, while most of the girls ate icecream, giggled, gossiped, argued and sniped. I rebelled now and then. I would leave the girls occasionally to go and kick the football, have a swing with a cricket bat, throw balls around, or give a boy a Chinese burn. That means you like him. And of course, there was Kiss Chasey.
I seemed to find a balance; I was reasonably popular with both girls and boys alike. I was both smart and sporty. Whenever the dreaded old 'picking of teams' for games and sports happened, I was never picked last, not even by the boys. I could run fast, catch and throw, hit and score, so I was always right up there in the top picks. I was never left out. (Some might say this is why I never enter my blog into popularity-vote competitions; I don't need the validation. Or I wouldn't be able to handle rejection. Moving on...)
In my teens it was the same. Although I finally appreciated dressing like a girl when necessary and did have a lot of girlfriends (a couple of whom are still close to me 35 years later), I still enjoyed hanging out with the guys, being the only girl in my group game enough to go out on the oval at lunchtime to kick the footy around with them. On the whole they were good to me, I made some good friends amongst them, and I always found it easy to talk to them; sometimes even easier than talking to my female besties. No judgement, y'know? They didn't care if I didn't wear twelve layers of make-up, but did care that I found this cool new band called INXS and I knew all the footy results from the weekend. Though I liked them less when I wore strappy tops in summer and they would sit behind me in class, drawing all over my back.
(and yes, okay, let's all take a moment to laugh at the big white glasses. hey, it was the 80s. And 90s. I was cool)
During my working years, I would regularly look around at the group gathered at the pub after a long day, and find myself the only girl there. I hung out with the guys at lunch. We went to nightclubs and parties together on weekends. When I look back at all the different people I worked with, the names which pop up in my mind quite strongly are mostly blokes; Jimmy, Wally, Donkey, Robbo, Hammo, Nifty (their real names are protected, you never know who reads your blog)... and of course, my Husband (yes, how cliched, we met at work). Don't get me wrong, I didn't ignore the women, and one I worked with 25 years ago is still one of my closest friends today. But I like her husband too. It helps.
Outside of work, I had an enormous group of friends, with probably a 50/50 mix of male/female. Some couples, some single. For ten years I played junior tennis at a club which had loads of boy's teams with whom I hung out often, and then played in a mixed adult team for another seven years. I played mixed netball for six years. I always had just as many blokes around me as I had women. I loved it. (of course, I now blame those men for my drinking... and my farting)
When I had kids of my own... wow, women everywhere. Mother's group, playgroup, kindy... not too many dads to be seen at first, much to my disappointment. Then there was one... and then another... and eventually, by the time both kids were at school, yee-haw, some blokes in the schoolyard. I loved some of the women I made friends with in those days (RIP Sue & Helen), and still do, but having men around was fantastic too. Surely you've noticed women don't bitch and gossip like fire-breathing dragons when Little Jeremy's Dad comes over and joins in the convo?
I totally gravitated towards both the male teachers and the dads whenever I could, because for me, it was just easy. The mums were much harder work. There were some out-n-out bitches. Snobs. Cliques. I once caught out one of the nasties who had been bitching about me and rolling her eyes whenever I spoke (at a child's birthday party for fuck's sake), and later had a go at her. When a group of us got together for lunch the next day (without the nasty one), I walked in to a chorus of "Hey, just turn around so we can pull the knife out of your back." Much laughter and champers ensued, thankfully. They were a good bunch, luckily, and I might just add, so were their husbands. We loved getting together as families, or as couples, not just the girls. The men added to the experiences we had together.
I once had a Twitter convo with a stay-at-home Dad about this subject. He had written a hilarious blogpost about the 'mummy' groups at his school (I think Alpha, Snobby, Yummy, Scummy & Slummy may have featured strongly) and that they didn't talk to him much, didn't laugh at his jokes and possibly thought him a bit odd. I told him my story, of the bitchiness I found when just women get together too often, the need I felt to not just befriend the mums but the dads too. I told him I preferred talking to men than bitchy women in the schoolyard any day, promised him that I found him funny, and if we'd been at the same school, I would have been the one mum gravitating towards him, hanging with him, laughing at his jokes, cracking my own, and maybe even inviting him round for a coffee. I then lamented the fact that I didn't think this behaviour allowed me to slot into any of his 'mummy' categories, so I asked "what would that make me?"
His answer? "Wife number three."
While I was pissing myself laughing at his response, a woman I didn't even really know also replied to my public question of "what would that make me?"
She said "a suck-up".
I thanked her for proving my point about bitchiness.
I do love my female friends, could NOT live without them, but from as far back as... forever... I have loved male friends too. I need them both in my life. Even if I have to leave the women and go stand at the barbecue with a beer in my hand to be included, I'll do it.
I draw the line at scratching my balls though.
I am still a little bit of a girl.
Even in a Devo hat.