If you were to craft a syllabus introducing someone to the art of being a "girl," it would probably resemble the weekend I just survived.
I say survived because at various points I found my sanity wavering. Don't get me wrong--under normal circumstances I love being a chick. Even more so, I love being a chicky chick. I wear skirts more than pants, paint my nails Bubblicious pink, bake brownies better than yo' momma's (the secret is to add choco-chunks and let 'em cool till they're firm) and have amassed quite a collection of DVDs and books that are decidedly rom-com in nature.
But my idea of being a chicky chick, I think, differs vastly from most. Most girls, I'm sure, would be thrilled to experience my weekend. A bridal shower! A bachelorette party! And--count 'em--two screenings of the Sex and the City movie!
It's not that these events were all-around vile. The shower and party and, well, both SATC viewings were in honor of my much-loved big sister, and I'd do anything to make her smile. She and I are very similar (opinionated balls of silly, anxiety-ridden energy), but we're also polar opposites--she's a prep who wears pearls and is marrying a clean-cut, golf-playing real estate sweetheart; I'm the freewheeling middle kid who drags her sis to concerts by bands she's never heard of.
But I love my sister, so I participated in what I came to call Estrogen Fest '08, a sort of boot camp in female standards and cultural consumption and behaviors.
Lemme give you the rundown.
It started Friday when we joined the rest of the country's femme population at a Sex and the City: The Movie premiere. Unlike most women with half a brain, though, we were suckered into some marketing scheme that promised cosmos, nibbles, massages, gift bags, prime seats and other goodies for the low (low?) price of $45.
Of course it was impossible to push within 10 feet of the bar, the promised meal was barely there (defrosted filo-wrapped something-or-others that passed on trays once every half-hour), the gift bags ran out after the first handful and the massages looked more stressful than stress-reducing. The crowds were rowdy and antagonistic; women were yelling, pushing and sulking in their Carrie Bradshaw-sanctioned heels and cocktail dresses. I felt a pariah in flats, glasses and no makeup. Was this sisterhood? Bickering and feeling swindled in shoes that pinch?
The Sex and the City movie was depressing too. While the TV show certainly wasn't the most liberating thing ever in terms of its politics, it was entertaining. A bit o' glittery fluff for the half-hour before bed, a fashion-forward fantasy and parade of the seven most deadly and glamorous sins. The movie's entertainment factor, though, was often eclipsed by the fact that its cultural implications are so anti-liberating. The movie's takeaway message is this: Take him back even if he's an asshole and, like, jilted you on your wedding day or had an affair, 'cause it was probably your fault he screwed you over anyway, what with your frigidness and narcissism (i.e., you're too stressed to have sex, and you have standards for your desires).
We're supposed to be glad when (spoiler alert) Carrie and Big get back together--again!--after he stranded her in a white gown and left her in a depressive state for almost a year, and when Miranda lets Steve back into her life after he shtupped another woman.
Sorry, no can do.
There's a time and place for forgiveness, but those are pretty unforgivable acts, fictional or otherwise.
The sadder part? Most of the women in the theater cheered at these reunions (nonfiction). Is this sisterhood? Bonding over a movie that degrades the role of self-respect in romance?
Saturday was the bridal shower, a training course in married bliss. Over tea and crustless cucumber sandwiches we watched as my sister tore into daintily wrapped packages--mixing bowls! a silver serving spoon! baking sheets! a blender! a silk nightie!
My sister never cooks, and (like any sane girl) she prefers comfort to feigned sensuality. But it seems that time is over. She'll be a wife soon. Better shape up. Is this sisterhood? Initiating a girl into the cult of domesticity? Prescribing married life as one bound to the kitchen and, to please her man, the bedroom?
Saturday night was the bachelorette party, a celebration of girl power and friendship and getting absolutely smashed on random guys' dime.
The party was relatively tame: a lovely dinner followed by a bar tour. The bars were far removed from my divey comfort zone--which meant pricey bottle service, one striped polo shirt per every third dude, grabby grinding, male aggression requiring bouncer intervention, a DJ who must've played "In da Club" three times in one hour--but the company of friends and family-to-be made the scene palatable, even enjoyable.
But on the walk back to the hotel some passing douchetard ruined it all when he high-fived (i.e., slapped) my left breast. He didn't even slow down when I verbally attacked him, every synapse firing obscenities at such a disgusting, deplorable violation of my right to be walking down the street, my right to be a woman in public.
Seriously, what kind of guy sexually harasses--no! assaults--a woman in such a public forum in front of all his friends and hers? A guy, I guess, who thinks he can get away with it. Because he did. Get away with it. No one stopped. No one cared. No one, besides me, was outraged, shaking with righteous indignation. That's just what happens, the crowd's nonchalance implied.