my entire life i was told that boys are violent but girls are worse because we’re “catty.” i was told that a catty girl was my enemy, that they used whip tongues in place of fists to start things i couldn’t erase of out my skin. i saw this cattiness wherever i was told it would live. it was in pretty girls with nice lipstick and it was in the girls who studied too much to ever come to the parties and it was in my own group of friends. when i came home crying about something, i was often reminded that girls are catty bitches and if we were boys we’d just punch each other and be done with it.
but it was boys who first started making fun of how i looked, of what mess my face was like, of the fat on my thighs. and it was girls who showed me how to apply makeup, patiently waiting with me in the bathroom mirror to show how not to cry while i applied it to the waterline. they agreed to go on diets with me even when they hated salad. they agreed to scoop buckets of ice cream into our bellies at midnight when i was upset about something minor.
it was boys who were snippy about my grades, it was a man who first said that because i was a girl i was bad at math and i’d stay that way. it was boys who started making fun of the one time i got a 34 on a math test when my mother had been in the hospital the night before. it was girls who held my hand during this, who stayed with me through hours of library studies, who explained over and over in gel pens and pretty handwriting exactly what i was missing. it was girls who taught me to color-code and to highlight and how to stay up all night, it was girls who cheered with me when i got nothing lower than a B.
it was a boy who taught my friend that she could talk down to me like i was trash. it was a boy who started drama between us. it was a boy who wouldn’t listen or talk it out or find a solution. he’d say angry hurtful things and expect us to listen. it was girls who fixed me after this. they taught me how to make good and positive friends. how to stay away from the girls who really are toxic ones. how to be proud of others and not competitive. how to give genuine compliments, how to accept them, how to be comfortable with who i am and what has happened.
i was told all my life that there was a “type” of girl to avoid. she was probably wearing ugg boots and shorts or drinking a latte or picking out lush products or doing literally anything that girls like to do for themselves, she was catty. girls are catty. when they fight, it’s a catfight. (we were many animals besides this. vixen. pig. fox. bitch. cow. mother hen. whale. but always, for some reason: feline and both sex kitten and dangerous weapon).
girls, i find, are defensive. we wear our hands up, waiting for the hit. girls who are sick of getting hit get “bitchy.” they are fierce, they take what they want, they’ll mess you up for saying the wrong thing about their friend. and girls, who are unwilling to simply take insults without lashing back with something: they’re catty. and when boys bully others and spread nasty gossip and start drama: well, they’re just boys. they’ll fight it out, or something.
how much i regret believing that girls weren’t my safety net. how many friends i was scared to make because i was intimated by them. so many loving people. out of fear of what? of a tongue someone else has tattooed on them?