Friday, January 24, 2014

Sororities virtually visited, "guy friends" revisited UPDATED

If what you seek are my more polished ramblings, go here.

In the mean time, while I contend with various deadlines, I suggest you go and overanalyze this "Into The Gloss" post about being a recovering sorority girl, and graduating to the ITG aesthetic, which also involves a lot of Sephora, but is different in some profound way that would not, of course, be perceptible to an alien from another planet, and that's not all that perceptible to me, either, and I tend to be clued into such things. It appears that the shift is from conventional attractiveness by Texan adolescent standards to the equivalent for a New York adult. Why a fake tan is one, but bleached hair another, I can't say for sure. The difference might have something to do with eyebrows.

And yet! So many shiny photos of an especially gorgeous woman who can also write! And sorority Facebook photos - so fascinating! And the post - so much material to overanalyze! There's the fact that a post about hating one's "sisters" includes abundant photos of grinning alongside these women - do these women know their Facebook pics are being posted in this context?


The photos in question - and there are many! - have since had all faces but that of the author blurred out. Which, yes, seems about right. Not sure the law on that (privacy-settings and whatnot), but ethically, yeah, posting friends' photos on a major beauty blog in order to talk smack about them and their beauty routines is poor form.


And what's this? An unapologetic admission that the sorority look was ditched when a new boyfriend preferred something different? This, though, from a woman who admits - admits! - to having amazing hair. Which, hey, she does. And clever, too, how the usual links to products are snuck in there. The subliminal message is that Nars will make you look like the author, which I can sadly attest, it will not.

It's an unusual story these days, if nothing else. We're always hearing an "It Gets Better" narrative about kids bullied for qualities that will turn them into creative-class success stories as adults. So what's a grown-up popular kid to do? I guess the best bet would be to emphasize that despite all evidence to the contrary, one was miserable in the photos where one looks thrilled. Which is certainly possible. I was popular in middle school and more miserable than I would have been if I'd had the same number of friends but those friends hadn't been cool. But because I looked terrible at the time - or let's say out of deference to people who've no doubt grown up to be kind and lovely women - there will be no slideshow illustrating my middle school experience.

Or! You could read about the girlfriendzone. Girlfriendzoning, says Reddit via Jezebel, is when a man can only see a woman in romantic terms.

Which... gah! That is exactly how I was about boys from age, say, 10 to 15. I went to a girls school until I was 13, and had no idea how one went about having male friends. (The elusive guy friends.) There were so few boys around (a handful at Hebrew school and at dances) - and then, at 14-15, so few at my math and science high school who'd actually talk to girls - that I didn't know how to classify boys I liked to spend time with except as crushes.

Looking back, I wouldn't say I actually had crushes on most of these boys, but I was convinced that was what you had to call it when you hung out with a boy and had a nice time. I didn't know what to make of the additional spark that's there when you hang out with someone attractive of your preferred sex, and that's there whether or not this is someone you actually want something with romantically. It was all too overwhelming, socially and probably hormonally, so I boyfriendzoned the boys I wanted to be friends with, all the while not being at all emotionally grown up enough to have a boyfriend. Convenient, then, that no one was interested.

OK, not exactly. I was never angry when the boys I liked gave no indication of liking me back, or (as happened often enough) began dating one another. I never felt entitled to anything. There was no Nice Girl behavior on my part, if such a thing is even possible, given gender dynamics. But, thanks to the magic of single-sex education, it took me until 16 or so to see boys as friends. Which... maybe makes me more sympathetic to the non-entitled aspects of the men who girlfriendzone women. Some of it is Nice Guy and reprehensible, but some of it is also social awkwardness.


caryatis said...

Sorority life=suicide? Wow. And looks like there's only one photo of her new makeup routine. Not that I'm really interested--it's a bit jarring how the post starts out being about her whole social life and descends into just makeup.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

By way of context, Into The Gloss is a beauty blog. That was the only part of the post that made sense. I mean, the overall gist kind of did, in that there's a running theme in a lot of the post about women's transition from a more conventional/suburban/high-school 'pretty' look to something more high fashion, edgy, New York. (Or better yet: Frahnce.) The whole story about how one used to overtweeze one's eyebrows but has since learned better (as if fashion in this area isn't cyclical, and we won't all be looking at the Cara Delevigne look and wondering what *that* was about in a year or two) comes up every so often.

What was odd in this case was the meanspiritedness, especially pre-blurred-photos. But also - as some commenters there point out - that nothing has changed. This is the story of someone embracing one conventional ideal for another. It's not about abandoning the sorority aesthetic in favor of either a more individual style or a lower-maintenance approach.

But I'm being too critical. If listening to Hebrew rock music and quoting Seinfeld are what it takes to be hip in one's youth, I was far more alternative and interesting back in the day than I realized. All this time I'd thought those things indicated that I'm both Jewish and (at this point, given when Seinfeld aired) old.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Separating the social awkwardness and the entitlement into two components is smart and helpful. But in some ways, the entitlement lies in *not growing out of* the awkwardness.

Your middle-school behavior is perfectly normal and gender-neutral. A middle school boy exhibiting the same behavior should be forgiven as hapless. A 34-year-old man exhibiting that behavior is behaving like a middle-school boy because he can.

Refusing to grow up is most definitely entitlement.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

"Your middle-school behavior is perfectly normal"

Such kind words! Ones every former middle-schooler wants to hear.

Anyway, yes, I think you're right that there's something entitled about this sort of behavior among adults. Presumably a grown man will have worked with women, etc., and will have a default friendship relationship with women he meets socially. The default needs to be not casting every interaction as romantic.

There is a downside to this, though, which is a culture of it never being acceptable to see anyone as a potential romantic partner. A kind of professionalization of all settings, such that it's squicky to be hit on - however respectfully - in public, or by a friend of a friend (because friends!), or by a same-level colleague you hardly interact with, or even just someone in the same office building (because work), and so on. Which, in turn, drives people to online dating, where any pretense that people are there to make friends is just that, a pretense. And the basic social skill of figuring out when it is or is not OK to pursue something is potentially lost.