Thursday, 27 May 2010

Cheap Beer With the Dudes

Update: A great review (and the first UK review) from Cath. Thank you, Cath!

For Searching Single girls. If you are a Serious Single, you can simply read with amusement, have a good chortle and enjoy your freedom.

One of my favourite TV shows in the UK is "Ladette to Lady". It is a reality show featuring a dozen or so contestants who are willing to go to an English finishing school and try to kick their unladylike ways. It's unbelievably exploitative of its volatile young contestants, mind you.

For example, in the series with Australian girls (who were arrested upon landing in England because of their hijinks on the plane), the headmistress announces to the girls that they will be having a party and the male guests will be staying overnight. The ex-stripper, no dummy, bursts into tears. She knows its a trap, and a pretty foul one, too. And sure enough, the craziest girl in the group ends up in bed with one of the boys. But it is the tomboy who gets expelled.

The tomboy is a pipefitter, used to hanging out with men all the time. She's about 27, and looks ten years older. Laying pipe in the Australian outback doesn't do much for your complexion, I guess. She comes onto the show in the hopes of getting in touch with her feminine side, but living and working with a bunch of sexy party girls gets old fast.

So when the male guests retire to their rooms for some clandestine drinking, the tomboy joins them. Disaster ensues when she is found by a teacher, drunk, hiding under a bed. It's tragic, really. The woman just wanted to go back to being one of the boys.

My question, which I can't answer yet, is how can you be both one of the boys AND be a creature unlike any other (as commands Ellen Fein's first Rule in The Rules)? How do you preserve any mystery?

"Do you paint your husband's toenails that colour?" asked a male Pillar of my Parish. I looked down at my bright pink toenails and remembered hearing that pedicures are Not Done by ladies (as opposed to ladettes) here in Scotland.

"He has never been drunk enough to let me try," I loftily replied.

But I find it interesting that the Pillar noticed my toes in the first place, my toes that proclaimed "girl toes" just by being painted. Simone de Beauvoir says that a girl is made, not born, a woman, and Susan Brownmiller opines that femininity is not natural but a social construct. But I think that femininity is incredibly useful for underscoring one's own essential, and attractive, distance from men.

I was in Rosslyn Chapel on Tuesday, and among the carvings of biblical scenes, angels, flowers and green men, there is a stone ribbon proclaiming (in Latin) that drink is strong, the king is stronger, woman is stronger still and truth is the strongest of all. I forget now in which biblical story these statements were made, but I enjoyed contemplating FORTIOR MULIERIS because it reminds me of a flattering truth.

Women have a lot of power over men. I tend to forget this. Heck, we all forget it. We've heard since childhood of how unfair the world is to women, and we are constantly told that men make more money than us, and blah blah blah. Men are the strong sex, the powerful sex, the attractive (to us) sex. So unless we are the kind of women whom men have been flopping in front of all of our lives, we forget that as far as men are concerned, we are the strong, the powerful, the attractive sex.

So how to tap into this? Feminine difference, I believe. Feminine distance. Why should we pluck our eyebrows? (Which I hate to do, shudder shudder.) To create pleasing frames for our eyes? Yes. But also because men usually don't. Why should we wear mascara? To make even better frames for our eyes? Yes. But also because men don't.

This does not have to extend to profession. There are both feminine biochemists and macho nurses. Profession has nothing to do with this. And there are girls who can look as fantastically feminine fixing up their cars as they do mixing up a cake. It's about les petits soins. It's about attitude. It's about not being just one of the boys.

15 comments:

healthily sanguine said...

OH SPOT ON!!!!!!!!! Well done! I love this post and I am probably in danger of becoming an obnoxious Seraphic cheerleader but you know--why do girls become cheerleaders? Because men don't! ;) Now that I'm in a relationship, I still find this little urge in me to repress what I want to do in terms of being girly. It's not a strong urge, but it comes out every now and then in things like, "Oh, I shouldn't praise him too much for this or that, because that puts me in a position of weakness and subservience." I don't articulate it this way at all, but rather it's a feeling that feels like "ohehh?" When I think about it later, though, I wish I could have given myself the permission to do the girliest thing I could! It sounds absolutely nuts for a well-educated, professional woman to say, but it's true! And I am pleased to report that yesterday I got a manicure and pedicure because my boyfriend is graduating from law school this weekend!! :D Yay for being a girl.

PS Yes I know you can take it too far, but I think if you've got a good strong faith and good self-esteem to go along with that, you probably won't.

healthily sanguine said...

Oh, another thing is if you're more of a "tomboy" lady I think what happens is you get alienated by the extremes of girly excesses that some do go to, so I'd say find your own way of being excellently feminine and don't feel constrained to follow anyone's model. At the same time, you have to make a concerted effort NOT to be one of the boys; that would be incorrect, since you are not a boy at all, but a girl. :)

healthily sanguine said...

And I hate to pluck my eyebrows too! So I get them waxed. Ok ok sorry, I am done . . . just loved this post too much to stop commenting!!

theobromophile said...

Wonderful post. :) Those of us who are comfortable around men - sometimes more than women - thank you for it. :)

And there are girls who can look as fantastically feminine fixing up their cars as they do mixing up a cake. It's about les petits soins. It's about attitude. It's about not being just one of the boys.

Ohhh... how?! Even if I try to be neat (and I'm getting to be pretty good at it), I always wind up with grease and oil underneath my fingernails during car repair. An hour after I'm done, my hands are clean (or covered in pink nail polish!) again, but I cannot manage the looking feminine while crawling around under my car thing, no matter how many cues I try to take from Janet Evanovich's "Metro Girl".

Alisha said...

"How can you be both one of the boys AND be a creature unlike any other? How do you preserve any mystery?"

I'd like to take a crack at this :) The a) of each suggestion is how to be "one of the boys" and the b) is how to retain mystery.

1. a) Know how to banter, exchange jokes, etc.
b) Know how to step out of the banter when it gets too crude or lowbrow...and do it as wittily as possible.
I usually say something like "Just when I thought it couldn't get any classier...my cue to leave, gentlemen" (Yes, I address them as gentlemen, even if they haven't been - it reminds them what they SHOULD be living up to)

2. a) Be straightforward and clear in your speech: say what you mean and mean what you say.
No one likes head games, but in general men are less likely to know that they are being played or know how to figure them out. If you want reassurance instead of a direct answer don't ask a direct question (i.e. does this make me look fat?), but say "I'm not feeling very confident about this; can you help me out?")

b) Don't reveal what doesn't need to be revealed. When you must speak, be candid but realize when it is wise or you have the right to keep things to yourself for the sake of your heart, or simply because it is a private thing between you and God. Listen to the Holy Spirit when it comes to choosing your confidantes...

3. a) Be strong in whatever ways you can, whether intellectually, physically, emotionally. Men respect strength. This ensures, I think, for those Searching Singles, that the men who seek you out aren't doing so out of the instinct just to rescue you but rather because they can actually bring something to the table and recognize that you can as well.

b) Be humble...humility is just knowing the truth about yourself and there is, as was said, nothing stronger than the truth and nothing more attractive than someone who is doing their best to live in the truth...there's both a clarity and a hiddeness.
The best example of this is Mary...what is stronger than suffering with your Son at His Cross and what is more humble than her Yes which changed history?

theobromophile said...

And I am pleased to report that yesterday I got a manicure and pedicure because my boyfriend is graduating from law school this weekend!!

Healthy Sanguine: CONGRATULATIONS to your boyfriend!!

For me, graduating from law school - that day I received my JD and my doctoral hood - was one of the highlights of my adult life. That my entire family came was wonderful; that they all dressed to the nines was incredibly sweet.

So let me be the first to say: manicures and pedicures to celebrate a JD are definitely in order!

Also, as someone who has studied for and sat for two bar exams, let me also offer this: from now until the last Wednesday in July, your boyfriend's life will be really, really rough. Pamper him as much as he'll take, and pamper yourself to help you get through it, too. If the urge to be a total girl strikes, and you really just want to bring him a lasagna, go for it.

(By the way, I went to law school somewhere near where you live, if you're in Daily Grind area.)

MargoB said...

Ooooohhh, Alisha - *good* points!

sciencegirl said...

You will get dirty working on a car & will get oil under the nails, but it is *always* possible to be feminine. The classic uniform of the charmingly girly autoworker is: kerchief to protect hair that is tied back, preferably in two braids. I know this because Betty wears it to fix Archie's car, and it has been imitated since in print & film by several actresses. Male autoworkers typically wear dirty caps or work with no care for their hair. If men wear kerchiefs at all, they are the classic paisley in red or blue, or are blazoned with a flag: US, Confederate, or Texas. If your hair is so long that the braids would get in the way, just go with one braid, maybe looped under if very long. Safety first! If your hair is short, grab a pink kerchief or a patterned one. $1 at Michael's will get you all the femininity you need for your auto projects.

To clean your hands, there's a great orange/pumice mix for autoworkers. Use it without water to get the grease to come off; it works amazingly well. Rub on some cuticle treatment afterward and you'll be feeling like a real lady in no time.

http://www.thefind.com/beauty/browse-permatex-fast-orange-hand-cleaner

Science can be messy too, but Sciencegirl is always rocking the girly charm no matter how much soil and ticks she gets!

Madame Lefty said...

For the record, Alisha's comment was amazing.

I'm definitely taking a cue from her and using that line when I run across male friends who run into crass territory.

Seraphic said...

For once I wholeheartedly endorse Alisha's advice and give it my primi postest.

Just a caution about the word "strong". Think Steel Magnolias, not Hilary Clinton having a hissy fit. Thanks.

theobromophile said...

The classic uniform of the charmingly girly autoworker is: kerchief to protect hair that is tied back, preferably in two braids. I know this because Betty wears it to fix Archie's car, and it has been imitated since in print & film by several actresses. Male autoworkers typically wear dirty caps or work with no care for their hair. If men wear kerchiefs at all, they are the classic paisley in red or blue, or are blazoned with a flag: US, Confederate, or Texas. If your hair is so long that the braids would get in the way, just go with one braid, maybe looped under if very long. Safety first!

Thanks, ScienceGirl. My hair is rather long (to my waist), so I usually put it up in a bun.

Thank you as well for the orange/pumice suggestion: I usually just end up spending 20 minutes scrubbing my hands and using a nail brush to get the gunk out. Also, as you probably know, some of the oils tend to really kill nails, so mine end up cracking and ripping off afterward.

some guy on the street said...

please forgive my masculine intrusion, but *I* mix up cakes: it's a perfectly manly thing to do! Give me the right hat, and I'll look positively smashing as I mix the cake, too!

Alisha said...

Thanks everyone...and for the endorsement Seraphic..."for once"?! Do you usually wholeheartedly disagree? ;)

MargoB said...

some guy on the street: you're hilarious! How about a homburg? A fedora?

healthily sanguine said...

Thanks theobromophile for the feedback and advice! I will do my best to pamper him--have a recipe for chocolate chocolate-chip muffins from Nigella Lawson up my sleeve to try, only I'm going to add BACON! :D

some guy, just to be obnoxious, I hope you aren't wearing any hat but a chef's hat indoors to make your cake! A gentleman may bake, but more importantly it behooves him to remember to take his hat off inside the house. ;)