I did not have male friends until I was eighteen, and even then I didn't yet accord men the easy confidence I naturally give to friendly women. Oh sure, I had known friendly male acquaintances, but I had divided them mentally into crush objects, around whom I was uncomfortably hyper, and the rest, about whom I was almost entirely apathetic or almost entirely afraid.
As a result, I had no idea until my mid-twenties what men of my generation thought or believed or loved or hated or enjoyed or suffered. I definitely did not know how most of them thought about girls. I remember one party, given by a girl who had a lot of male friends, during which one boy said to another boy with great excitement: "I hear she gives, man. She gives!"
I had no idea who he was talking about, but I most definitely felt sorry for the girl, and I decided that my hostess, if she hung out with boys like that, was Not Nice to Know.
Most of my information about boys and dating came from seventeen magazine, and yes, I hear your shrieks of horror, but seventeen was a lot more intellectual in the 1980s than it is now. But seventeen was firmly in the camp of those who believed it was okay to pursue boys by calling them up and asking them on dates. So occasionally I did, and I never understood why those boys who did agree to come with me to the movies or the high school musical or whatever, never reciprocated. Nobody had written He's Just Not That Into You yet.
Once upon a time, it was understood that teenage girls and young women never ever ever called boys and men on the telephone. We certainly never asked them to dance or to go out on dates. Nope--the most we could do was look pretty and be good conversationalists and, perhaps, host parties to which we invited all the men we liked along with our female friends. Although limiting, these strictures prevented us from making utter asses of ourselves.
Can you guess where this is going?
This is not about me, for once. This is a story that was told to me by a male friend because now that I am a million and two years old, I have male friends. I apologize in advance if your eyeballs are so offended by this story that you long to pop them out. When I heard it I wanted to scrape my ears off, pull my shawl over my head and wail like Pegeen at the end of The Playboy of the Western World. It is that embarrassing.
Once upon a time--ugh, ugh, I can barely type this--this male friend was invited to a "Come as what you want" party. This theme sounds like an imaginative twist on "Come as you are", and it must have inspired all kinds of interesting conversations. (What would you come as?)
And at some point during the party, this male friend was approached by a woman in what I assume was a rather butch costume, and she said to him, "I've come as you."
"I was so embarrassed," said my friend. "I didn't know where to look."
"My ears," I was thinking, "my ears! Scrape them off! Scrape them off! Somebody shoot me!"
If you have missed the point, coming to a party dressed as the man you want to cart away and then telling him was a Very Wrong thing to do. I cannot think of any woman who could pull this off. Not Marlene Dietrich. Not Angelina Jolie. Not anyone.
I told this story to Cath, and she looked like she wanted to scrape off her ears, too. "Oh heavens", we wailed--or words to that effect, "why do women humiliate ourselves like this? Why? Why?"
And I think the problem is that, without any regard for male psychology whatsoever, our magazines told us to go forth and actively court men. They may have also given us the impression we'd get extra points for creativity. They lied.