“Whoa, Rachel. You hang out with a lot of guys.”

I snap my head around and glare at this person I just met. Who does he think he is? He doesn’t know me.

I hang out with a lot of guys. He makes me sound like I’m weird. Girls who only hang out with guys are weird. It’s a known fact. Trust me, I read Cosmopolitan.

“I don’t hang out with a lot of guys,” I reply. That’ll show him.

Except that, I did just tell him about my week which included watching a movie with a friend (guy), having drinks with another friend (guy), and helping my other friend (also a guy) move out. Now I have lunch plans with my friend…a guy.

Yikes. That’s not good.

My mom always told me not to trust a boy whose only friends are girls. The way I see it, it works the other way too. And that freaks me out. I don’t want to appear untrustworthy.

Don’t get me wrong. My guy friends are great. They give me a glimpse into what it’s like to be a man in today’s culture. They’re my allies when I feel like I’m surrounded by men who demean me. They support me like any other true friend would. But there’s one problem:

My guy friends don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.

They don’t know what it’s like to practice using your pepper spray into the kitchen sink.

To pace around the 7-Eleven for nearly a half hour because there’s a group of men loitering around your car.

To have your dad forward you Facebook posts about all the ways you can get trafficked.

To have a customer at the coffeeshop lean across the bar and say, “I want a man cup,” and to know that he means a big sturdy coffee mug because, of course, a woman would never drink out of that.

To have a church boy ask you out, knowing nothing about you except that you’re a heterosexual, female Christian.

My guy friends don’t know what that’s like. (And hey, I don’t hold that against them.)

This International Women’s Day, I’m reminded of equality, the #MeToo movement, choice feminism, abortion, and—at least, in my corner—the ongoing debate around female pastors.

But I also think about the smaller things.

My evolving friendships with girls.

How loyalty runs so deep, it feels fragile.

How texting each other when we get home makes me feel like we’re in this together.

I treasure my guy friends. They’re indispensable. As my friend and fellow blogger Shine emphasizes, there are many ways men can be an ally to women.

But I don’t ever want to stop seeking out those special female friendships. The kinds that pass the Bechdel Test. The kinds that challenge me to put my heart on the line.

Most importantly, I look for the women that inspire me to be a better woman.

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