I used to be one of the boys. When I say that, I don't mean that I was a tomboy, far from it. I grew up loving Barbies, bangles and Madonna. But as I got older, I found that I was more comfortable being the only girl in the room, with no idea why.
Starting around high school, I noticed that my male friends had started to outnumber my female friends by about three to one. I had a couple of close girlfriends, but as my family moved around, I drifted apart from them. After high school, I joined the military and the ratio grew even more exaggerated. In my off duty hours, I continued to hang out with the guys. I could drink and cuss with the best of them, and I told myself I could overlook the things that got on my nerves, like offensively sexist/sexual humor and some unwanted advances.
It wasn't until after I was married and my daughter was starting school that I actually began to make true female friends again. For a long time, I thought that was just situational. Now that I'm at a point in my life where my connection with other women is one of the most important things in my life, I realize that it was much more than that. I had a whole host of unconscious reasons for avoiding female friendships, and they stopped me from finding the sisterhood I was actually craving, though I didn't know it.
Men were never going to call me on my shit. When was the last time that you were with a group of 20-something men and they started talking about their feelings, their fears, their dreams or anything that resembles real shit? I'm guessing the answer to this questions is probably never. Without knowing it, by hanging out almost exclusively with men, I had found the perfect way to hide in plain sight. It didn't matter how screwed up and inadequate I felt every minute of every day, as long as I put on lip gloss and showed some cleavage, no one would notice. It was like being at a masquerade ball, no one had to see me.
I saw other women as competition. We all know women like this, maybe you can even relate to this sentiment yourself. For the longest time, the only way I could see my own value was through the eyes of men. I was constantly seeking their admiration and approval, whether I was aware of it or not. I was hyper-focused on men, romance and dating. In my scarcity mentality, I (sometimes unconsciously) viewed other women as competition for male attention and acted accordingly. This doubtless made me pathetic and annoying as hell in the eyes of many women, which explains why they with rarely seemed interested in hanging out with me.
I felt profoundly unworthy. I spent most of my young adulthood looking around at other women and girls and feeling like they were somehow able to be everything that I was just pretending to be. Every feminine conditioning message about being a 'good' woman that I had absorbed growing up made me feel that it was an impossible task, one that I would never, ever live up to. I felt enormous shame over this, something I couldn't have named at the time, and tried to numb that in every way I could think of - drinking, drugs, food, sex. I also gave up trying to connect with women because I was too worried they would realize that I was a complete fraud.
It took me years of sisterhood and personal development work to start to recognize what was going on with me back then. I've also realized that my experience is fairly common and is something that I've learned to recognize in other women. When I hear a woman say, "I just don't get along with women," I now realize that this is most often code for "I am living in so much fear and shame, I can hardly breathe.
One of the most important facets to my mission of creating sisterhood is that it's all-inclusive. What that means is that I welcome being in sisterhood with women of all ages, races, identities, spiritual paths and lifestyles. Even if you're a bit prickly and aren't sure how to be friends with other women, cause I can sure relate to that.
So, to the ladies out there who identify with being 'one of the guys' - welcome! I'm glad you're here. Just as you are.