Mary

I think the reason I hang out with boys so much is that I’m just not smart enough to keep up with other girls.

Boys do lie, but they lie in what they don’t tell you – lies of omission – or they lie about things that are obviously untrue: feelings, libido, boasting. And they speak in words. They ask questions, answer questions.

Girls speak in glances that I never quite catch, in harmonious laughter at a joke I don’t get. They don’t ask the questions that mean anything and don’t answer the ones that mean everything. They love deep, difficult conversations, but only when they’re standing at the podium delivering verdicts or wearing objective, unattached safety-orange and directing emotional traffic. It’s harder to get guys to talk about the things that matter, yes, but when they talk they really do. Hidden behind a thin veil of candy floss and amorphous sisterhood, girls can lie to you with a warm smile, a cold stare or honest tears in their eyes. At least, the ones I’ve known can. 

And this is fine. This is a survival mechanism women have picked up after centuries of silenced voices, injustice and fear. Our subtleties and secrecies protect us. And they provide a language, a lingua franca for women from all walks. There is no feeling greater than noticing the tilt of a stranger’s head and sharing for a moment that magical, near-telepathic sameness of thought and instinct. I have felt this a rare few times and they were the only rare, few times I have understood that vague, amorphous Sisterhood. 

And I am not free of subtlety or secrecy. If I was, I’d be dead. I wouldn’t have survived without neglecting to answer the questions that meant everything. 

But as smart as I am to know when I’m being lied to, to feel the hidden intentions behind a smile or a laugh and taste the energy in the air when a question is asked or answered, I’m not smart enough to play along. Like the Mary’s Room Thought Experiment. I have studied color my entire life, I know the science and significance of every shade, but my world is black and white. I’ve learned all the steps to the dance but I was born with two left feet.

Inside, outside. Boys, girls. There’s no difference really. I sit, untouched, pristine. My world is black and white.

Emotional Snapshot

I’m listening to you play piano and mumble to yourself about what key you’re in and does this note go here and why your creative process has to be rushed. When you told me you were here I said I would come up and do homework but now I’m just turning my computer screen away and trying to look busy. I can’t stop smiling.

God, when I’m not around you I rant and rave about how stupid I am to like you. I fret over every text, I pull my hair when you don’t respond but scold myself for jumping at the phone when you do. But when I am here, and you’re there, five feet away tapping at the keys, not even looking at me but just being there, being comfortable enough to talk to yourself in front of me, responding wittily to my agonized groans of how I just can’t write this paper, singing. I can’t stop smiling.

Chess

Once I finish my turn, I look across the table.

“By the way. You’ve caught on, haven’t you? You know.”

Only a moment before a wordless smirk stretches across his face. He makes his move.

“I didn’t want you to know,” I explain. My eyes dart back to the board. “I only saw the first… glimmer of recognition in your eyes today.”

“That’s because today I stopped hiding that I knew.” He gestures to the board, urging me to counter.

“Since the beginning of March,” I say, advancing my pawn and answering the question he didn’t ask. Silence. His knight clacks an L across the board.

I wait. Still nothing. “Is that it?”

He shrugs.

This next part didn’t happen.

I advance a knight of my own. His black lacquer gleams, carved eyes narrowing as he readies his offense.

“Do you know why I didn’t tell you?”

He would shrug, feigning nonchalance. He would guard his king, bolstered behind rooks and bishops, tower walls and holy dignity.

“Because he’s so close to you. For the second time in a row, I choose someone close to you but not you. And you say you’re over it and that you don’t care but the first time you said that even half-convincingly was a week ago, when it’s been almost half a year since the first time I didn’t choose you. And three months since you chose someone else and I became the one with no one to hold onto.” As the words trickle past my lips, rolling down my chin and dripping onto the board, my knight rushes forward, charging his sterling white opponent. Their swords clash, ringing malice and steel. “Because you hold grudges, even though you’re the one with a happy, loving girlfriend now and swarms of friends buzzing around you like–” The black knight stabs at the air and nicks his enemy’s horse. Blood splatters the battlefield. Enraged, the white knight strikes back and runs my champion through. He slumps lifeless onto the hilt of his opponent’s sword. The victor shoves the corpse away, wordless. Clack, as his body hits the board. I sigh.

“…like moths at a flame. And I’m just another moth.”

But this didn’t happen. We stayed quiet. We finished the game. I don’t remember who won. I only remember that when the boy I chose walked through the door with a smile for both of us, I smiled back, and he did not.

Proper Nouns

Why can’t Boys be friends with girls?

Not “why can’t boys and girls be friends”, because they can, I’ve seen it, done it. Why can’t capital-B Boys capital-J Just be friends with lowercase-g girls?

There is a boy I consider a brother. I would die for him and more than that, I would live for him. We’ve skinned ourselves with honesties until raw bone shone through and we’ve sewn back all the pieces so that no one else could see. And when I told him “I love you like a brother, not a lover, not a friend”, his response was equivalent to

“I think me and Taylor may still have sex”.

And I realized that while he is and will remain one of my closest friends, He will never be. his name and his self are my allies but His Boyhood, the all-prevailing masculinity he sports like a varsity jacket, is enemy to lowercase-g girls like me.

His Boyhood makes objects out of girls like me.

His Boyhood doesn’t understand the word “no”.

His Boyhood is a broken streetlight on a 2:00 AM speedwalk to the door, is the whiteness in my knuckles as I Wolverine-grip my keys.

It’s the same Boyhood that makes mothers struggle for respect from their own sons, daughters from their own fathers, working women from their employers, collegiate women from their professors, women of color and trans women and disabled women and Muslim women from an overabundance of attackers.

The same Boyhood that laced the invading tongue and gloved the defiling hands of the last capital-B Boy I trusted.

So when this Boy I loved like a brother so graciously reassured me he still saw me as my sex and my Sex and what sexual dreams may come, I knew

His Boyhood prevails.

And for as long as his identity as a patriarch is more important to him than his identity as a human being, than My identity as a human being,

Boys cannot be friends with girls.