By Holly Thomas
An Ode to Twyla
We had an interview day the other day and someone asked how our lives have changed since starting SCA. It’s a question we get quite a lot. It might sound strange, but for a while now I’ve been thinking about female friendships. I’m lucky enough to have a few really special ones and I miss being completely in tune with them since school has started.
As a straight girl you grow up and you’re literally trained to worship romantic love. Popular culture dictates that it’s everything and you should want it, desperately. When you’re 14, having a boyfriend is a sign that you are a ‘good’ girl. It means you are pretty and you straighten your hair and you probably roll up your skirt. You smoke menthol cigarettes in a bush and you get in trouble at school. Not in an expelled way, but in a cool ‘I’m an aloof rebel’ way. If you have romantic interest it means you are just the right amount of cute, just the right amount of sexy. Your BBM is constantly going off and everyone in the local schools knows who you are. First name and second name. They’ll know you by the parties you were at and the boys that you snogged.
At school you read books and plays and they all have a man and a woman in it. Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Othello, Pride and Prejudice. That’s the curriculum, right? You haven’t chosen it yourself, but heterosexual love (another huge issue for another time) is the central thrust of the narrative and without it there wouldn’t be much to say. So you deduce without love in your own life there must not be much to say.
You grow up on a diet of magazines and chick flicks, rom coms and sad songs that tell you your worth is determined by the number of men that think about you when you’re not around. You watch those cheesy films that involve transformative ‘makeovers’, perhaps the singularly most offensive trope of the genre. You take a girl, she probably shows some form of personality through her appearance. Maybe she wears glasses, has piercings and hair that is bushy (usually because she’s too busy reading or running or getting a career or any manner of things that make her far more interesting than anyone else you’ve met in the film so far). She’ll be obviously beautiful but everyone will say otherwise because no boys fancy her. Then, they’ll take her glasses off. They’ll put make up on her and give her a short dress. Et voila! She’s ready for the men. She gets a seal of approval.
If you’d like to see what I mean here is a short (but by no means exhaustive) list from the top of my head:
The Princess Diaries Miss Congeniality She’s All That Grease
Never Been Kissed
The Devil Wears Prada Pretty Woman
The Breakfast Club
My Fair Lady
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Easy A
You get the idea. Because of this you grow up believing that being desirable is the most important thing in your life. And that to be desirable you must fundamentally change everything about yourself.
Then (thank fuck) you get a bit older. You leave the pressure of school and you start reading things that shake you in a different kind of way. You start forming bonds with women that are addictive.
l’m not sure when it happens, but suddenly you realise that this is the love that the songs and the books and the films were telling you about. Sure, there’s no sex – but the support, the interest, the fun, the excitement, the adventure – that’s all there.
In the last few months I’ve forgotten how important those female bonds are. I remembered last night when I went on a date with Twyla. It was everything. She’d never been to Primrose Hill before, so I took her to see the view. My card got declined so she bought the Prosecco. I scrapped together 2ps from the detritus in my rucksack (tampons, tissues and homeless filters) and bought the Quorn sausages. We walked to the top of the hill and looked around at London and the view and the buzz of the old and the young enjoying the sunshine. We talked for several hours. She shared a poem with me that she’d written about the moon (ask her for it – it’s beautiful). And then we lay down and listened to David Bowie, with one headphone each staring at the sky.
“Is that clouds or pollution we’re looking at?” She said. I laughed so hard that I dribbled the Prosecco, that we’d been taking it in turns to glug straight from the bottle, down my chin. As we strolled down the grass hill back to the station, I thought to myself ‘female friendships are the real love story.’