I’ve always considered myself a Guy’s Girl, and in my case, no, that’s not code for Bitch. Or a Bad Friend or The Other Woman.
For some reason, guys, for all their quirks, just seem to be low maintenance company. They greet you with a grin or high-five and don’t tend to get snagged by the details of friendship. With a guy, tossing a football or playing a video game is a valuable activity for two, and if you cancel plans or change them last minute, nothing gets knocked out of whack. Somehow, no matter what you say or do or don’t say or don’t do around guy friends, it’s all good, bro.
And yet, just because hanging with the boys comes easy to me doesn’t mean I’m the bachelorette all the girls hate, the one who clearly had no intention of getting into the sandbox with her peers, let alone playing nice with them. Actually, the opposite is true. I always wanted to belong to that elusive, exclusive girls’ club. I just didn’t.
If I could blame this fact of life on nature, I’d say that growing up with three brothers meant I wasn’t born with girly DNA. That my genes are wired somewhere closer to the Y chromosome where a simple bear hug or a nice cold one can make everything all better. But it’s probably easier to explain on the nurture side of things. As the Only Girl, I had no female foil forcing me to learn the sisterhood ropes, and without her, I was obviously missing some fundamental tools.
Most sisters are easy to spot. They’ve got all kinds of savvy it took the rest of us a long time to acquire. Like an innate understanding of how to piece together an outfit and which way to spin a curling iron and the value of a good wax. Beware of claws, though. If you mess with girls who have sisters—or their friends—you’re likely to lose the catfight within the first 30 seconds. Practice, you know.
What I’ve always envied most about sisters is just how smoothly they work a room. Back in high school, they were the queens of the halls. Because other girls in the sisterhood were drawn to them, they enjoyed a certain social safety. They could move around, shielded from everyone, in an I-got-your-back pack. Once you’re comfortable around women, I guess they’re comfortable around you.
Then there was me. Growing up, there was never a time when I had to jockey for space or attention. That meant I could spread my wings—my moods, thoughts, clothes, hair products—without fear of getting trampled. Confidence came quickly because there was no one to compare me with in any category: not looks, not brains, not popularity. I was also the beneficiary of all things female—from a burgeoning collection of Barbies to the front bedroom with the pretty wrought iron windows to a jam packed wardrobe. Everything was mine, all mine: my possessions, my space, my time, even my feelings.
While I took my status for granted, never knowing another way to live, my friends were jealous. Apparently, I had narrowly missed being doomed to Cinderella’s life. You’re sooooo lucky you don’t have sisters, they would moan every time a shirt went missing or a friend was stolen or a disagreement sent them into a fit of hair-pulling rage.
They couldn’t see the downside, such as always feeling handicapped around fellow females. The Girl Code seemed to be in a foreign language, one that simply wasn’t written in my bones. You know that warm estrogen buzz around a bevy of females? That feel-good state that comes from lounging in a camp cabin in matching sweats and traded tops, tickling each other’s backs with painted nails and confessing your secrets? Me, not so much.
In any kind of clique, I’d stumble. Because I was used to depending on myself and I wasn’t used to sharing. While my friendships were close and rewarding, joining a circle felt like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing. I just couldn’t make myself fit and so, somewhere along the way, I had to come to terms with the fact that being in groups of women just wasn’t my jam. Eventually, I had enough of feeling oddly on edge, of being the intruder waiting to be found out. Who needed a girl club anyway? I was a great friend. Maybe one-on-one relationships were my lot in life.
Then, one at a time, each of my brothers got married, and each of my new sisters-in-law—wouldn’t you know it?—came to the family from one with sisters. That meant they each possessed the girl code gene and it was nice and polished by now. They’d fit together just right—and then there’d be me.
Except it didn’t work that way. Instead, I befriended each new sister separately, just the way I knew how, and each one loved me back. Through challenges and joys that spread over years—disagreements and petty jealousies, babies born and lost, milestone birthdays, shopping trips, unexpected illness, secrets shared, bonds over reality TV—two by two, we turned into sisters.
And then, miracle of miracles, something shifted.
I can’t pinpoint when it happened because it felt subliminal, sometimes even psychic. I’d be deep inside phone advice with one sister, and the call waiting would beep, another sister trying to get through. We would find ourselves texting each other at the same time, so we created a group chat, just for us. When we ended up at the same houses or went on family trips, we’d keep finding our way back together, huddled in a gossip group or dispensing valuable fashion advice or meeting for a drink or booking group spa appointments or sneaking off for a therapy session and a few ugly tears.
Somehow, some way, these women who married my brothers coaxed me into the circle, and before even I knew it, I felt safe enough to come out to play. And just like that, I was part of a sisterhood. I had found my people, or they had found me, and it wasn’t about the X chromosome at all—just women who love being together.
The funny thing was, as soon as I gave up trying to fit in, that’s when I did.