Hello–how are you doing? I was thinking about what a girlfriend is. I realized I have some intense connotation for that word–maybe it’s a loaded word.
So I decided to try unpacking my associations. In my journal I listed them.
The left column is more positive, with words like close, honored, and tender. The right column more negative, with words like weak, whiny, and stuck. And the middle is mixed, with legible, responsible for plans, and role. Yes, girlfriend does feel like quite a role.
What do you think? Does this match how you think of girlfriends also?
Where do these ideas come from? Some of it’s based on how I was, being a girlfriend. Yes, I was often deceived and lied to, in ways that seem naive. I felt used. Some of it’s based on the girlfriends I had when I was a young person. We were not very skilled–we were kids.
And some is just ambient cultural archetype stuff. Some of it comes from how I saw girlfriends portrayed in movies and tv shows, back when I watched that entertainment long ago.
Some of my ideas feel misogynist. I’m sorry for the latent femme-hate that’s inside of me. I don’t want it there. I’m grateful to see it so I can try to get it out.
If I made a list of what a boyfriend is, there would be man-hate on it too. Gender is just a fucked up problem-place, for me and for many people.
Is a girlfriend a powerful person? I imagine a girlfriend wearing a letterman’s jacket. She is prized, sought after, and made into a trophy or symbol of security, while the boyfriend pursues whatever and whoever else on the side. The girlfriend is safe and public, while the boyfriend does whatever he wants when no one is looking.
This makes me think of tarot, the court cards. What’s the difference between the page and knight? The page is about communication, energy, and youth. But also there’s a hierarchy, right. What’s the different between a queen and a king?
In fairy tales, I consider the difference between a princess and a queen. The princess is supposed to be young, beautiful, and not yet hardened to the world. She is soft and vulnerable to deception, like a girlfriend.
The queen is older, crafty, possibly manipulative, and full of power. But still can be knocked out of place at any moment.
The women are pitted against one another. We know it doesn’t have to be this way. It never should. Love gives us happier ways of relating. We can love anybody.
It makes me think of wives. I am Ming’s spouse, and when anyone mentions me as his wife, I cringe. I never wanted to be Ming’s wife. Feels scary and trapped.
A spouse is equal, something we decide on together. A wife is exploited, grabby, asking for money, stuck at home with sick little kids, under-supported, angry, oppressed, and doomed.
What do you think a wife is? Are you sorry for me, that I have these extreme connotations? I’m glad we can choose different words depending on what we need.
And we can make the word girlfriend mean what we want it to mean. Sure, we might be misunderstood, using a word in our own way. But that’s the risk with words. We all have different dictionaries in our heads; it’s unavoidable.
We can heal our girlfriend pain. My girlfriend and I are doing that every day.