Forgive me for the awful headline but you know that dude-ish phrase “Bros before Hos” meaning that a man should always put his male friends before any lowly woman? It always used to get on my nerves.
I was thinking about it recently though as I finished another YA book and was left with a few unpleasant, familiar and let-down feelings. One was because the heroine was submissive and wishy washy. And the hero was mysterious and dominant to the point of being abusive.
The other was because although she had a best friend she didn’t confide in her even when they were both thrust into mortal danger. In fact, the dangerous situation occurred mostly because she kept secrets.
She just seemed to be biding her time with this girl-friend until a hot man came along and possessed her (for want of a better word).
These girls have been endlessly portrayed in movies, and TV, and books but are they REAL? Or are the stereotypes feeding into this idea that a girl is nothing if she doesn’t have a boyfriend (preferably a gorgeous, dangerous one)?
And are these heroines just waiting around for something to happen to them rather than making it happen for themselves?
And can we even call them heroines?
I know plenty of teenage boys and they are as unsure and tentative as any girl. Surely every once in a while the girl makes the first move?
It upsets me especially that they exist in books written by women.
I see how close my niece is to her BGFs (best girl friends). Sure she has a boyfriend but her female friends come first with her.
My BGF and I confided in each other whole-heartedly and relied on one another absolutely. I knew that whatever happened with my boyfriend in the future she would always be there for me.
And yes, I know I probably neglected her during the first few frenzied months of a new relationship, carried away in the fierceness of love and infatuation. She forgave me and understood and I reciprocated. We were not rational (or jaded) when it came to love, and we made some bad choices leading with our hearts and not our heads.
Because it is heady isn’t it? The calmest, most sensible people are overset by feelings when they fall in love, and I get that. Been there. Totally.
Even so, if forced to choose between my friend and a boy, I would pick her and a friendship which spanned more than ten years until she died.
And there came a time when we were both seeing guys who didn’t like our spending so much time together so that aspect of our relationship was eventually put to the test. Guess who I picked?
The first love/forever love shtick is achingly romantic certainly. It tugs at the heartstrings, but it is hardly realistic. Most of us don’t stay with our first boyfriend forever. A strong physical attraction doesn’t equate with like-mindedness and compatibility. Usually the opposite holds true, hence the appeal of the guy who is totally wrong for us for a multitude of reasons. But in these books, the wrong guy becomes the right guy because he loves the heroine with a love far more resilient, true, unselfish and deep than any mere friend could possibly have for her.
And since he epitomizes every facet of love from passion to friendship to unconditional, there is no need for anyone else in her life.
The friend can just be thrown away…
I don’t think it should be something that must be sacrificed or debated over.
But maybe I have stronger feelings about this because I lost my best friend in the world.
I write because I think it’s the most fun I can possibly have working, and because I fall in love with a story or a character or both. I don’t have an agenda. I certainly don’t want to preach. Nor do I want to force my own idealized notions of strong friendships between women and the importance of them, on my readers, but I shouldn’t have to, right?
Because I am telling stories as honestly as I can about characters who are complex and 3 dimensional (hopefully), so without straining belief too much, those friendships already exist in the real world. And therefore they also exist in books which are a reflection of that in all its infinite permutations.