Q: I have always described myself as a man’s woman. I have two brothers, so I spent most of my time as a part of their friend group and doing typically male things with them, such as playing video games or making midnight treks to the gas station for Slim Jims and Gatorade. I would not, however, describe myself as a tomboy. I love makeup and glitter and shoes and all things girl; I just don’t like other girls.
Growing up, I struggled very hard with building and maintaining female friendships, and it’s something that I still struggle with as a thirty-year-old woman. My female friendships have always been the most successful with other women who are like me: they also don’t tend to get along with other women. I gravitate to male friends, male discussion topics, and male interests.
This became the most apparent to me when my younger brother got married, and I found myself included (as a bridesmaid) in several activities with the bride and her lifelong group of friends. I struggled with relating to the group, and found myself gravitating toward my brothers and the groomsmen in social settings. I had little to contribute to the conversations that seemed to dominate the girls’ side of the table, and found myself baffled at some of the topics of conversation.
I realized as the festivities around my brother’s wedding concluded that if I were to attempt to construct a wedding party, I would only be able to come up with one woman I consider myself close enough to to call a bridesmaid. This leads me to my current issue.
My boyfriend wants the big white wedding. He has been a groomsman several times, as all of his friends are married, and I know he wants to share the same experience with them. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that other than placing ads in the newspaper and hiring strangers, I will never be able to provide enough bridesmaids to match his eleven (ELEVEN!!) minimum groomsmen. Yes, eleven was the number he was able to cut it down to by making the others ushers, so that’s out as a possibility to dispose of more of them. My boyfriend continues to say, “Just ask your friends,” as if friends grow on trees or there’s a large number of them I’m hiding from him. My suggestion to just have groomsmen and a maid of honor was met with bafflement. (Boyfriend is totes traditional.)
Has anyone else ever dealt with this? What can I do? Is there any way to compromise on him wanting to include every guy whose wedding he was in that doesn’t involve me reaching out to my old babysitter to see if she’s available?
—The Row kat
A: Dear RK,
Before we even touch your question about bridal parties, let’s chat about lady friends. Specifically, how you see ladies, and why they’re not your friends. This cultural message that cool girls don’t get along with other women sucks, and it’s sexist. Think about the subtext of what you’re saying there. Acting as though all women are the same, as though women are uninteresting unless they’re like men, as though “women’s interests” or things classically feminine are petty or catty or trite, is simplistic… and sort of insulting. There are some shallow, deeply boring women, to be sure. But there are also shallow, deeply boring men. Open yourself up to some equal opportunity dislike! There are uninteresting folks of every gender, and the happy flipside to that is there are deep, strong, amazing folks of all kinds, too.
So first up, maybe you just need to meet new women! I’m not into video games, but I know plenty of ladies who are—and it’s not because they’re masculine in some way that I’m not. They’re just complex, multifaceted human beings, like we all are. (And anyone who doesn’t like a late night snack trip is just a damned fool.)
Which makes me think you’re trapped in your head about this. Maybe you’ve so thoroughly convinced yourself that you don’t get along with women that your mindset stands in the way when you’re around them. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Take your brother’s wedding, for example. You struggled to find commonalities to discuss, but is that because they’re women, or because you didn’t know them as well as you know your brother?
I’d encourage you to reconsider how you feel about female friendships, and maybe even seek them out. Not because we need to split up according to gender lines like we’re at a middle school dance, but because dismissing an entire subsection of folks based on something like gender is to truly miss out on some awesome relationships. Personally, I’ve found my female friends have become more valuable to me as I’ve gotten older and our shared experiences (sexism, career struggles, health, motherhood, marriage issues) have become more significant than whatever differences we have.
But what about your bridal party?
But you don’t have lady friends now, and that’s why you’re writing. I can tell you without a doubt, “man’s woman” or no, you’re not the only bride to have faced this bridal party issue, despite what you see in photos. The picture-perfect wedding with an evenly divided bridal party doesn’t leave room for the many different kinds of people we are, the different kinds of relationships we have, and the different life stages we’re in when we marry. Being forced to single out your closest friends can be a weird thing. Many weddings happen right around a big transitional point in our lives, when some of us are moving, graduating from school, changing careers, or otherwise shifting and uprooting. If you’re in one of these transitional phases and don’t have many friends, picking a bridal party can emphasize that point in an uncomfortable way. Or, if your friendships don’t match the lifelong-besties model, it can feel awkward picking who you’re closest to (especially if you’re unsure if the feeling of closeness is mutual).
I’d like to reassure you, RK (and anybody else!), that it’s totally normal. Lots of us don’t have a classic bridal party that fits this “best friends for life” ideal, and it doesn’t mean you’re lacking in some way.
Your instinct to have lopsided bridal parties is perfect. It really is fine to have one friend on your side, and almost a dozen on his. Or you can ask some guy friends to stand on your side. Or you can skip the bridal parties completely. I understand that your partner wants to honor his friends, but there are loads of other ways to do so, and he’ll have to budge somewhere on this. You just don’t have eleven folks in your life at this moment. So either he chops down his party, or he lets go of this magical, symmetrical vision in his head.
Your wedding isn’t supposed to measure up to some imagined ideal; it’s supposed to reflect where you are right at this moment. Right at this moment, you don’t have a ton of lady friends. But that doesn’t mean you never will.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)