My flatmate took the following week off work, due to having the covid test, a banking holiday and the weekend.
Georgia was just 19 yearsold and already had a dog, a boyfriend and a full-time job. Her job payed basically nothing, so to say that she was totally ecstatic to have a few days off was an understatement.
Whenever I would talk about Uni she would get this mixed look in her eyes. Sad and wistful. Like at 19, she was already carrying a backpack full of regrets.
She said that in her current job, she was working her way up. That working at the bank would be worthwhile in the long-run. She was going to be a bo$$ lady and this was how she was going to do it.
But then other days, usually before bed with a jasmine tea in hand or after taking a peak at all my drawings littering the walls, another part of her speaks.
” I always thought I would end up in an artsy career…” she said one day, peering closer at the drawings. So close they were reduced to just lines and finger smudges.
Whenever we spend lots of time together I always get a taste of being that age again. Of having one foot in and one foot out of all these different big dreams and plans. And how, the first year out of school, you felt like you needed everything figured out.
But at 19, you’re just on the cusp. Teetering on the edge. And even though life felt long most days and somewhat repetitive, it was also quite short in the exciting years. The 19-25 years, were a time of becoming, but also blinking.
Anyway, with a week ahead of us with a lack of things to do and people to see, Georgia and I had taken up working out during the day and watching rom-coms at night.
I think we started doing this around the time she told me that her high-school boyfriend, hadn’t been trying for a while. And she was getting sick of it.
” You should have seen it, Holly. I turned up to his house to surprise him, and he tells me he’s going off with the boys and he’ll be back in a few. I mean… I see him once a week right- I drove an hour just to see him… and then I come out to see him and his friends just look me up and down and ask if he’s coming. ”
“Wow….” was all I could say.
So we started watching rom-coms as a way of checking out the possibilities while tasting the sweetness of second-hand love through the screen.
But I think we had two different ways of experiencing such movies.
For my flatmate, I think they made her sad. Nostalgic even, as her phone kept beeping with new messages every few scenes. For me, it lit a green light to make something dangerous and frisky take form.
In comparison, I was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, to said flatmate. I was newly single and had just turned 24.
I hadn’t online dated the whole year, so I thought I would dip a toe in, swirl it around and see what sizzled.
I didn’t have high expectations, as online-dating was pretty easy to begin and even easier to lose interest in. However it was always thrilling, especially with lockdown actively forcing us into the lifestyle of an indoor cat.
With every new match, I found myself floating away on a covid-safe holiday powered by dopamine and distraction.
The first round, I started when we were watching Love Island. I hit the ground running and went too hard, too fast, with one, three, five, fifteen fishies caught in my net. At around bed-time it became far too overwhelming and so I started to avoid the app all together.
The next few days I started chatting again, but only to a pink stuffed lama profile I matched with as a joke.
“ Really? You should check out FB marketplace for another sewing machine. Most of them are pretty good and cheap too. “
“ Oh thanks! ” said the pink stuffed lama. “ Yeah I have so many sewing projects to get going on that I don’t even know where to start.”
I signed off with, “happy sewing!”
“WTF are you doing?” Georgia asked, the following night.
“ IDK…. I think I’ve lost my mojo. “
“ Stop talking to a stuffed toy and start chatting up hotties. I’ve seen you in the field, you’ve got skill girl. Channel it or leave.“
“ Ughhhhhh,” I said, rubbing my eyes.
After a few more days and a few more sexy rom-coms later, I tried again. And to my and Georgia’s surpsie, the banter suddenly caught fire. My chat like a polyester lama to a stove.
And this time, I had only 5 guys (manageable) and 0 stuffed animals to chat to.
Conversation not only caught but was flowing and my flatmate was also busy having her boyfriend over for the past 4 days, with no breaks.
“ So how’s the bf going?” I asked before quickly checking around the house, in case he was hiding in a closet.
“Well,” she sat down next to me on the sofa. “ Better. He’s trying, but idk for how long before he stops again.”
“ Hmmmmmm. Well at least you know what’s coming right?” I said.
“OMGOD this guy’s got an Only Fans account!”
“Wait- what? Ask for a free subscription!”
“ I am!” I said.
[ Little did I know the next day, it would be all giggles until a photo sample did arrive and there was not just a dick pic but female genitalia too. Thus, the fun stopped.]
“ I mean, I’ve never been sent a dick pic before so being able to cross that off the bucket list is kinda nice, but basically inside a vagina… ”
” What did you expect- Only Fans is basically all porn, ” Georgia said.
” I guess just him in some cheeky outfits??… I mean could you call what he sent me a two-for-one-special, right?
“Sure – you can look at it like that.”
“ I think I’m going to un-“
“YEPPPP- you should definately unmatch.”
I pat her on the leg, before getting up. “ I’m glad we had this talk.”
“ Cordial?” I ask.
Later, our chats got me thinking… Girls don’t need or really want boyfriends at 19.
Girls want boyfriends when they’re younger to prove something. Validation, to see if someone other than their dads can love them. To try the sex. To have someone to go to formal with and complete the fantasy of being in love in a pretty dress.
And after they have that experience and it’s not the Cinderella fairytale, but rather a faulty human laying next to you, you start to realise you’ve been bamboozled. Fed a bed-time lie. That those fairytales that girls are drip-fed from birth, leave so many important things out about humanity.
Those narratives teach young girls to fall in love with the idea of love rather than a person. And furthermore, they condition us to think that only a man can make us a princess/gain higher worth, social status and a fatter bank account.
Probably the worst part about them, is that they teach us girls and then women, to not be confident that we could possibly do it ourselves.
And then when you understand this, and wake up like sleeping beauty, and look around, you start to see that relationships and the people in them are messy. And that it’s hard work not just to stay in them but for two people to be happy in them. And once that illusion evaporates, you slap the prince for unconsentually kissing you while you sleep, (otherwise known as sexual assault) and you pack your boots and your coat and you leave a better person.
I only wish we raised men and women on the same fearless, go-getter principals, instead of disadvantaging one and paying the other more.
And if you don’t believe me that male privilege is a thing, then go argue with the pay-gap, the tampon tax, the suffragettes and history of the human-race.
Girls at 19 don’t want boyfriends- they need more. They crave adventure and freedom and to see how far they can go and find new beginnings and ends; meet people and find unexpected friends.
And just like boys will be boys, girls should be encouraged to just be girls. Not housewives, not mothers and not girlfriends. The first title any girl should wear, should be just a girl.