I grew up at a time, in a part of the country, in a certain community that never referred to females over the age of about thirteen as “girls.” The term has always sounded childish to me, even when women are using it to describe their friends, usually within some a socializing context, as in “The girls and I are off to detonate a nuclear device. Dinner’s in the oven! Don’t wait up!”
The term feels more common today, and to be honest, I’m not a fan of it, not even when part-time Care Bear Ryan Gosling says it. It is, by definition, diminishing. Lessening. It is often by extension pejorative. However, I am not such an ass that I don’t understand the connation, and I certainly do not care if you use “girl,” if you like using it, or you think everyone should use it all the time; nor do I care if you think I’m being silly (like a girl) with this whole line of thought. I will even defend to my death your right to say it, but shall do so with a grimace on my grown-up face.
I was honestly startled today at the store when a man in his sixties bumped into two similarly aged neighbors. After some unremarkable small talk, he asked them, “Are you girls off to get your nails done?”
They squealed and answered “Yes!”
Look, I get it. Many women like to get their nails done for various reasons. It’s pampering. It’s good fun. No one gets hurt. It’s “me time.” It’s good grooming. Fine. I am wearing polish on my own hands, so I’m not above joining in this particular dance of femininity, although going to a salon is not my scene. Maybe it was the squeal. Maybe it was the man (who came of age in the 60s) just knowing they were getting their nails done and his tone dripping with low, smug, and ultimately met expectations.
I’m a writer, I can imagine any number of reasons why they squealed. I don’t know their story. Maybe this manicure was a celebration of one of them finishing chemo, or completing her doctorate, or the two of them coming out and getting married at City Hall. I’d love for that to be the case. I hope it’s the case, just so that for a few minutes I don’t feel like we’re backsliding in Season 1 Mad Men territory.
And it doesn’t matter, of course. Not my business. They’re not hurting anyone. All the car ride home I kept spinning the word “girls” in my mind. And the squeal. And for few minutes I reimagined the conversation where at least one of them cocked an eyebrow and retorted with a pleasant-yet-sassy, “Girls? Haven’t been one of those since I got my period forty-some-odd years ago.”
And then squealed and told their neighbor their stance on the great Opi/Essie debate.