I grew up with three brothers. I’ve never really thought much about it, but they definitely “dude-d” (v. , to make into a dude) me out. A lot. It probably was apparent in high school, but I chalked it up to the bullshit we were so often fed. “The OC” and “Perks of Being a Wallflower” were entertainment staples. How could I consume those and believe that teenage boys knew how to deal with girls? Seth Cohen… such a wet blanket – and don’t get me started on Ryan Atwood, that bad-boy thing never did it for me. I think it’s because I don’t hate my mom.
I moved on to college. According to US News and World Report (which is a joke), it’s a good one. I studied chemistry. Most of my colleagues were pre-med. I just wanted to pour bottles of stuff into bottles of other stuff and see what happened.
The chemistry department had six other girls. Three were Indian, and for whatever reason only hung out with other Indian people. I don’t know if this is a unique phenomenon. They talked about their bhangra group fairly often. I’d consistently say something stupid like “I love your food!” or “I’ve always wanted a henna tattoo”. The other three were true bookworms to a degree even I’d been unable to achieve. “Do you want to join our study group? It meets at 9 am on Saturdays.” I didn’t, though maybe I should have.
That left me to spend lab classes (true social time for college chemists) fraternizing with the male students. I mean “fraternize” literally. They quickly became brothers. I thought that was fine. I wasn’t going to find the man of my dreams in the chemistry department. I could have done without being asked “do you know any girls?”, though.
After they asked that the ninetieth time, I realized that I hardly knew any girls. I knew my roommate, who was/is wonderful. I knew some other girls from my floor, and some people I’d met in passing. I would run into them on the way to the dining hall and we’d eat and chat. It was always stressful. I felt like I had to study for them. I wasn’t ostracized, but I wasn’t totally comfortable.
I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I considered possible latent lesbianism. I cranked Melissa Etheridge and watched some lesbian porn. Nothing. Maybe I was just a tomboy. The following Sunday I tried to watch football and fell asleep. My next hypothesis was that I was just too masculine.
As a scientist, I decided to test that hypothesis. I rushed a sorority, which was to be my version of finishing school. The girls were pleasant. It wasn’t one of those movie experiences where a girl with paint-splashed overalls wanders into J McLaughlin catalog shoot. I was always well put-together. Not as well as they were, but I expected that.
Everything was going well. I was learning about how women interact with other women. I liked it. One day, a sister called me and said “Hey, Janie, you’re a chemistry major, right? I’m having a problem with my computer and I was wondering if you could fix it.”
Seriously? She called me? Even as I was trying my best to assimilate, I was still the girl who can fix computers. I fixed it. She was pleased and did my hair as a reward. She actually did an excellent job; I wish I could replicate it.
News spread and suddenly I became the sorority’s repair technician. Guys from the frat we were most closely associated with also availed themselves of my services. Girls, that is not a position you want to be in. One guy’s computer had frozen in the middle of a full-screen double penetration video. He claimed he couldn’t turn it off because he took a quick “masturbreak” and hadn’t saved his paper.
I’m pretty sure that guys are only so candid about enjoying porn of such depravity with a girl if they don’t really view her as one. And I felt like I wasn’t viewed as feminine. How could the girl who fixes computers be feminine? No one wants the girl at the genius bar. This is something that guys are supposed to be good at.
The remainder of college went well. I had a few brief dalliances but nothing substantial. A lot of it certainly was my fault. Someone funneling a gallon of beer, vomiting, and then doing it again didn’t particularly impress me (though I enjoyed watching it). I would have gone out with any of the lab guys, but most of them shacked up and the remainder either weren’t interested or didn’t have the balls.
I graduated, moved back home to Maryland, and started working for a chemical company. If you want primo men in your workplace, find a different industry. I live with three other girls (exponentially increasing my female social circle), all taken.
They go to bat for me and try to set me up. This is how I imagine those conversations.
“We’ve got a cute roommate.”
“I like cute girls (duh), tell me about her.”
“She’s our friend from college, she’s a chemist.”
“Uhh, like Walter White? Or that autistic chick from the big bang theory?”
I’ll figure it out eventually. It’s been frustrating. Everyone always talks about “being yourself”. I am, probably to a fault. Maybe I’m intimidating. Maybe I’m too aggressive. I need to find the most easily digestible version of myself, and present that at first. Then, instead of being pegged as “the girl who fixes computers” I’ll be “one of the girls”.