For a long time I was one of those self-conscious young girls who is most self-conscious about, well, behaving like a young girl. I’d always been a tomboy, but when I hit my teenage years I took even this natural tendency and deliberately exaggerated it. I trained myself to listen to rock instead of pop – a painful regime that included asking for a Stone Temple Pilots tape for my 12th birthday despite having never heard their music, and then playing it over and over until it didn’t hurt anymore – and, later, to drink beer instead of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. I had a horror of becoming one of the many silly, vapid girls that I felt myself to be surrounded by, and consequently I went out of my way to avoid anything I deemed predictably feminine: girly sports, girly music, and, most importantly, girly movies.
I was sixteen, going on seventeen, when this long process of de-girlification began to reverse itself, at least in one area of my life. It was grade eleven: I had my first job, I had a driver’s licence, and both my parents were in relationships that involved frequent weekends out of town – my dad to my future stepmother’s home town two hours away, and my mom to my future stepfather’s cottage at the lake, his main joy in life. The thrill of throwing elicit drinking parties wore off quickly, and I soon settled into a weekend routine of socializing at work and taking some downtime in the evenings. It wasn’t long before I started making regular trips to the local video store.
I don’t remember if I made any initial attempt to improve my knowledge of classic or independent films. I know I certainly never ventured into the horror section – this is where I confess that I actually screamed during Scream – and I could never be sure how bloody or suspenseful a given action movie might be. Inevitably, I wound up in the comedy section.
And there they were. Calling to me... On Sunday evenings the video store was usually near-empty. And I had an empty house waiting for me. No one would ever know…
In the last year or two of high school, my friends and I started going back to the movies more often – our early fascination with drinking had worn off and we were ready to start socializing on more sober terms again. We went to see a lot of what one might call trashy teen comedies, but I at least was still in denial: I was going as a joke, for a laugh, just for something to do. When I was hit with a bizarrely late case of chicken pox in the final months before university, I responded by renting every high school graduation movie I could get my hands on, and spent two weeks in a blissfully numb Benadryl-induced coma in front of the television set. But that was, you know, only because I couldn’t watch a proper movie in that state. It wasn’t because I liked them.
University was a fresh start for me. Almost a coming out of the closet, if you will. I didn’t dress any differently, and my musical tastes and drinking habits generally stayed true to their training, but I was suddenly freed from my own self-image as, well, a girl-hater. No one knew me; no one had any assumptions about me at all. My new friends were distinctly girlier than the high school crew, and though I was still clearly the tomboy of the group I was exposed to a whole new world of vodka and 7up with grenadine, top 40 pop music, and – of course – girls’ nights out to the local movie theater. What started as a guilty pleasure turned gradually to an open enjoyment, and now – four years later – to a proud and loud adoration of chick flicks. Funny or angst-riddled, rom-com or tear-jerker, with or without Julia Roberts and Richard Gere – I love girly movies.
And I’m not ashamed to admit it.