I was 16-years old and a sophomore in high school when I developed my first platonic girl-crush.
They say you never forget your first, and I never forgot her.
She was, quite simply, a “bad girl.”
She showed up in the middle of the semester. Rumor was she had been thrown out of her last school. Rumor was she liked boys and girls. (She later confirmed this by calming and casually stating that at her last school, she had had a girlfriend. However, she had not been thrown out of school.)
Add to this into a sea of Ralph Lauren and J. Crew label clones, she wore decidedly non-descriptive clothing—some of which may have even been men’s clothing—and she sported a bleached-blond haircut that was shorter than a lot of the boys.
She would walk in the halls and not even blink when the occasional shout of “dyke!” or “weirdo!” was tossed her way. She didn’t seem to care what anyone thought of her.
I was utterly fascinated by her.
I both feared her and wanted to be her.
Even back then, before I ever read a single book on the subject of feminist theory, I knew that labeling a girl a “bad girl” was different than calling a guy a “bad boy.”
Bad boys were seen as sexy, interesting and hot. A bad boy always had a shot at redemption.
A bad girl on the other hand, well… she was just troubled, an accident waiting to happen or just a slut.
Bad boys, by the very fact that they were boys, could get away with things that their female counterparts could not. They also tended to be popular whereas the bad girls were outcasts who hung out with other bad girls and outcasts.
As someone who was not terribly popular in high school, but wasn’t quite at the bottom of the high school hierarchy, my social circles somethings overlapped with the bad girls. (In other words, we often had friends in common.) I did learn a few things from my limited interaction with them.
The three things that I remember most:
1. Bad girls are true to themselves no matter what.
These are the girls who do not bow to peer pressure or social expectations. They do not pretend to be something that they aren’t.
They are the girls who dress, date, and socialize to please themselves—not their peers. They don’t care if people admit, disapprove or feel indifferent about their choices. They are past that. They only people they care about pleasing are themselves.
However, this doesn’t mean that they are selfish or self-centered. Indeed, most show a fiery amount of love and loyalty to those they care about which leads me to my next observation.
2. Bad girls know who their friends are and stick up for them when necessary.
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that many of them are outcasts themselves, but just like they pick their clothing and interests, they pick their friends because they like them—no other reason.
If you insult or mistreat a bad girl’s friend, be prepared for the bad girl to confront you and/or calls you out on your unjust behavior. Bad girls know the meaning of the word tribe while others merely pay lip-service to it.
3. Bad girls aren’t actually “bad.”
This is often the most surprising thing that one walks away with after they have any sort of extended contact with these girls. Bad girls aren’t bad at all. In fact, they are the sort many of us look back on and wish we were more like them when we were teenagers.
In the case of my high school classmate, she was an A-honors student who graduated near the top of the class. I never once heard of her getting in trouble or being sent to the office. In the few exchanges we had, I was surprised by the softness of her voice and the fact that she seemed, well, so nice.
Clearly, this young woman had a tremendous amount of dignity and poise to be who she was given that we were living in a very conservative, homophobic town that did not take to kindly to alternative lifestyles of any sort.
Instead of being afraid to be seen with her, I wish I had sought-out her friendship and gotten to know her better.
I never learned what happened to her, but by all accounts, I’ve heard she did quite well for herself.
I hope that is true.
I also hope that if any current bad girls are reading this, they will continue to be their fearless, fabulous selves. Believe it or not, you’ll be the girls that will be remembered—and for the right reasons.
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Ed: Sara Crolick