Disclaimer: I am not a good person in this particular story.
Last month, amidst some concern with the waning summer heat and sullen denial at the prospect of a year's work stretched out before us, my two best friends (Lilly and Sarah, who I probably haven't mentioned by name until now but may as well be introduced for the sake of convenience) and I hatched a plan to spend a few days on the south coast at Lilly's Currarong beach house. To my mind, the Currarong house is just about the greatest place in the world. Besides spending our Schoolies holiday in that house discovering the glory of the pre-packaged Cocksucking cowboy shot (one part butterscotch schnapps, one part Bailey's Irish Cream, four parts immediate bowel disruption), Lilly and I have spent numerous holidays there together wandering aimlessly across alien rocky terrains, diving naked into the ocean amongst the scattering tropical fish, cooking dinners for the deck at sunset, and doing just about everything short of massaging one another to sleep. Two summers ago, a full pelt dive into the water naked in Currarong's national park resulted in one drunken ER trip and my first encounter with the razor sear of a local anaesthetic needle when my feet collided violently with an unfortunately-placed crop of sea urchins.
This year, we brought along two of our closest high school friends and enjoyed three solid days of adolescent regression, treading wet feet up the garden grass, thrashing around like reckless children in the muddied mangrove water and naturally, rediscovering the nuances and rapidly-assumed social hierarchy of a vintage high-school girl gang (if you're ever looking for me, you'll find me on the lower rungs). The thing about rediscovering friends is that they invariably arrive with a little suitcase of memories from your past and – as much as they're usually quite fun and silly – sometimes you'll be flipping through a photo album and happen upon an image that actually makes you look like a big fucking asshole. This particular image made me reel because, undoubtedly in retrospect, it was the worst thing that I had ever done to another person and specifically, another woman.
I was reminded, albeit gently, that I had painfully wronged a close friend I had loved for a long time (who shall, for obvious reasons, remain nameless) by pursuing and subsequently dating a boy knowing full well that she had a great affection for him, had slept with him multiple times and – why am I even typing this? – mistakenly fallen pregnant with him. I needed reminding of this story because I had forgotten and I had forgotten because I didn't care. In the five years that had elapsed since committing this horrendous act against a friend, I had barely spared her a thought since and certainly failed to consciously address what a completely awful person I had been. In feeling the sting of remorse and a heavy flush of shame, I did the only thing that I could half a decade later and sent this girl a sincere apology (it was judiciously and politely not accepted).
Perhaps the most distinct difference between the person I am today and this particularly hideous portrait of myself that I was handed is the genuine apathy and loathing that I held for women a few short years ago. As a girl who had been routinely rejected by the female status quo in childhood and later, outrightly tormented and alienated (generally by claims that I was a lesbian because that is the most appalling crime high-school girls can fathom), I never developed any noteworthy affinity with women. I largely believed that most women simply hated me and, in a shining display of logic and decency, I decided that it was probably prudent as a defensive mechanism to hate them first – and vehemently. I prided myself immensely at all times for being one of the boys (a behaviour that Clementine Ford explores in Fight Like a Girl as one that not only reflects a girl's insatiable desire to be wanted spiritually and sexually by men but also reenforces patriarchal structures by applauding masculinity and concurrently denigrating femininity – the overriding belief that "It isn't cool to be a girl").
As a teenager, my best friends were always boys and as for the girls I loved and liked, I perceived them merely as exceptions to the rule. I remember meeting girls through these groups of idiotic boys that I would cling onto and, crumpled together drunkenly on a sofa, we would always go to great lengths to exclaim our surprise at meeting another girl we happened to like, "I really don't get on with girls that often but you're great!" And still, I would sneer at others, dismiss them as un-fun, un-funny, kiss my friends' boyfriends on darkened streets with little regret, and viciously attack them in conversations with boys. I would have sex with the boys they liked because I didn't care a whit for their feelings.
I cannot ascertain with any degree of confidence when or how my perception changed. Perhaps it was with an academic comprehension of feminism, perhaps it was when my understanding of women as cruel creatures was blighted by experiences that men could be incredibly cruel too. Perhaps it was simply my growing ability to understand myself as a woman that invariably led me to empathise irrevocably with others and formulate a thorough ethical code in my behaviour towards them. I now value the women in my life above anybody else and this is probably most evident in my tendency to send soppy drunken love notes to them by text regularly and certainly far more often than I send them to my own boyfriend. I love them because they are insightful, conscientious, and warm in the sort of way where in any moment of crisis, I can crawl into bed with them and weep hot salt tears into their pillows. Or we can simply sleep beside each other after watching hours of terrible television. I love women because they are funnier than men; no man in the past month of my life has made me actively spit up a mouthful of tea on my own duvet before bed time through laughter and yet I can not say the same for the girls. I am romantic towards my girl friends in a way that I neglect to be even in my relationship.
And this is exactly why it pains me so much to remind myself of what a sickening bitch I was as a teenager. It took a long time to fall in love with women but I am an infinitely better person for having done so. To an old friend, to women everywhere, particularly those to whom I was mean in nightclubs, I'm so sorry. I love you now, very, very much.