Maybe I’ve been hanging out in reddit.com/r/all/new/ too much (even the smallest amount of that place can be fatal), but I’ve been seeing a lot of threads that say things like “Only Boys Understand” and “Girls will Get This.” It always turns out to be something totally universal, like this gem about peeing in the shower. Everybody loves peeing in the shower! That’s half the reason showers were invented, so you don’t look ridiculous pissing yourself standing naked in a bucket.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Greg Giraldo and Jesse Joyce live in Brea, California. Joyce happens to be a regular guest on my favorite podcast, Keith and the Girl, but I was familiar with Greg and I looked forward to hearing him, especially after a great set by Jesse. Rather than closing on an up note, Giraldo spent the rest of the night throwing hack jokes about the difference between men and women and failing to dispatch one fat drunk heckler in the front row. Maybe he was tired, maybe he took one look at the suburban, conservative, iron cross covered audience of the Brea, California Chucklevillage Cafe and decided that intelligent political and social commentary wasn’t going to fly. So we got 20 minutes of “girls are emotionally manipulative wrecks who use sex as a weapon” and “boys are violent, stupid robots who would fuck their own grandmother if their wife didn’t keep them in check” Am I disappointed that I didn’t get the smart comedy I’d paid for? Eh, maybe. Am I disappointed now that he’s passed away and I’ll never see him perform again? Yeah. But overall, I’m fascinated and alienated by the phenomena that is the boy girl joke.
In a room full of mammals, motivation trends towards breeding, and since most human beings are cisgender heterosexuals it’s easy to assume that, in general, the girls are after the boys and the boys are after the girls. Naturally, that would lead each to focus on the other, creating a lot of social compacts and unspoken common knowledge between the two of them. Thus, the girl boy joke is born. And yet, despite the majority of people being either girls or boys, seeing boys or girls, the girl boy joke almost never makes any sense to me, a girl who likes boys just like most of the girls in the room.
The type of assumptions that make the girl boy joke a reality, also convinced me I was some kind of sex freak as a kid. Girls aren’t supposed to like boys the way I like boys. I like boys the way boys are supposed to like girls. When my dad had the boy girl talk with me, I went away appalled. Not because of what boys were supposed to do to me, but because I realized, during the course of the talk all the things my Dad thought I should be afraid of, I wasn’t afraid of. I was fascinated by them. “Boys don’t want to be your friend, Marina. Boys want one thing and it’s disgusting,” my dad said. Even as a child, I knew that made no sense. First of all, I had plenty of friends who were boys, and let me tell you, in the game of chase, I was the chaser. If boys only wanted one thing from me, they could have it. All they had to do was stop running and turn around!
Those of you who know me know that my boy girl style hasn’t much changed in the last 20 years. But it took me awhile to realize that the cultural fact sheet on boys and girls was bullshit. I had nightmares that I was going to be a social pariah: the only girl that wanted sex! Thank God for girls who were older than me that told me what was what. If it had been up to the media and my parents, I’d have thought myself a werewolf and locked me in a cage. Thanks to my peers, through conversations with them, I learned the real truth. That boys and girls are more similar than we are different, that so many of us want the same things, and that when you stop pretending that we come from different planets, or have different brains, you can find common ground and make some beautiful friendships and partnerships and families.
So why is the boy girl joke still the joke of choice? Why is it you can look out on a room of random humans, crack a boy girl joke, and the majority of them will laugh? Did I just find the five other lady sexfreaks at whatever place I went to to justify my perversion? If I don’t emotionally manipulate my boyfriend and treat him like an idiot, am I not a real woman? Do you get boy girl jokes? Why? What am I missing?
Even Louis CK has a boy girl joke.