Rosalyn D'Mello: The beauty of having a girl crush
Having a girl crush is one way of expressing and acknowledging your profound admiration for another woman's state of being
When the girl crush is mutual, as mine usually are, you have the privilege of really basking in the other’s light. Representation pic
What is a girl crush?" the photo-artist/bookmaker Dayanita Singh asked me at a dinner last week at the Dhaka Art Summit. She reminded me that I hadn't yet sent her the link reporting Bee Rowlatt's just retort to Manu Joseph during the Jaipur Literature Festival's annual closing debate, bizarrely titled, 'Do Men Still Have it Too Easy?' presumably a provocation, but as ludicrously rhetorical as a session at the 2017 Goa Arts and Literature Festival's finale session, 'Can Patriarchy be Benign?'
Bee, in response to Manu's self-consciously provocative opening argument allegedly said, "Manu, sweetheart, you don't have to be a feminist. You just have to not be a dick." It's additionally funny if you happen to know both parties, which I do. Dayanita didn't know who Bee was. So I introduced her as the author of the amazing travel memoir, In Search of Mary, where she followed in the ingenious footsteps of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of The Vindication of the Rights of Women, toddler in tow. "She's been my lit fest girl crush two years in a row," I then confessed, prompting Singh to ask me to define the category that I'd otherwise understood to be self-explanatory.
The day before, in fact, Reetu Sattar, a Bangladeshi artist I'd met, had looked into my eyes and said, "If I knew I were bi-" and left it at that, in other words suggesting that I was her potential girl crush. The feeling was mutual. I'd witnessed Sattar orchestrating about 30 musicians who'd been seated on platforms across large steel scaffolding at the entrance to the Dhaka Art Summit. They each had an antique harmonium upon which they collectively performed a piece she called Harano Sur (Lost Tune), an atonal, dystopian, non-melodious rant intuiting all that has been and will be lost, as her country navigates the rising Islamification of their otherwise pluralistic cultural traditions. Sattar's piece had been commissioned by the Samdani Art Foundation and the Liverpool Biennial. I watched her slink back into her chair after having given the musicians instructions over the microphone. She was still in command, though. I could see the musicians, mostly men, but at least five among them women, look to her for their cues.
She communicated through body language, her feet tapping to keep time, her face swaying, her eyes closed when she was content with the non-harmony, her hands occasionally gesturing at the shehnai players when she wanted them to pause. It was rather impossible not to cast one's gaze indirectly at her.
When we met in the evening at the dinner at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon for the Samdani Art Awards Ceremony (she was a nominee), she told me she'd noticed me too that morning. I'd been wearing my imperial green silk-screen printed kimono-like kurta with a pair of jeans, designed by a friend, Arunima Majhi. She had followed my every movement as I had followed hers. We were crushing on each other.
I believe there is a way in which you can covet another woman's femininity, assuming that the term itself articulates a wide spectrum of attributes and isn't necessarily confined to that which we traditionally assume to be manifestations of a straitjacketed womanliness. Having a girl crush is one way of expressing and acknowledging your profound admiration for another woman's state of being, her self-confidence, or her vulnerability, even.
It isn't restricted to sexual appreciation but is more all encompassing, and in fact, because it isn't necessarily sexual, it is not burdened by the harrowing need for reciprocity. This is not to deny that when the girl crush is mutual, as mine usually are, you have the privilege of really basking in the other's light, momentarily partaking in the effusiveness of her personality and thus harbouring a feeling of a soul communion. It is purer even than love, because sometimes you are able to see her, the object of your girl crush gaze, in a way she cannot see herself. You reflect back at her that which she secretly is but has yet to learn. It's a glorious thing, because it usually lays the groundwork for every profound female friendship.
I'm very different with boy crushes. If I decide a man is worthy enough to be crushed on, I proceed to completely limit my interaction with him. Because he inevitably, invariably, will do or say something or act in a way that reveals his latent, un-treated misogyny.
Also, in order for me to even like a man, I have to build him up with architectural precision. Modestly though, no tall skyscrapers, no palatial expanses. A little hut with a hearth is enough, so when reality strikes, I'm not left with too much debris. It's a strenuous form of mental exercise that burns zero calories.
Girl crushes, on the other hand empower me to re-scope the boundaries of my own insecurities. They are sanctuaries, offering me the safe space I need to be a truer, unabridged version of myself as well as the adventurous thrill of excavating parts of me I hadn't previously imagined.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org