If you are a woman who gets along better with men than women, you know who you are.

Girls became weirder and weirder to you. Until you found your spot with the intellectuals. The logical thinkers. The people who did math and science, perhaps. Or the people who memorized stuff. The groups that—science explains—are mostly boys.

That’s where the girls go who don’t fit in with other girls. It’s fashionable now to say that’s fine. It’s fashionable now to say not every girl has to like fancy dresses and bows in their hair.

For a while you find yourself around men all day—maybe in math class, playing video games, or in startup bootcamp. It feels great to be around men all day because society places a high value on being good at things men are good at. People admire you.

But then, in your 40s, the men and women separate. And you find yourself surrounded by women. Maybe at work, because men at work hang out with other men or women much younger than they are. Or maybe you are surrounded by women at parties because it becomes awkward to spend too much time drinking with someone else’s spouse. Or maybe you are surrounded by women at a soccer game after school.

Wherever you are, you have to get along with other women. If you have never been able to do this, you won’t be able to do it now. People don’t change like that. You have always been like a guy.

This is not a sexual thing. You are not gay. You are not trans. You are clear on your sexual identity. This is a social thing. Socially you fit with men. Which you are also clear about.

When we are a girl who is socially similar to boys, we think: that girl will earn a lot of money. She will do something big and smart and famous because men do that sort of thing, and this girl has a brain like that. Maybe that will happen. Maybe it won’t. But what will definitely happen is that to fit into the adult world, women have to be able to befriend women once they reach middle age.

What I’m telling you is it’s lonely to be a woman in her 40s with the social skills of a man. When you are around women, they will think there’s something wrong with you. You will not be shocked that women don’t like you. You have not been able to understand the social rules of women since forever. You will be shocked at how little access you have to men at this point in your life.

The men and women separate. This is so unexpected. And how did you get put with the women?

You will think that.

The answer is that women control social norms. For a while, there is a world where men control norms. But then the men get married and have kids, and they cede control to women. The men are happy to give women authority over all things social. The men don’t understand or care about social rules.

But there is no place for a woman who also wants to give up control of all things social. There is no woman to shepherd her through society. So she is left to fend for herself. And it feels impossible. That’s why I’m launching my course tonight. It’s about how to know if you have Aspergers, and how to cope with it, but it’s also about me creating a community for women who think like this: to stop feeling so alone.

9 replies
  1. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    Wow. I still remember the party (in my 40s) when I realized this was true. I left a conversation I was having with one of the husbands and joined my “tribe” in the other room, feeling weird and out of place. Twenty years later, I still don’t feel at home in groups of women. I am lucky to have a handful of female friends, mostly loner oddballs like me. None of my friends knows any of the others. I spend a lot of time alone.
    I spent hours last night watching ted talks by people on the spectrum, and they all rang true. I’m now working on finding a way to get screened for Asperger’s/autism.
    Thanks, Penelope, for the eye-opening essay.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That’s a good question. This post is actually about Aspergers. Because it’s women with Aspergers who don’t get along with women. And so the post explains why homeschooling is especially difficult for women with Aspergers. Women with Aspergers who choose to homeschool don’t expect to have to interact with other women, but it actually becomes unavoidable. And everyday women with Apsergers try to get along with women and every day the other women think women with Aspergers are a pain in the ass.

      That’s really the problem: women with Aspergers want to get along with women, but we’ve been failing our whole lives. So we focus on work, which is much more male-oriented. But if you decide to stay home and take care of kids, there’s no avoiding the problem.

      Another tidbit: women with Aspergers are over-represented among women who homeschool. So the problem of neurotypical women interacting with women with Aspergers is a very significant problem among homeschoolers.

      Penelope

      Reply
  2. June
    June says:

    This sums up my experience and it was a painful process to come to this realization. But at this point I think my backyard chickens are probably better company than a wine soaked mom tribe.

    Reply
  3. Not that Melissa
    Not that Melissa says:

    Men are insulated from thinking about social norms but they can be fantastic at enforcing them, even to their own detriment. At least that is part of the theory behind the suicide epidemic of middle aged men.

    I get along well with other women and this post has me wondering what it is that has me not welcoming women who are on the spectrum!

    Reply
  4. S Tamburin
    S Tamburin says:

    I love what you wrote here. I generally feel like the guy in groups of women. The irony is I am a petite, “pretty” female. And I think some women are confused why I don’t define myself in those terms. I have gotten shit privately from close friends on taboo things that I said and invisible hierarchys that I just don’t get.

    Its why I quit homeschooling. I am too much for most women. I intimidate when I really dont want to. Alot of women have alot of fear based beliefs.

    The problem with getting along better with men is they all want to have sex because I get along so good with them they mistake it for sexual compatibility.

    I have learned to love my own company. But again coming across my lovely fellow Sisters again at the new community school. I can tell the way I raise my boys makes some women feel uncomfortable. Its not my concern though secretly I wish I could relate better or these women were more interesting.

    I do have very close female friends whom I love and we get each other wonderfully but they are few. So I am always grateful for the real Women who don’t feel intimidated by the rough, often feral female that I am.

    I respect all your honest words. Always live in truth.

    Reply
  5. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    Will this be easier for women in coming generations? For example, geek culture. Anything with a fandom, or something like Comic Con has plenty of women who fit your description. What I’m trying to articulate is there are many more ways for girls who get along better with guys to find each other now through these types of avenues so that they can form those bonds with other like minded girls earlier. It might be easier on the younger generations now to make those connections and carry them through life. Thoughts?

    Reply

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