I remember reading The Fault in Our Stars the summer the movie came out. There was a lot of hype around John Green books at that time, and I fell into it. I read a couple of his other books but to be completely honest, I didn’t really see the pull. They were interesting books for sure, but just not really my cup of tea. And call me cold and detached but I didn’t cry reading The Fault in Our Stars (or during the movie).
Yet, these books played an indirect role in my life for the next couple of years. I moved away from home, became the “new girl”, dyed my hair, wore thrift store clothes and basically didn’t care about anything.
If you’ve read a John Green book you know he likes to write about a certain stereotype of girl that was dubbed the manic pixie dream girl. This girl was outgoing but a loner, “crazy” but just the right amount, deep, and introspective (with what you might call a romanticized version of depression). She brings the main character out of his slump and changes his life with her wild, non-conforming personality.
Basically she’s perfect… but in a quirky, hipster way.
As a new girl at a new school with my teenage anger and ripped jeans, on the outside, I fit this box. I didn’t care about taking care of myself, so I would engage in reckless behavior. I didn’t really fit into any of the groups and didn’t make an effort to, so I become somewhat of a loner.
Now, as a teenage girl who just moved thousands of miles away from everyone she’s ever known and loved, I was dealing with a lot. All these manic-pixie-dream-girl boxes I checked were at their basic form destructive behavior. Yet I was told I was just “acting like a teenager” or even that I was trying to fit the manic pixie dream girl stereotype. I was brushed of as a teenager girl fangirling over something so hard I was trying to become it.
Guys would become interested in me like I was a science project. What was I going to do next? Would I fix them?
As I grew older, graduated and went to university I thought I could leave the annoying stereotype behind. But date after date I got told “you’re crazy, huh?” with a gleam in their eye like it was a compliment. Because apparently the fact I liked to change my hair color also meant I was going to want to go on a midnight road trip with them and solve all their mommy issues.
It took me a while to realize that the manic pixie dream girl stereotype was just another version of the “crazy girl” stereotype. She’s the girl who will go partying on a Tuesday night and then wake up on Wednesday with perfect makeup and no hangover as she makes you breakfast. She’s the girl who says unexpected shit that is just barely crossing some moral line but she’s so hot you don’t care. This girl is wild but not so wild you can’t bring her home to meet the parents.
Spoiler alert! This girl doesn’t exist!
Dudes would become surprised when my “dark past” wasn’t just something that made me deep and introspective but also something that gave me real problems. They would realize that crazy on a Friday was fun but crazy on Sunday morning was too much. And so I would become too much while simultaneously not enough as they compared me to this unachievable stereotype just because on the outside I looked like I would fit.
It’s stereotypes like these that directly shape how we feel about ourselves. To a certain extent we like labels, they tell us who we are, but only if we are the ones putting the label on. I never wanted to be the “manic pixie dream girl” and so it became a box I was constantly trying to break out of. But every move I made seemed to only confirm the stereotype.
So I gave up. I stopped dwelling on it. If I wanted a tattoo, I got it, if I wanted to wear jean on jeans, I did. I worked on myself and my education. I’m still somewhat of a loner, I still like bleaching my hair, but the difference is now I care about myself, and I care enough to not let some dude who wants to get me drunk and crazy look at me twice.
People can label me all they want, and they do. I still get told “you’re crazy” on dates but instead of laughing uncomfortably now I respond with “define crazy.”