One of the things I include in “My Favorite Things” video is Sailor Moon, and as I was editing down my passion-filled ravings to fit in the allotted video time, I realized that my love for Sailor Moon deserves a bit more than a shout-out in a video. It’s still one of my favorite things to this day. (And I eagerly await the next season of Sailor Moon Crystal). But it was also an extremely influential part of my childhood.
I had a hard time making female friends growing up. Scratch that. I still have a hard time making female friends, but at least now I have a greater understanding for what’s causing it than I did when I was a kid. As an awkward 11-year-old, I felt like a fish out of water with large groups of girls. Sometimes I would make a connection with one girl for a while, but eventually my “best friend” would (from my perspective) be stolen away by another “cooler” girl or group. I was inconsolably lonely for a long time. I knew female friendship was important from an objective point-of-view, but I just couldn’t seem to find other girls who I authentically connected with.
I had female “friends.” I was invited to various sleepovers and pool parties and birthday celebrations over the years. But I always remember being a bit of an outsider no matter how hard I tried to connect or the other girls attempted to be accepting. I remember one sleepover with a group of girls I considered to be the “popular” crowd when I was 8 or 9. They watched the Spice Girls and performed their own choreography to the music and snuck into some of their mom’s makeup and gave each other makeovers and had a fashion show. I remember feeling so very out of place. I’d never heard of the Spice Girls (i.e. I was pretty sheltered). I knew I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or short-shorts. And even though this was all just fun and games into the late-night, it felt like a violation of my core values. Even though I wanted to fit in and have friends, this wasn’t the way I felt comfortable doing it.
Instead, I spent a large portion of my childhood and teen years imagining what my “real” best friends would be like. While I couldn’t seem to find a best friend in my everyday life, I was still convinced that she was out there. There were just dark forces keeping us apart like in my favorite TV shows and movies.
Consequently, I devoured the magical girl genre–in anime, books, and movies. And Sailor Moon was always at the forefront. It was a much less distressing idea to my fantasy-obsessed child self that dark forces were separating me from my true friends rather than accepting that I didn’t have any female friends.
Instead, I drew cartoon sketches of how my imagined friends would look and wrote detailed notes about their likes and dislikes, taste in fashion and TV, and of course, their magical powers. I imagined stories for us: how we would find one another, how we would save the world, what our nemesis would be like. Essentially, I reconciled my loneliness and lack of female companionship with the tools that shows like Sailor Moon gave me. That I was a special “magical girl” and I would find my friends and place in the world once I came into my magical powers.
Maybe it seems sad to you. Maybe you had a really amazing childhood with close friends or you didn’t feel as outcast as I did by struggling to make friends so this seems a little foreign to you. But for me, even though my “best friends” as a child were imagined magical girls inspired by anime, Sailor Moon gave me peace. I struggled a lot with the need to be loved and accepted but also my inherent desire to be myself and invariably stand-out. And I was in the unfortunate situation of not finding the connection I desperately wanted with other girls despite how much I craved it.
So I never became a magical girl (at least not yet!), but I did find female friends as I grew older (especially once I went to college). And I found what Sailor Moon had taught me about female friendship still held true.
That it’s not about finding people that are exactly like you, but rather finding those girls who compliment you. (And no I don’t mean “Oh I love you outfit” kind of compliments). What was cool about Sailor Moon was that the Sailor Scouts each had their own unique powers and personality and they were always more powerful when combined. Two Usagi’s would probably destroy the world rather than save it (she’s just a bit too clumsy, ya know?) But throw in Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minako, and you have a pretty powerful team.
When I started to understand female friendship this way, I felt like I really began to grow as a friend to other women. Because of the experiences I had as a kid and tween, I was fearful of trusting my friendship with other women for a long time. I always assumed I would be quickly and easily judged unworthy or weird and cast aside for someone else. But I started to learn that my weirdness (rather my uniqueness, one might even say, my “magical power”) was valuable to a friendship. Because these other girls had their own weirdness/uniqueness too. We had our similarities (in Sailor Moon it’s a love for Sailor V and the need to save the universe) like wanting to make movies or loving to sing or having the same favorite color or being introverts which initially brought us together. But it was our “magical powers” that grew our friendship as we learned more about each other and from each other.
Women and especially female friendship is many times characterized by cattiness and backstabbing. And it generally just sounds unpleasant. Like women can’t actually be friends because it’s all a competition for who’s the prettiest and can get the most guys to chase after her. I know there are women that do this. But this is not true female friendship. It’s far more powerful and meaningful than that. It’s really just as magical as the Sailor Scouts if you learn to be open and loving and celebrate other women’s “magic” rather than tear it down, cast it out, or label it as undesirable.
So this is a story about a girl who couldn’t find a connection with other girls like she so desired. But who, over time, learned about the “magic” in each of us and started to trust and respond to others who also recognized it. And in doing so, found other women who inspired and awed her. And made up her own magical girl gang. 🙂