In Defence Of Not Always Putting Your Mates First

Why is it that one relationship has to be considered more important than another? Artwork by Isabel Chiara

In defence of dicks before chicks

by Chemmie Squier |
Published on

‘Bros before hoes’. ‘Chicks before dicks’. ‘Mates before dates’. No doubt you’ll have heard these phrases in some capacity; used it as a reminder for a ‘flaky’ mate or had it stuffed in your own face. It’s a hugely loaded phrase – it’s usually used when the person is doing the exact opposite – because to be seen to put a romantic partner before a friend, is pretty much a cardinal sin.

Because friends are forever, right? Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go but your friends will never leave you, yeah? As young millennial women, this is the sentiment pushed upon us, anyway. I get it – being picked up and dropped by a mate everytime they’re in a new relationship is not cool, but insisting one personal relationship is always above another, no matter what? Completely unrealistic.

During the teenage years, people naturally define themselves by their friendships. You spend 85% of your time with these people: at school, on MSN (retro), hanging out in the local shopping centre on the weekend. Friendships are crucial to establishing our identities, but like so many things as we get older, their role in our lives shift. We tend to look to them for social reassurance less because we've matured enough to feel comfortable in making our own decisions. So whilst back in the day choosing to spend time with a partner over a friend would have been abhorrent, it becomes less of a thing as you grow up.

In theory, anyway. Because whilst it certainly feels more ‘acceptable’ to priroritise a relationship, it can still feel taboo. ‘There are competing discourses that women hit when they’re going from their mid to late 20s,' Dr Julia Carter, senior lecturer in Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University, explains. 'On the one hand you’re supposed to be going out with your friends and they’re the most important people, but on the other hand you’re supposed to be looking forward and settling down.' It’s no wonder we feel conflicted – we can recall traditional notions of ‘settling down’ by a certain age but in so many ways, these aren’t relevant anymore and what used to be the ‘norm’ is changing: more of us are still living at home and we’re getting married and having children older.

‘It’s certainly a change that was enabled by the second wave Femininsm movement, which then kind of transformed into individualism. The idea goes that we’re much more concerned about ourselves now rather than thinking about people around us in our local community, although that theory is very critiqued,’ Carter told me. It’s like we’ve taken this individualistic-friends-friends-first sentiment to the extreme, with kind of uncomfortable consequences. Now it’s almost expected of us to reject these notions – that a relationship is the be all and end all – and go completely the other way.

But why should a partner be expected to come second when their contribution to your life is, at least in that moment, just as important? They're, in essence, a best friend too and dedicating all your time to a particular friend should cause ripples too, but it’s never quite seen in the same way when that ‘best friend’ is the one you happen to be having sex with. What's clear is that balance is crucial in any relationship: Molly, 21, told me how a partner had broken up with her for ‘having my friends as my first love’. And I’ve been on the opposite side: feeling like you never get the ‘best part’ of your partner because it’s already been used up on their friends.

There’s something in the masculinity behind this concept too: ‘bros before hoes’ was definitely in the wider rhetoric before ‘chicks before dicks’. ‘I wondered whether it started off tied to ideas of masculinity and part of the traits of masculinity are to be disinterested in romance and settling down; they’re seen to be quite feminine traits,’ Julia suggested. So as women have become more independent from traditional social roles, they've taken on more of what are perceived as ‘masculine’ traits – like the comradery of their amtes.

‘So frequently men talk about the special bonds they have – although they don’t talk about it like that – the special friendships that they make. Historically women didn’t really have access to that kind of world so I think it’s partly also women reclaiming this masculine discourse,’ Julia suggested. It’s like we’re kicking back at what was imposed on us in the past – the importance of the husband and the home – but in doing so we've started to judge one another when this ‘modern’ thing isn’t adhered to.

What 'mates before dates' does though, is put one relationship above another, when in fact, they’re all important and how they fit in your life is constantly changing. Compartmentalising relationships isn't true to life because they weave in and out of different areas constantly, sometimes even intersecting: our family might be your crutch at one point, and your friends at another. And realistically, no relationship can provide you with every single thing you need all the time. Quite plainly, everyone has a use. ‘We [sociologists] talk about networks and personal communities and these approaches look at how all your relationships work at one particular moment because the other thing of course is that they change constantly so what your personal community is now, may be different in a week or a year,’ Carter explained.

By assuming that we have to put one relationship before another, we do ourselves a disservice too. ‘It assumes that you have a finite amount of attention or finite amount of love to give to the people around you, but where’s that come from?’ Carter asked. We’re more than capable of balancing numerous relationships, if we weren’t we’d all be loners, and there’s time for all of them. But by the same token: actually not that much time because we’re chronically time poor. Amidst juggling finances, work, friends, lovers, debt and whatever else, time is a precious commodity that we want to invest in stuff we feel is deserved and that we want to do. And if that happens to be a Friday night with your lover, where's the harm in that?

More than ever before, we, as women, have choices, but maybe not as many as we thought. Because whilst we may not be bound by traditional societal constraints any more, a more modern notion is creeping in: to pride a friendship above all else and this in itself is a rule. Instead, let’s bloody have it all: 'bro's and hoes in equal measure', ‘chick AND dicks.' Because plainly replacing one societal constraint with another is fucking ridiculous.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

9 Things You Only Discover When You're In A Long Distance Relationship

The Politics Of Unveiling Your Significant Other On Social Media

The Scientific Reason Why We're So Attracted To Fuckboys

Follow Chemmie on Twitter @chemsquier

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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