Is there any sentence that’s more jarring in a novel than“I’m not like other girls”? As soon as I read it, my thoughts go something like this:
- Mmm-hmm. You definitely know what all other girls are like, right?
- Well, that’s kind of true. No two people are alike. Everyone’s unique.
- Really Author, you couldn’t figure out a subtler way to let your readers know the protagonist is a special snowflake?
This is a sentiment which can be expressed in a multitude of ways. Unfortunately, when authors lack a shred of imagination, it’s stated in this cliched way and it’s usually accompanied by a coy look and a toss of (low-maintenance, but glossy) hair.
At the risk of sounding like an angry, ranting feminist, I must say that this one sentence ignores all the progress third-wave feminism has made. It implies the “other girls” are shallow, mercenary, clinging women who worship at the altar of consumerism and lipstick. They’re the ones who can’t be bothered to look past the reputation (whether notoriety or fame) of the love interest to see the “man”.
Third wave feminism is all about choice. You are no less of a woman if you decide you would rather wear jeans than skirts. At the same time, if you want to be a housewife—it doesn’t make you anti-feminist. The phrase “I’m not like the other girls” makes the girl whose not like the “others” one in a million. She’s the last bastion of feminity in a world where every girl falls prey to quick judgement, ambition and boy-crazy mania. Our main character is the perfect girl (a.k.a. “manic pixie dream girl”). She can be a paragon of virtue, hang with the dudes and fight against evil—all without sweating or breaking a nail.
I sound bitter. I can’t help it because I hate it when authors (or people in general) try to make one woman look good by bashing others. You have no business praising someone if the only way you can do it is by insulting everyone else. That’s not a compliment; it’s just billions of insults.
If I see this line, I usually close the book after finishing the page. In fact I can think of only one unique instance I didn’t. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the book but it was a romance novel where a male character told the female protagonist “You’re not like the other girls” to praise her for not being shallow. The female character parries by saying something along the lines of “Well, clearly you’ve been hanging out with the wrong people.”
For those of you who’ve considered using this sentence, please don’t. At least this way you can ensure you’re different in one important way.