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Are You a Restaurant Girl?
A restaurant is the only real place to girl
Throughout October, we’ll be posting reported features, essays, and lists around our monthly theme: The Regular.
Girl culture is everywhere. But why and to what avail? And how might it apply to the contemporary culture of restaurants? Get in loser, we’re going to do a cultural analysis of girlhood and restaurants…
First, some context. In her recent Times piece, “Why ‘Girls’ Rule the Internet,” Marie Solis explores the resurgence of girly culture, how it allows adult women to “be lighthearted and fun-loving.” But the history of girl culture runs deeper than this – deeper than Megan Thee Stallion and perpetual TikTok trends. Peggy Oreinstein’s seminal Cinderella Ate my Daughter traces the aggressive and fast rise of girl culture back to the 2000s with the beginning of the Barbie Branding Machine, Princess merch, and more, arriving at the conclusion that entire generations’ self-identification with “girly” began when parents took their girls to Blockbuster to rent Disney Princess and Barbie movies, and gave them American Girl Doll catalogs (or didn’t, because 💵). I, myself, was a…victim? disciple? consumer? of girly culture, from dolls and baubles to princess-themed parties.
Girly culture began with Millenials’ and Gen Zs’ parents’ buying power and a cultural narrative constructed by marketing-savvy adults disseminating the idea that, if we were kind and good and demure, someone else would come take care of us. And this narrative has flowered, throughout an increasingly more individualistic society, into a pseudo-feminist Girl culture that now wants our money but also wants us to take care of ourselves. No one is coming to save you. You can become a self-sufficient (albeit culturally loathed) girl boss and clear your mind with a hot girl walk. This dichotomy between the roots of Girl culture and contemporary social reality is why we are left hunched over our kitchen sinks eating piecemeal girl dinners alone.
So, is there anywhere one can truly be a girly? In the nostalgic sense? Not the digital sense–not a tomato-girl OOTD, or a front-camera manifesto for ratgirl summer–not the performance and commodification of girlhood, but a truly lived experience of girlhood. The one where you know that someone will ensure your happy ending? And this is where the restaurant comes in – one of the last places where you can truly “girl out.” So, take this as your reason, sign, and guide for becoming a restaurant girl.
Be The Restaurant Girl
This history of women and restaurants in the US is, like most identity-based issues, fraught – from early nineteenth-century restaurants ran by women but only serving men, to diners being separated by gender to protect the women from male vulgarity (cooties?). But now, Women are in many ways leaders as both restaurateurs and as diners. Chefs like Gabrielle Hamilton are setting industry-wide trends and women are the dominant decision-makers when choosing restaurants.
Restaurants (and the hospitality industry broadly) are one of the only places where this rings true. You (choose to) walk into a restaurant hungry. And they make sure that you leave satisfied. Making this type of restaurant-girling feel not only satiating, but feel like an escape from the sometimes crushing reality of everyday life.
So, why are restaurants the perfect place to “girl?” Because they’re a place where you get to choose to let go of power and trust that you’ll be taken care of. Restaurants unlock a version of girling that transcends gender. Orenstein’s analysis of the narrative of girlhood reveals the submission inherent in the origins of girl-culture. “I don’t have to save myself because someone else will.” Restaurants (and the hospitality industry broadly) are one of the only places where this rings true. You (choose to) walk into a restaurant hungry. And they make sure that you leave satisfied. Making this type of restaurant-girling feel not only satiating, but feel like an escape from the sometimes crushing reality of everyday life.
And obviously, we at Blackbird are biased, but to fully maximize this experience of girlhood at a restaurant, we believe that you should be a regular. It adds a different type of fullness, a different type of edifying, IRL care to the experience of “girling.” One dappled in familiarity, compassion, and something like family.
For example, I’m a regular at my neighborhood restaurant. And even though I’m an adult woman with an apartment and a job and responsibilities, when I enter my restaurant, I’m a restaurant girly. If I pop in hungry, then they make sure that I’ve eaten. If I pop in after a bad date, they make sure that I’ve vented. If the day is exceptionally great or a little sour, then they make sure that I’ve drank. And there’s a type of compassion, a type of reciprocal “girling” inherent in the interactions of a regular. Like lending the owner my favorite book in December (because he “only reads in the winter”). Or hanging around to keep the bartenders company on slow nights because I know they get lonely. The girling can go both ways.
And any time a group of friends wants to grab a bite, or a drink, I suggest my spot (my girl den, my tower?). Just the other night, I brought a group of women to my restaurant, said hello to all of my FOH friends.
“I feel like I’m with America’s sweetheart,” one of the women said.
Not America’s sweetheart. Simply a restaurant girl. Because a restaurant is one of the only places where contemporary girlhood feels less like a voyeuristic digital show, and more like the nostalgic, yielding care of having been a girl.
Blackbird Labs, Inc.