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Are girls meaner today than they were when we were in high
school? Or is there just more pop
culture attention focused on the daily snark and hallway humiliation that can
be, for many girls, what high school is all about? I’m not sure. Sometimes I think it’s all about how uncivil our civil society has
become. How the “bad words” I dared not
utter at home when I was a kid—even if I dropped a can of stewed tomatoes on
my bare foot (for example)—are words my own daughter uses in casual
conversation. Yes, this is one of the
fights I have given up on to focus on other things like, you know, drugs and
sex. And wet towels on the floor.
So girls may not be meaner but they sound meaner. They don’t
temper their language. They don’t hold
back. Or maybe those great messages our
generation of women is trying to instill in this next generation, the "Girl Power," "Know Your Strength," "Don’t Back
Down" messages, have been interpreted in a way we did not intend. Growing into yourself, finding and nurturing
self-confidence and exercising the power that comes from that wonderful, heady
place has nothing to do with being nasty. Or it shouldn’t. In fact, it’s the opposite, right? The more you like yourself, the more quietly
confident you are, the more you are able to like and respect others.
There’s language and then there’s just plain-old bad
behavior—nasty, hurtful behavior. I’m not talking about outright bullying. I’m talking about random acts of
unkindness. Shunning. Closing ranks when someone wants to join your
little group. “Saving” a place at the
lunch table so the shunned person can’t sit there. Mentioning a party you’re going to or have
gone to and how much fun you had when you know the other person wasn’t there.
I’m not making this up. These are all
specific behaviors I observed during the 18 months I was “Margaret Mead in
Middle School” for a book I wrote about 21st century teen girl culture and the challenges (and joys) of
the mother-daughter relationship (My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, A Daughter, A
Journey Through the Thicket of Adolescence).
When I was in high school, a sophomore I think, a nasty—do
I need to say untrue?—rumor was
started about me by a girl I barely knew. For several weeks, which seemed like months, my life was so miserable
that I faked illness to stay home as much as my increasingly suspicious mother
would allow. I should have come out
fighting, and I didn’t. I internalized
the shame I had no rational reason to feel. After all, I knew the rumor was
untrue. To cover up the hurt, I created a hard little place, an icy place. It could easily have been a place from which
meanness grew. But my friend, my one
great and true and abiding high school friend, my girlfriend, came to the rescue.
Girlfriends help you with your independence and survival without the protection of parents.
And now, a word from the teenage daughter:
Why have a girlfriend to confide in and mess around with
when you have a mom!? Well, for starters a girlfriend will be about the same
age as you, sharing the same generational experiences. Moms hopefully will not be the same age as you and won’t be
sharing those same experiences—and if they are, then, well, you’ve got
another problem. Unlike moms,
girlfriends won’t badger you to clean your room, take out the trash, fold laundry
or do anything else “productive.” If
they do, they probably won’t be my
girlfriend for much longer.
I think it’s important to have strong connections with
someone of the same gender besides your mom. I mean, moms prepare you for
independence out in the real world by teaching you how to take care of yourself. Girlfriends help you with your independence and survival without the
protection of parents. You have no choice who your mom is, but you can choose
which girl will be your girlfriend.
Finding the right girlfriend depends on what your looking
for, and considering how many girls are in mean girl cliques, this can
be tough. Sharing interests and
activities is a must! I want girlfriends who like going to a park, gossiping,
eating out and watching shows like Big Bang Theory, Arrested Development,
Scrubs and True Blood. I like to have girlfriends who don't always obsess about
themselves, telling me every text they get, or constantly trying to one-up me
with off-topic monologues about their fascinating life. But being able to share
emotional stuff with no judgments, and only support, is really the most important to
me—and the hardest to find.
That’s probably why I have far more guy friends than
girlfriends. I find that boys are much
less complicated and easier to get along with. Boys are OK with just playing video games and watching movies for
hours with no need for drama or the need to share every little detail about
their lives. When they get a text
message, if you ask about it, they’ll say, “None of your business.” Exactly!!!
What goes on over your phone or gossip life IS no one else’s business. I really don't want to know ... unless it
has something to do with me, of course. You always hear about boys being all
tough and emotionless, but just like any close friend with whom you trust enough and grow close over time, a boy will open up just as much as a girl, or even a mom.