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The A to Z's of Teenagers: G Is for Girlfriends

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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.

RELATED: The A to Z's of Teenagers: D Is for Drama

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.

RELATED: The As to Z's of Teenagers: B Is for Boys

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.

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