Friday, March 08, 2013

Boys vs. Girls

I've presented Sweetie with a task.

Starting next week, she must attempt to talk to/play with/befriend a girl or girls in her class.

Not to say that her best friend (a boy) and her best classroom friend (another boy) aren't great kids. They really are! But to know that, half way through the 4th grade, she's still either playing with these particular boys or off playing (happily, I presume) by herself... well, I really think she needs to mix it up a bit. Stretch her limits of comfort and what she's used to as "the way" for her.

I remember, for myself, as early as Kindergarten I had one very best girl friend. We were inseparable! We were always together at recesses, we played on weekends, we had sleepovers and we talked forever on the phone. And this was all before I was 10, as it was that summer that we moved from Ohio to New Hampshire and our friendship was abruptly altered forever.

Now, as far as the dramatics and difficulties of befriending the female of the species as one of the crowd yourself... man, I get it. Moving to NH for the start of the 5th grade, being the new kid who was so "different' and walked funny and all that... it either enhanced my shyness or created it - I don't remember which - and I had difficulty making friends. But I ultimately did. In 5th and 6th grade I was part of a small band of friends - definitely not the popular crowd - that consisted of 3 other girls and a boy. We had fun together, if not oodles of other kids clamoring to join in on our (mild-mannered) shenanigans.

In junior high, we disbanded, with me going off to one area school and they going to the other (much, much larger) school downtown. I made friends with a new group of girls. Enough so that we went to each other's homes for sleepovers and invited each other to our birthday parties. But we didn't really hang out together outside of school. With one girl I did, I think, just a bit. But it definitely wasn't a chatting on the phone/hanging out together every weekend sort of friendship. I was decidedly much more a part of a small (still not popular) "group" and not terribly chummy with any individual member of said group just one on one. Maybe the others were with each other? I don't know. I suppose I was happy enough to have a table of friends to sit with at lunch and to lead the rest of my life in relative peace.

By the time I went off to high school, I was leaving our junior high a year earlier than all the others to attend a small, all girls, Catholic school in town. Another girl from my group of friends was coming with me and, yes, we did remain friends right through graduation. But my very best friend in high school showed up in a girl who was 110% the exact opposite from me. Whereas I was a quiet, polite, girly girl who enjoyed school and my classes well enough and basically just wanted to keep to my hidden, unassuming ways, my friend was a trash talking tomboy-to-end-all-tomboys who liked hard rock, didn't like school, and reveled in being different. Or at least that's what she presented to others. Now I recognize that she was probably just as self conscious as anyone - maybe more so - but was doing her utmost to make it look like she didn't have a care in the world. I suppose being with her excited me, to show me a bit of the wild side. I can't speak for her to say what it was about me that kept her around as my friend through the years. But come post-graduation, when I realized that it was always me calling her during our freshman years of college in different states - and she never sounding all that focused or interested when I did call - I made the decision to just not call her again. To see if she would call me if that was her only option for staying in touch. She didn't call. Or write. To this day, I have no idea where she is or what she's doing.

In college - there I was, off again to another all female institution. I had no choice but to befriend, of course, other girls (women!). I liked my roommate well enough. She, like me, was shy, quirky, and involved in her studies. She had friends from her hometown at school with us as well, so I had a casual acquaintanceship with them as well. But beyond these 3, I really didn't make any great, deep, long-lasting friendships. Friendly with many, close to few. In fact, by the end of my sophomore year, I was feeling as out of place as ever amongst this collection of women who were, as a whole, largely science and math focused - always off to labs and math clubs and studying - while I, the lonely English major, "just" stayed in my dorm room reading and writing all day.

I got the heck out of there and transferred to somewhere - co-ed - closer to home. And, being closer to home, I lived at home with my parents and only went to school for my classes, rarely having much between-class time to hang out much and form any friendships. Except for one. A guy. He, again, was shy and quirky, just like me. We did hang out together at the on-campus pub when waiting for our next classes to start. And we had lunch together in the cafeteria when we could. But, again, it was a purely on-campus friendship. Not the kind of relationship where we'd call each other up to just chat or hang out on the weekends together. He's another one I immediately lost contact with after graduation. Oh well.

But, how nice it was to be friends with a guy! Girls were so dramatic and gossipy. Guys didn't care. This guy accepted me, as is. Girls, in general, were too.... much. I was girled out!

So, as you can see, I've never been one for deep, meaningful relationships with other females. To this day - yes, of course I have a few good female friends. But they are the types of friendships where we meet for coffee once a month, or go to each other's houses - with our husbands or significant others - for dinner and drinks, or meet at book club to discuss our latest reads. Not to say they are not true friends. Of course they are! I value my friends and the times we're together very much. They are a great bunch of ladies! But, even though they may very well be - most definitely are, in fact - women who talk on the phone with and shop with and generally hang out with their other girl friends, my friendships with these ladies are much more compartmentalized, subdued and relaxed. Which is just the way I like it. I'm not looking for or needing silly girl talk and shopping trips and girls weekends, etc. I am accustomed to my quiet, one-on-one ways of coffee chats, wine evenings, and book reviews. Keep it quiet. It is my way.

I noticed this last time I took Sweetie to a roller skating night at her school. Other moms were huddled in groups of 2 or 3, chatting and laughing and having a great time together, with their young daughters, likewise, all laughing, skating and having fun together. And I sat by myself, enjoying watching the kids go round and round - especially Sweetie as she made her way around and around the gym floor, having a grand ol' time all by herself. I recognized many of these women as the moms of kids whom Sweetie's been classmates with for 5 years. But I have never had the opportunity to be around any of these women enough over the years to form any real friendships with them. And that was fine. Is fine. I didn't necessarily feel lonely that night, nor did Sweetie appear to be anything but truly happy with the way her evening was going. But I did begin to notice where Sweetie gets her anti-female ideas from, even if they are subconscious. I don't have overtly obvious female friendships (that can be noticed or are talked about on a daily basis) and am doing just fine, so why should she?

So, yeah. I get it! Sweetie has fallen in with the boys from the get-go and that's where she feels most comfortable. Which is great! And cool! So far. She has always been the super hero loving/Lego playing/imaginative girl. She's a quirky kid, and not ashamed of it. She's just discovered much earlier in life what it took many years of friendships with others for me to realize - that it's much easier to be "one of the guys" than to model yourself as something you're not just to gain a female friend or two in your corner.

BUT, after all that...there's also something to be said - especially as Sweetie and her classmates enter into upper elementary and junior high school - about fitting in, in the name of getting through these pending difficult years with as little drama as possible. There's some worth to be had in establishing a few meaningful female friendships as they all begin to change and develop and grow. I'm wondering if it may not be so easy to maintain true friendships with her current male friends as these next few years pass us by. Wouldn't it be good and nice for her to have some girls she can turn to when the boys, inevitably, let her down? Or, for that matter, when they come beating down her door! Having a few good girl friends to giggle and gossip and hang with, at this time in her life, may be a very, very good thing for her to invest in.

So, take it from me, kid. At least try to give this a shot. Girls aren't so bad. You may find this hard to believe now, but you just may want to giggle and joke and tell secrets with someone other than me in the not too far off future.

Trust me. I'm your mother.

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