Learning the Ways of Boys
In contrast, with girls, there was always a long, involved, complicated story involving alliances, nuances, guessing what the other one was thinking or saying behind your back, whispers and tears.
A Woman out of Her Element—Among Girls
I remember going on class trips with both my kids, and finding it so much easier to help corral the wild boys than to sort out all the emotional entanglements of girls. With boys, all you needed to do was yell at them to sit down and be quiet, stop throwing things, and quit poking the kid in the next seat.
But with girls, it seemed like one of them was always sitting alone in the corner of the bus crying, while a trio of her former best friends sat nearby giggling, giving her sidelong glances.
A few times, I was foolish enough to try to wade into this morass to make peace. “What’s the matter?” I’d say, unleashing an unfathomable tale of double-crossing, sly insults, and betrayals. Eventually, I’d give up trying to make sense of it, and say something like, “I don’t understand. You girls were friends yesterday. Can’t you just shake hands and be friends again? What’s the big deal? Don’t you see how silly this is?”
It was quickly made clear to me that I was the one being silly. No group of girls ever resolved their problems so straightforwardly, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to remember my own complicated experiences with cliques and castes and judgments. I guess I’d tried to block it out after all these years, but, yes, somewhere at the edges of my memory, I do remember feeling weepy about being left out of this sleepover invitation or that round of phone calls about what to wear to school the next day.
Watching my boys and their buddies fall in and out of friendships with no hard feelings had allowed me to repress those painful memories of what being friends with other girls was really all about. It was totally different with male friendships, what I observed. So what if they hadn’t played with a certain kid in two years? If he was the only warm body around and they were short a man to get a game of street football going, hey, he was suddenly an old pal again, just like that.
Excerpted from 13 Is the New 18: And Other Things My Children Taught Me–While I Was Having a Nervous Breakdown Being Their Mother (Crown, 2009). Copyright 2009, Beth J. Harpaz. All rights reserved.
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