Thursday, April 10, 2008

G is for Girls Gone Goofy

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice, and everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.
Robert Southey, English poet and historian

"G"one are the days that "well-brought-up English girls are taught by their mothers to boil all veggies for at least a month and a half, just in case one of the dinner guest turns up without his teeth."* As a woman in my mid 50's I've grown in freedom and ability because of the courage of my fighting feminist foremothers. These ladies weren't satisfied with the barefoot and pregnant status quo. They were willing to take on a male dominated society to pave the way for women like me, and my daughter and my granddaughter. The right to vote, climb a corporate ladder, fly to the moon, go to war and even run for president are privileges I've never NOT known. I wouldn't want it any other way. However, in the last few weeks I've read about a disturbing increase in the fighting behavior of young women.

I don't want to start an argument, or worse, a family rebellion. After all, second generation Reynolds women are not shy about telling their mothers just how wrong we can be. But I've got to go out on a limb here and say I think when adolescent girls trade their Barbie dolls and jump ropes for fistfights, feminism might just have crossed a line of acceptable girl behavior.

I'm not saying that just because they've been doing it since time began that it's okay for boys to beat each other up; or worse, "boys will be boys." I have to believe, though, testosterone has something to do with a man's ability to pummel his best friend, then get up out of the dust and finish the ball game. I just don't think that girls are genetically wired for wild, fist fighting the way boys are. Sadly, I may be wrong about this.

I don't get hand to hand combat, never have - never will - I'd be the first one on a playground to say, "let's put down our dukes and blow some bubbles." I'm a person of words, which, I know, can cut as deep as any knife. Still I believe talking things out is a better way to mend fences than kidnapping, duct taping, face punching, or hip stomping, not to mention video taping the whole scene.

Of course, I want to blame telecommunication. If we banned TV crime shows, horror movies, the Internet and phototaking cell phones wouldn't we have a more peaceful world? Maybe not. Probably the best protection for kids growing up today is to encircle them in bubble wrap.

Things were different when I was in middle school. Oh sure, we had the regular social stratification - popular girls vs smart girls, athletic girls vs girls unable to catch a softball with a glove on both hands, girls dressed in matching Villager sweater and skirt sets vs girls who made their own A-line shifts. Maybe I wasn't a complete "g"eek but I did feel like I was always on the outside looking in. I spent a lot of time wondering what cool actually meant and how to hide the fact that I was a couple inches taller than the boys who had begun to look better than they had before the summer of 1965.

While in the 7th grade, I never did master the art of fitting in but I've got to tell you, I had an overdeveloped "g"rasp of "g"eography. How many kids can say that at one time in their lives they could name every country, capital, ocean, mountain range, and river in the entire world? My teacher, Mr. Robertson, was a stickler for memory quizzes. Our year-end exam was a blank map of the world and we had to fill in the blanks. I'm not ashamed to say I aced the test and have carried around a teenie tiny bit of smug satisfaction at my "g"eographical "g"enius for all these years.

Never mind that most Eastern block countries have new names since they are no longer part of the USSR, or that the map of Africa has changed more than once since my world trivia triumph. Today I have trouble figuring out the difference in longitude and latitude, but for one "g"lorious moment in time I gave up worrying about what others thought of me and tested my own female brainiac limits. Is this what's missing from my "g"randdaughter's "g"eneration? Do girls today believe they need to exercise their brawn rather than their brains? Is this progress? What do you think?

Here are some less controversial "G" words:

Here are some of my favorite "G" people:

"G"rinning "G"reenwoods

"G"oalie "G"abby

"G"ad-about "G"avin

"G"oodbye for now, Merry ME

*Calvin Trillin

No comments: