Saturday, January 21, 2006

Girls Will Be Girls...and That Sometimes Means Cruel

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I've blogged before about watching girls behave like their mothers-- catty, snooty, cliqueish. But those were little girls I was talking about. Seven-year-old girls who behave that way from kindergarten onwards, as I've witnessed.

Today I saw grade 8 girls in action. There was a girls' shabbaton being hosted at my shul for seudat shlishit. These were girls from my children's school, so I've seen some of them over the years I've been affiliated with the school, watched them grow up in the past 6 years.

True, some of these 13 and 14 year olds look like my eight-year-old daughter, ie. that petite, small in body and just little-girl-like. Others look like well-developed young women of 17 or 18 with a flare for fashion and hairstyles.

I watched how they grouped together, most of them in threes and fours, as they sat in shul for mincha and maariv. Yet there was one lone girl, intent on her davening, and pretending, I'm sure, to ignore the fact that nobody was sitting with her. I HURT FOR THIS GIRL. I HURT BADLY FOR THIS GIRL.

I know she is one of the very bright ones in the school, and yes, her brains will carry her far in life. But socialization is rather important, too, and it's hard to have one without the other.

It was so clear to me who were the nice kids in this group, who were the snooty kids in this group and who were the hot-cold kids in this group. And then it was so clear to me who was the ostracized ONE in this group.

I had flashbacks to my school years, to the bright kid, quiet kid, friendly kid, who was a loner, and not necessarily by choice. To the kid who sometimes was afraid to raise her hand in class and answer because then she might be taunted as "teacher's pet" or "browner".

But that same kid was made stronger in a way because of her "position" in the school's totem pole, somewhere at the bottom. And that same former kid is proud that her daughter is sociable and happy and well-liked. Yet that former kid makes it a point to teach said daughter that those attributes are not enough; foremost, she must be everyone.

I hope that in 5 years, G-d willing, when my daughter is in grade 8 at a shabbaton, there will be mothers looking around the room of girls and assessing this assembly of females. They will notice my daughter in the group, will think to themselves, "She looks like a nice girl" and many of them will be able to add, "Not only does she look like a nice girl, I know she is a nice girl!"

Such is a mother's wish.