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Peer Pressure

Posted Oct 22 2008 9:39pm

Once upon a time a very long time ago I sat by a swimming pool with my mum. I was a teenager. [translation = late developer] I pulled blades of grass out of the ground whilst my body dried in the sun. My mother asked me whether I thought it was appropriate for women of her age to wear bikinis? I had no idea what she was asking me. Was it a question of immodesty? At that time the issues of weight, dress code with reference to age, feminist matters and sex where not on my radar.

When my daughter was about to enter third grader, her male teacher at the time commented upon the fact that the majority of her friends were boys and that sadly, this would change during the following year. As an experienced teacher, I was keen to quiz him as to the whys and wherefores? I should point out that both my girls are considered to be Tom Boys on this continent. [translation = standard fare in Europe] Both girls gravitate to boys because of their active natures and inability or unwillingness, to navigate the social waters often associated with juvenile, yet sophisticated, girls' cliques. [translation = clicks]

The teacher explained that girls and boys divided into tribes at the age of seven and above, that by third grade, cement walls would grow around these two groups. I hoped that he was mistaken.

I listen to my son and his chum chat. Both boys are 7. There has been a mysterious electric charge between them since they were three. Chum is a real live wire. An hour of swimming and an hour and a half of football a day, is not enough to discharge his battery. Yet for some reason he is loyal to my son, the one who trundles along at 5 mph. The gap between them widens with age, but the connection remains strong.

I pay close attention to their exchange because chatty Chum has spent a considerable amount of time telling me of how he is bullied at school. [translation = a different school] He has given me chapter and verse on the subject. I am now in possession of an extensive list of young people at his school who fall into this category. I know they names, ages, classrooms, preferred method of torture and inside leg measurements.

Dear sweet natured Chum, who is ‘small for his age,’ is not enjoying the ‘best years of his life.’ Chum has approximately 1000 more words available to him per lungful of oxygen, than my son has. Little Chum chats to my ‘above average in height.’

“But she can’t be your friend, she’s a girl!” Choose your colours. Choose your stripes.
“What?”
“You’re a boy, a guy. We’re guys!” The winning team.
“What?”
“You know. Guys stick together.” Loyal to the end.
“Yes.”
“You’re my man! So you can’t like girls. Guys don’t like girls. Get it?” Them and us.
“What?”
“Look. We hate girls. Boys hate girls! Girls are stupid. Right?” Divide and conquer.
“Stupid?”
“Well, not stupid…..you can’t be friends with girls! You don’t like her really. She’s mean.” Tarzans and Amazons.
“Mean?”
“Yes. She’s mean. She’s a girl.” Pink, flowers, dolls.
‘Mean?”
“Yes. Tell me you don’t like her cos she’s mean. She’s a mean girl. She’s mean to you.” Puppy dogs tails.
“She not mean to me.”
”Well, maybe she’s isn’t mean, but she’s still a girl.” He coaxes camaraderie. I can see his swash and buckle.
“You no have sister.” An 'all boys' family.
“Oh well. It’s o.k. to love……er like your mom and your aunts and stuff but they’re not really girls, they’re like er….relatives and that’s different.” Girls cousins too.
“Different.”
“Yes. Moms are o.k. but everyone else is a girl and boys don’t like girls, that’s the rule!” Declare yourself!

The trigger word ‘rule,’ is the spark to activate his compass.
“But I like her and she is a girl and that’s fine wiv me. I like you. You are my friend but dat is a stoopid rule.”

This is why we try not to typecast and avoid

"little boxes"
like the plague. [translation = maybe I should go easy on the 'we do not say stoopid' campaign?]
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