Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Breaking news: Bees can fly

"My mother gave me a bumblebee pin when I started work. She said: "Aerodynamically, bees shouldn't be able to fly. But they do. Remember that." Jill E. Barad

I've been reading a book called Odd Girl Speaks Out, ed by Rachel Simmons, about girls, bullies, cliques and jealousy - and remembering my own years in high school -- it's no picnic.

First you have to figure out how to dress, how to wear your hair, how much make-up to wear; then you have to figure out how you fit in. Are you unique? are you one of a kind? Nobody seems to want to be singled out as 'different', yet everyone wants to be 'special' or unique. Of course not everyone is part of the 'popular' clique - maybe you belong with the library card carriers, nose in a book all the time; or the computer nerds, who may call themselves privately brilliant, not nerdy. Or maybe you're a sports jock or a hip-hop dancing cheerleader. Everybody (even in schools with uniforms), gets stuck in a niche somehow, partly based on how they look. And what the crowd (or gang) thinks counts.

I remember not fitting in anywhere - altho clever in grade school, I turned out not to be a 'browner' or nerd. Some classes I was good in, history and English. Others I was lost in, *science and math*. In others, I got detentions every week for not handing in homework on time (home economics) or for swearing at the teacher (French). This made me part-time member in the 'rebellious' gang, the ones that wore jeans and liked to smoke cigarettes outside the school doors. Having an attitude, being snarky with everyone, becoming cynical and sarcastic, and having a mean mouth, were easy skills to acquire, but being a girl, I also wanted to be liked, to be pretty, to have a boyfriend. It was an odd mix.

Being 4'11 and 80 pounds for most of high school didn't help me attract the right guy either. Changing best friends every year kept things fresh, but it wasn't until I started hanging out with 5'8" tall Janet did I start to have real fun, and become a "Keep on Truckin" type of girl. We liked to dress in overalls or second hand Sally Ann dresses. We felt we were originals. But sometimes we made ourselves feel better aobut not belonging to the 'popular crowd', by picking on a little guy with black polished shoes and a briefcase we called "Little Prick".

I am not proud of our amaturish attempt at bullying. We followed him in the hallways, whispering insults behind his back about the way he was dressed, or the weight of his briefcase. We even kicked him once in the seat of the pants - either Janet or I. We made his life miserable for at least part of one year, possibly Grade 10.

It was early days of feminism, and I wonder if we thought it made us more powerful to pick on someone younger, and male. Paradoxically, the year after, we gave a shy newcomer with long hair and flannel shirts the opposite treatment. We made him our special friend and member of the Keep on Trucking society. He was almost mute he was so shy, but Janet joked with him and made jolly so that he began to actually smile in public.

What is all this rambling about high school years? I have a daughter, who is in and out of a clique of the same friends since Grade One. I have a son whose group of friends expanded in high school from one to six or seven. They are both tightlipped about what goes on amongst high school friends. But I know sometimes those friends can be mean back stabbers, gossiping, and downright mean. And that some days they take it all in and don't know how to react or respond. I know my son can be kind and generous, and also mean and sarcastic. I know my daughter is sweet and kind, and other times judgemental and snooty. And I know some of those girls have been in real emtoional trouble, and felt excluded from the 'gang'.

The odd girl in my life was me. I eventually learned to speak up for myself. And keep up with the tall girls.

So I hope my daughter (who is already taller than me) learns to value her own opinion, and her own intuition as well as the 'gang's. And that whether she wears the right hairdo or the right pyjamas to a sleep-over is not what will make or break her friendships. Most of all, I wish them one true friend in their life time. And I wish them the knowledge that even those unwieldy looking things called bees, so un-aerodynamic, can fly.

their mom, jenn


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