Promiscuous GirlsMarch 6, 2011
When Lemon was in middle school, she lived on the fringes, socially. She had several friends, but wasn’t part of a solid “group” until 8th grade. Before that, she would go from group to group, from friend to friend, and seemed okay with that. She had a couple blips here and there with arguments and such, but they were just blips. She has yet to have a boyfriend. She’s had crushes, and people have had them on her, but things haven’t really come together to create a first dating experience yet.
Mouse, however – she’s very different. As I’ve mentioned before, she has always been not only social, but relatively magnetic. I guess my take is: “Mouse is popular.” She wouldn’t identify herself as such, but that’s my read.
This has come with a good bit of negatives, as well as positives. The cliques – of course – come with the nasty clique-related games. Mouse spent 4th grade (yes, that young) in hell because of the nasty girl politics. And it rears its head to this day.
This year, she’s in 7th grade, and the majority of the kids are “dating” (Mouse was an early bloomer in this department, having dipped her toe in last year). Mouse has had 2 “boyfriends” since the 6th grade episode – one lasted for at least a month, and the two of them almost NEVER spoke. She wished she hadn’t said “yes” from the start, and so ignored the poor boy. I lectured her constantly about doing the fair thing and breaking up with him – but once she let it go long enough that it became super uncomfortable, it was hard for her. Eventually, she got up the guts. The second one, she again said yes without really thinking, and within 12 hours told him she changed her mind (and I’m happy to report that it was after she came to me a bit perplexed and shell-shocked that she decided it was the best course – I was VERY happy that she came to me).
For the most part, this has all remained very innocent. The kids are not jumping ahead of themselves. ”Dating” still means meeting in a park during daylight hours, maybe walking to our town center to get a smoothie or an ice cream (still daylight). They may do a “double date,” or bring friends along. I haven’t heard any whispers of a single kiss taking place (and I do believe I would hear – from a kid or a mom).
Despite the innocence inside of relationships, and my complete comfort with the way they are all handling themselves in this area, the talk between the kids – in the context of their mixed gender “friendships” – is taking a raunchier turn.
This year has brought some huge changes in this regard (and I remember 7th grade bringing huge changes for Lemon’s grade, too). One game they like to play is “date, pass, marry” – they do it in gmail group chat (which I spot check, and she knows it is a contingency for her having the privilege). In the start of the year, I saw a chat once where they were saying “let’s play DPM!” and someone (a girl friend) said “no, let’s play FPM!” and my sweet little Mouse said, “wait …. huh? F?” (Playing the blonde that she is …) and one of the boys clued her in “fuck, pass, marry” and Mouse said, “no, please lets not!” and someone else said, “no, just play it right!”
That was early in the school year. I promise you, she wouldn’t wonder what the “F” stood for today ….
As the year progressed, I heard that boys were starting to rank girls according to their chest size. Mouse was once hurt because a girl friend of hers told her that a boy said, “Oh, I don’t like Mouse, because she’s too FLAT!” while rubbing his own chest in an obnoxious gesture.
I’ve also seen many a chat where they are playing with “perverted” conversations. Funny how many innocent words can be used in this way. (Did you step in a puddle on the way home? I bet you’re now WET! How’s that math homework? Ha! You said HARD!) I’ve seen tons of these conversations where the boys use these choice words and phrases as a test over whether the others will “get it.” This is almost entirely initiated by the boys, but the girls do not walk away without responding. (“Yes, I get it. I’m not stoopid, you know!”)
I remember this stuff from my own middle school experience as clear as day. I remember being very uncomfortable, but not wanting to come across as a prude. I wanted to show that I could handle it, that I was in on the jokes, and that I was fun to be around. I hated it.
I am sad that Mouse isn’t escaping this stuff. I still believe that Lemon made it through 7th and 8th grade without this nonsense. Now that she’s in 9th, she “gets” dirty jokes and double meanings, but I don’t think she had this social scrambling discomfort nonsense going on.
Nevertheless, this is what Mouse is dealing with. I’ve taken some opportunity to talk to her about it, about whether or not someone who talks to her that way is really a “friend,” and what meaningful conversations look like. She rolls her eyes at me, but I see later signs that she’s listening, and internalizing. It doesn’t mean she cuts off those “friendships,” but I do think it affects her opinions of them, and her perception of what’s “right” and what’s “wrong.”
I’ve often wondered how parents of boys perceive this stuff. Do they know? Are they aware that their boys are even TALKING to girls? About anything? I’ve spoken with some moms of boys in our community, and gotten the impression that they really aren’t aware of the fact that boy/girl things exist. They don’t know that their son knows about s-e-x, and certainly wouldn’t think their son was comparing boob sizes or cracking dirty jokes. I am a pretty vocal person, and so I do let those parents know – stuff is going on. If the conversation allows for it, I’ll fill in as many details as I possibly can.
But one day recently, a group of us were talking, and one of the moms of one of the most socially active boys was there. I had previously suspected she was in the clueless category, but I was wrong. It seems like she did have some indication of the fact that he is socially active. And she said, “Well, I talk to my son all the time about these promiscuous girls who are always texting him and chatting with him, and I’m teaching him that just because a girl is behaving WRONG, I mean, it is just WRONG, doesn’t mean he has to take her up on these things, and he should just walk away.”
Wait, did she just say Promiscuous Girls?
In a mixed group of girl-moms and boy-moms, it was clear that the reaction to her comment was divided along those lines. The moms of girls lost their jaws to the floor, and the moms of boys nodded along. I think the idea was that their sons would NEVER talk about or think about sex if it weren’t being shoved down their throats by these trouble-maker girls.
And as the mom of a girl, and a prior girl myself, I couldn’t disagree more.
These kids are experimenting. They are pushing their conversations and their friendships into areas that I am way less than thrilled with. But how does this mean that the girls are “promiscuous?”
I wish I pushed for more information, but instead I froze up. Maybe she wasn’t talking about the fact that the kids are starting to intermingle more, and to “date” and to dance at the town-sponsored dance that we ALL allow our kids to attend. Could she have meant that a girl dared asked a boy to dance? Or — maybe some girl was truly “promiscuous”:
characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association,
especially having sexual relations with a number of partners on a casual basis.
There was a great post by Chris Jordan at Alphamom recently about her son of a similar age who was truly dealing with very aggressive behavior from a girl in the context of one of those young teen “relationships.” I know it’s out there. And I know as they get older, true promiscuity may be experimented with by some of the girls that I know today as 12 and 13 yos. But what’s going on in our community right now – things that parents should be talking to their kids about – it’s not a result of “promiscuous girls.” And I fear that if parents assume that these relatively common experimentations are a result of only girls’ “bad behavior” (despite the fact that it’s 9 times out of 10 a boy who initiates the conversation …) that they will easily say “well, that’s not my kid,” and then just not address it. Not have the conversation about how it’s NOT okay to talk to girls about their bra size. It’s NOT okay to make people feel like crap about themselves. It’s NOT appropriate to casually banter about very sexual issues when it makes others uncomfortable.
Both boys and girls in this age group are floundering. They are all confused. They are all at different stages of development, and watching what others have, what others do, and it is HARD (cue 7th grade snickers). I know I wish I could be the only source of input into Mouse’s little brain about what relationships are, and what sex is/should be/will be – and of course – WHEN it should be. I’m sure we all do. But I don’t think that the demonization of the opposite gender is going to help our kids navigate this transition stage in their development. Honestly, I think that if girls who are ONE HALF of these conversations are somehow demonized while the boys are patted on the head having their behavior deemed “normal”, it is only going to further gender stereotypes that I personally can do without, and so can my daughters. There should not be a double standard. It’s not funny for boys to sit around and laugh at girls’ “boobies” (and lack thereof) but “promiscuous” for a girl to laugh at a boy’s raunchy joke, to be half of a text conversation with a boy, or to dance with a boy at a dance (assuming that’s what was being referred to).
I regret not taking that conversation further in the moment. I wish I pushed for more explanation about what this “promiscuous” behavior was, and I wish we had the opportunity to explore the different perspectives of parents of boys and parents of girls.
Instead, I stared at my shoes and clenched my jaw while picturing the chats I’d seen and the cell phone records I tend to (obsessively) monitor. Hopefully thinking this through NOW, and having the opportunity to read about other moms’ of boys’ perspectives in a neutral forum will prepare me to take advantage of the next conversation.
Without lashing out, which I fear is what I would have done if I opened my mouth last time. I think they’re very important conversations, and shouldn’t be lost in parents’ bickering and defensiveness. I’m lucky to be in a community wherein 80% of parents are interested in the conversations and are willing to have them. I think the kids benefit from having parents who are clued in. Parents can’t talk to their kids about these things if they have no idea what’s going on. I think talking to each other helps us stay up on what’s going on, and to talk to our kids about it. It also helps kids know that the community is bigger than their friends. It encompasses all age groups, including parents.