My daughter has best friends. Lately they have been sending each other text messages via my cellphone, because at age eight I don’t think my daughter needs a cellphone of her own. I do my best to ignore these messages, I’m not the intended recipient, but on occasion I will receive a text that is not for me with random messages like:
R U HERE I MISS U ARE U BZY CAN YOU TEXT ME
Followed by numerous emoticons usually involving smiley faces and the occasional cat head. This makes me happy beyond words. I want my daughter to have all the girlfriends, and I want her to foster these friendships and learn that having girlfriends is one of the best things in the world.
I didn’t always feel this way. Growing up I was sort of a bad girlfriend. I had a few close girlfriends when I was young, and I hate to admit by the time I hit my teenage years I had more boy friends than girls. I can remember thinking that I got along with boys better, I was somehow more comfortable with them because teen girl friendships seemed fraught with all sorts of ickiness – competition for other boys, cattiness regarding other girls and each other, obsessions with appearances and social status and all sorts of other things I just didn’t want to deal with at the time. In retrospect, I’m sure I just felt left out and maybe due to my parent’s divorce I was seeking out boy friendships in order to compensate for the lack of a male figurehead in my life. I don’t know, but I do know that I wish I would have had more girlfriends, and I want to do everything possible in order for my own daughter to have them.
Now that I’m older I’m girl crazy. I am utterly enthralled with female friendships. I’m not the best at being the most aggressive person when it comes to making plans or keeping in contact with other women, but I’m mad for them. I crave attention from other women and when I find those that like me, even if it is just something simple like another woman complimenting me on a blouse or the ultimate thrill, a woman saying something nice about something I’ve written, it’s the sort of thing that blows me away. For me there is nothing like the validation I get from another woman – and I’m not saying I don’t like men or I don’t utterly love my husband and that it’s not nice when a dude compliments something about me, but when a woman does it’s so much more meaningful to me. I’m at this point in my life where I’m utterly captivated and enthralled by women.
This is a totally not cool thing to admit. Being an adult woman who flat out says “I like women I want women I want girl friends and women to LIKE me and think I’m smart and funny and interesting and worthwhile” shoves me directly into some dork corner where I can casually observe all the cool girls walking by, the women who other women want to keep company with, who know distinctly that they are funny and cool and smart and don’t need to tug on the skirt hems of the other girls in order to get noticed. It’s a very not cool thing to admit that you want to be liked. But you know what? I’m teaching my daughter to do this. I’m telling her to seek out friendships, to set up the playdates, to tell her peers that it hurts her feelings if they tease her and to ask the girls she knows to listen to her, to talk to her, to be there for her. I’m teaching her that her life will be long, and no matter what sorts of relationships she has, what sorts of boys she has friendships or more with, there is nothing that can compare to the friendships she will have with other women. I encourage the friendships my boys have with girls because I want them to value and appreciate women beyond any romantic or sexual sense, but it’s my daughter I badly want to learn the importance of having women in her life. I want her to learn from other girls and teach them as well, I want her to be a good friend and appreciate these friendships and do every thing she can to keep them.
I’m not forcing her to be BFFs with anyone who is truly unkind and nasty to her, but I am explaining to her things I wish I would have understood more when I was younger – that sometimes people do or say unkind things because they are coming from a place of insecurity or hurt or maybe they are just having a bad day. I’m teaching her to give her friends the benefit of the doubt, to speak out if someone hurts her feelings, to be kind to others even when it’s not the easiest thing to do. I’m teaching her to return calls and texts, and allowing her to buy goofy rubber bracelets to hand out to all the girls she knows because at this age this is what she likes to do. And as her mother, I’m making an effort to talk to her about women, to outwardly admire those I know and those I have never met, to speak to her about the importance of girlfriends and women and teach her about women who every day do amazing things in this world to make the world a better and safer place for women.
My daughter will grow up knowing boys like her. She will have boy friends and romantic partners who are good and lousy and complicated and heartbreaking and brilliant and stupid. I just want to make sure that through it all she has some really good girlfriends.