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How Girls are Wired

Last week I visited a kindergarten class.  Two little girls sat on the floor side-by-side and stacked blocks on each side of a balance weight scale.  I watched and asked them what they liked about school.  Millie answered quickly.  “I like my two best friends.  Lydia and Lora.”  She didn’t know their last names.  Lydia said, “I like my teacher.  She’s nice.  And my two best friends.  Millie and uh……..What’s her name?”  I laughed.  It’s good to know that some things about little girls haven’t changed since I was a child.

Young children are friends and don’t know each other’s last names.  And sometimes, just like Lydia, they don’t know first names.  And it hasn’t changed that girls have best friends.  Boys have friends, but seem to run in packs.  During the twenty-five years that I taught elementary age students, and more than that as the mother of a son, I’ve never known a boy who wrote BFF (best friends forever).

According to a study reported in TIME Science and conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Georgia State University, girls are hardwired to care about one-on-one relationships with their best friend forever, while the brains of boys are more attuned to group dynamics and competition with other boys. (http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1911103,00.html)

I was ten when my best friend’s family moved twenty miles away and my friend went to a different school.  I cried for three nights.  Who would I sit with at lunch?  Who’d swing with me on the playground?  And who’d ask me to spend the night?  On Friday, the girl who sat behind me in my 5th grade class wore her red shirt that was just like mine, and she went home with me after school.  And the next Friday night, I stayed all night at her house.

We females latch onto a friend and declare her my BBF.  In high school, a best friend loans her glittery sweater and keeps secrets.  As maid of honor, she stands beside us when we say, “I do.”  She babysits so we can get a haircut when our days are filled with dirty diapers and play dough.  She picks up our children at school when we’re sick.  She plans our surprise 40th birthday party.  She’s the first person we call with good news.  Or bad news.

Among a listing of Truths for Mature Humans I read, “I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear your computer history when you die.”  I agree.  And I hope she cleans my bathroom and throws away the molded casserole on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator before my relatives arrive.

As Millie and Lydia grow up, I predict that they’ll have many different best friends and they’ll know their names.  First and last names.  But the names aren’t important.  What’s important is that they have a close friend for each stage of their lives.  That’s just the way girls are wired.

Facebook – Not Just for the Young

“Really, you do Facebook?” a friend asked.  Really, I do.  But I was skeptical when I first heard about social networking websites.  I thought such things were created by and for young people, not those of us who are considered over the hill.  My introduction to an online social network was listening to three young teacher friends while we ate lunch together.

“Did you see my Facebook post last night?”  Julie asked.

“No, what’d it say?”  Ann asked.

“I saw it,” said Cindy.  She turned to Ann.  “ Julie wanted to know whether she should wear her new walking shoes or her old ones when we walk after school today.”

“I’d wear the new ones.  What’d you tell her?”  Ann asked.

After listening quietly, I had to speak up.  “Wait.  I don’t understand.  Why’d you ask something like that online?  Couldn’t you all just talk to each other?”  The three laughed.  They insisted they were talking to each other.  “Is that the kind of thing people put on Facebook?”  I said.  For the rest of lunchtime, they told me what their friends had recently written and described pictures that had been posted.  I shook my head.  Some of it sounded like an old-fashion party line gossip.  But I did want to see pictures of a friend’s new house.  That was about six years and ­­­530 friends ago.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few friend requests.  “Are you the Mrs. Ray who taught 4th grade in Sparta a long time ago?”  Von asked. He linked me to other friends who were my very first students.  Now I know about Abby’s children and grandchildren and Caroline’s success as an elementary school teacher.  Another former student is a stand-up comedian.  As a 6th grader, he shared a joke at the beginning of most school days, but he never learned the names of European countries.  I laugh every time Monty posts a picture of himself on stage at one of his shows.

I like that our daughter’s friends, girls who slept on our living room floor at slumber parties twenty years ago, let me peek into their lives.  And I’m glad that our son’s friends, now grown-ups and daddies, share pictures of their children.  Birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings – all are celebrated among FB friends.  Pleas for prayers for those who are ill circulate quickly.  Pictures of newborns, less than an hour old, announce births.

Skimming and scanning, I make my way through Facebook posts.  I’m hooked.  In fifteen minutes, I know what’s happening with friends and family who live near and far.  I skip past reposts and long quotes.  I read personal updates.  I marvel over pictures of sunsets, hummingbirds, and old barns.  I take virtual trips to Italy, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the beach.  And then I see the best pictures of all.  Pictures of my Grands.  So I linger, longer than fifteen minutes.

Yes, I do the online social networking thing.  And I’m pretty sure that the creators of Facebook never imagined how much this grandmother would appreciate their invention.