Illustration by Peter Arkle
Last couple road workouts, my running buddy and I had good conversational entertainment with the differences between boys and girls and which are more trouble. On this subject, we are each 50 percent qualified. My bud and his wife have two boys, the younger in the first grade like our seven-year-old only daughter. Though not a true wife-supported home dad like me, this is a veteran daytime dad, not a Saturday show-off. His job lets him work from the house on a regular basis, and he catches a lot of routine parenting and household scut.
Anyway, this gender thing is a lot of fun. It's like we're talking about the young of different species. Which is worse, our answers offset. Like boys have all this loud, uncontrollable monkey energy and break stuff and pound lumps on each other. On the other hand, girls are driven by social and emotional needs that are mysterious, bottomless - think passage to the earth's molten core - and beyond the ken of daddies. This one, anyway. One of the needs is to screw over other girls.
Truth in three words - girls are meaner. Sure, boys fight, but when it's over it's over. Girls try to do lasting emotional damage. They do it for fun, and enjoy the collateral dramatics.
I could tell my friend didn't buy it - not until he comes along when I dropped off my girl at her ballet class.
By way of background, we're talking Bolshoi style training for classical dance, at entry level but serious, directed by a scary Russian teacher and with a heavy presence of Russian kids. No talking in class, no unearned praise, no aren't-we-special BS of any kind. You should know, too, that my friend is heavily involved in a ballet analog. He coaches soccer, and his older son plays in an elite program run by a Brit as crazy serious as our ballet mistress. So he knows gunner kids.
Still, he's amazed by a bit of casual, low-level meanness we witness in the ballet studio:
One of the better and older girls, almost nine I'm guessing, stretches out before class, doing a thing like a frog run over by a truck.
Another girl comes in and says, all friendly and admiring, "Oooh, what you're doing hurts. It's hard!"
And the girl stretching says, "No it isn't."
Okay, maybe you have to hear her. Flat, dismissive, dissing the other girl's skills, her worthiness to speak and act friendly. Cuts the other kid at the knees, she does, without even looking up.
Cute girl, but also a fully weaponized, reality-TV-grade byeatch. My friend says afterward says that a kid like that could eat his older son and his friends alive, and they're 11.
Yeah, well, welcome to my world. And that was nothing! While we run, I tell about meanness at school, up and down our street. The girls try to steal and monopolize each other's friends, so the loser has to play alone. Yesterday, ours went on and on about somebody else spreading damaging rumors. Anger, tears, mad scenes. They love it.
Now you tell me -- are girls meaner?
More on similar subjects at pater-familias.com
First-Grade Friends And Nemeses
Three Is The Loneliest Number