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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Popular? More like BLAH-pular.

Being the children's librarian at my branch, I am usually on the kid's reference desk during the "after school" shift (which is why my Twitter feed starts filling up with kid quotes around 3:30pm. Sorry about that). Because a lot of the drama in a kid's life seems to happen at school, I very often get the immediate "fallout" from the day, whether it's good or bad. The tween girls in particular show their every emotion in their actions; they are usually either all excited and chirpy (if something good happened at school) or morose and dejected (if something bad happened).

Very often the kids use me souding board for their problems, and I am always fascinated by these small glimpses into their lives (especially because I had my OWN similar problems when I was their age, as I'm sure a lot of people did). One day, two girls were standing at the reference desk and telling me about their day, which in this case was NOT a good one. Sensing an opportunity, I put on my therapist/sociologist/cultural anthropologist hat. Instead of giving advice outright, I asked the girls some questions as they talked in order to gain some insight into what it's like for actual tween girls these days. Turns out, when it comes to the issue of "popularity," things haven't changed all that much since I was in middle school.

Tween 1: "I hate popular girls."

Me: "What makes someone popular?"

Tween 1: "They are snotty."

Tween 2: "They want to look pretty even if their clothes are ugly."

Me: "What makes their clothes ugly?"

Tween 2: "Pink! Pink! I HATE pink. What is UP with that?"

Tween 1 (pointing to Tween 2's shirt): "The horses on your shirt are pink."

Tween 2 (looking down at her shirt): "Oh. Well, I don't care."

We move on. The topic of "girly-girls" comes up. Apparently, these are the things that make
a girl a "girly-girl" instead of just a regular girl:

- shopping for a lot for clothes
- always putting on makeup
- wearing dresses and "frilly stuff"
- they want to get boys' attention

Tween 1: "Girly girls will always do what boys tell them to do."

Hmmm. An astute observation, especially as one gets older, but not a point that I really want to unpack with these 12-year-old girls at the reference desk.

Me: "Anything else?"

Tween 2: "They wear high heels."

Tween 1: "I wear high heels, but only on special occasions."

Tween 2: "Okay, they wear high heels EVERY day."

Tween 1: "And their voices! They are always like 'Oh my GAWD.' They say it in a certain way."

The original concern pops up again.

Tween 2: "They just think they're SO popular."

Me: "How do you become popular?"

Tween 2: "You hang out with cool people."

Me: "What makes someone cool?"

Tween 2: "How should I know???"

My conclusions: it's damn tough being a girl, and you really never feel "popular" no matter what age you are. But as you get older, if you are fortunate, you start to realize that popular doesn't really mean anything anyway, and that you have the ability to surround yourself with people who make you feel good and appreciate everything you have to offer. (And who knows, maybe one of those people might even be a librarian.)

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