starshine%20mug.jpgThings were so much simpler when girls
had cooties. Back then, my son’s only interest in Valentine’s Day
was the promise of foil-wrapped chocolates and the pride of
committing his herky-jerky signature to the race car-shaped
Valentine cards he would hand out in class. But this year,
something is different. The skirt-wearing, hair-twirling half of
his class — the half once shunned at all the best birthday
parties — is suddenly my son’s favorite topic of conversation.

He doesn’t especially want to talk about girls; he wants me to
explain them to him. The way he and his 9-year-old buddies see it,
the freckled coquettes who sashay around the schoolyard are
dazzling but exasperating enigmas. They talk too much and never say
anything that makes sense. They’re pushy. They’re pretty. They’re
pint-sized, pony-tailed puzzles with flavored ChapStick and Hello
Kitty pencil cases.

All of which is how — when I would have preferred to be doing
something wholesome and escapist like helping him lick Valentine
envelopes or scarf chocolates — I came to spend the week answering
for my gender. My ruthless, diabolical gender.

Mom, why do girls act so cool? It’s like they think girls
rule or something.
Okay, you didn’t hear this from me, but,
girls do rule. We just do it in a sneaky way that makes boys think
they’re actually in charge.

How come girls are nice to me one day, then kick me in the
shins the next?
Sweetheart, girls are — hmmm, how to put
this — lunatics. The Dr.-Jovial-and-Ms.-Snide act is a test we
issue to see how much abuse you’ll put up with before throwing up
your hands and deciding to eat lunch with some other playground
floozy. If you tattle on us, shove us, or call us annoying, we know
you’re not really committed to the friendship. If, however, you
stick it out and let us empty the contents of our naturally
occurring schizophrenia onto your poor shins, you’ve won our
loyalty forever. What we fail to tell you, though, is that the
prize is actually … more shin-kicking.

Is one of girls’ main goals to look pretty? Oh,
heavens, no. The main goal is to get your attention and to keep you
fixated on us, google-eyed, until your retinas burn from lack of
blinking. Looking pretty is simply the easiest way we’ve found to
do that.

Why do they like to style their hair so crazy, putting
chopsticks through it, making pony tails all over their heads?

Like boys, girls worry about how we will be perceived by the world.
Will we seem smart? Fun? Creative? Strong? Unlike boys, we are
under the impression that we can overhaul our image simply by
altering our hair. We believe we can be tough-as-nails tomboys one
day and four-foot femme fatales the next, merely by moving our part
from left to right. This is a powerful conviction that must never,
ever be challenged out loud. If a girl comes to school with string
cheese braided into her mane, the proper response is, “Your hair
looks nice that way.”

Why do boys always seem to be the chasers, and girls the
ones being chased?
Because girls are better at disguising
their boy-chasing (see shin-kicking, above).

Why do girls always start blabbering off? Any time of day,
their brains are coming up with something for their mouths to
Like the Sirens in Greek mythology, whose enchanting song
caused distracted sailors to crash their ships into the rocks,
girls hope to mesmerize you with our lilting, looping chatter. If
you listen closely, you can learn what we care about, what scares
us, what qualities we like most in a friend. Sometimes, though, you
simply can’t afford the distraction. Odysseus and his shipmates
used earplugs to block the Sirens’ call. And hey, if it worked for
them …

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