My eighth grade girls decided they were too old to participate in Girls Night Out, an annual event at my school to foster self-esteem and skills through fun. Too bad. They missed out on a lot. I tagged along a bit with Yosi, a sixth grader I mentor. When I asked her at the end of the night how she liked it, this usually reserved girl breathed, “I loved it.”
They started with a session of yoga. I wasn’t so sure how an hour of this would sit with the girls, but apparently some time perfecting their “downward dogs” helped to expend some pent-up energy after a long day of school while also helping to quiet them, readying them for what came next.
Then it was onto a catered dinner and a speaker on etiquette. Following this the girls went to three half-hour long concurrent sessions of their choosing. These included making good choices, painting still lifes, lessons on how to deal with bullies, salsa dancing, and advice on all things high school. Each of the sessions I visited saw very engaged girls, eager to contribute to discussions. There was lots of laughter and a few tears, but not the girl drama that you might expect from a hundred sixth and seventh graders.
I’m sure that has a lot to do with the tone set by our guidance counselors who organized the event and by the volunteers who led the sessions. I was particularly taken with a young teacher, raised in the next town over, who had been mercilessly bullied throughout middle school. She stood before them a beautiful, confident young woman and also as a survivor of what some of them have faced. Because she was honest with them, they were equally frank with her.
On a lighter note, the session led by a group of high school girls, included questions on boys. One girl wanted to know, “What do you do if a boy wants to kiss you?” Lots of giggles as the high schoolers pantomimed some Matrix-like moves to avoid an amorous embrace. Then they got serious and advised the girls not to let a boy pressure them into doing something they weren’t ready for. I was happy for this and even happier when the leader of the group admitted to the girls that she hadn’t been kissed until her junior year. Several others chimed in, “Same.” One girl allowed that she still hadn’t. What the middle schoolers saw before them were a group of very pretty, very smart, and very popular girls who weren’t defined by boys.
The evening ended with decorated cupcakes and pinky promises to stand by each other through thick and thin, sealed with an exchange of nail polish in all shades of blue, our school color. These badges of honor will set them apart on Monday when they return to class. Someone who had merely been a face in the crowd before might just become a friend.
I’m participating in the Slice of Life Challenge. Won’t you join me?