Saturday, September 16, 2006

Powder Puff Insanity

When I was in high school, the traditional Powder Puff football game between junior and senior girls was a time for friendly competition, good-natured fun, and a whole lot of muddy, smiling faces.

Oh, how things have changed.

Kat, a junior, is still in physical pain (and emotional bewilderment), two days after she joined her group of junior girlfriends for a game of Powder Puff football against the senior girls. I should have known something was up when I received an e-mail from the school principal, saying that the event, which was to take place off-campus during non-school hours, was not sanctioned by the school and that it had often included less than civil behavior among the girls in the past. Curious, I asked Kat about it, encouraging her to skip the game and offering to take her out for dinner instead. She told me that she "had to go or she'd be harassed and called the "p" word (abbreviated in order to avoid my blog turning up on weird search results) all year long" and that she'd never hear the end of it if she didn't go. I asked her if all the junior girls had to go and she replied, "only anyone who has a life now and wants a life after it's over." What pressure! Turns out, she was damned if she went and damned if she didn't. If she went, she'd most certainly be subject to cat-fights among groups of girls that Kat said were "just like the movie Mean Girls." If she didn't go, she'd be taunted and labeled a "p" and a "coward" for what (to her, at 16) would feel like all eternity.

Yes, we had a long talk beforehand, today's version of "if your friend jumped off a bridge..." nWe talked about being your own person and peer pressure and self-esteem and the true meaning of friend. "I know, Mom... I know... All that's true. But I really need to go." It's so much easier being the "wise" mom, so far removed from all the details that make so much difference to a 16-year-old. While I strongly advised Kat not to go, I didn't forbid her. It's just not my parenting style. I knew she could take care of herself... and I knew that she could leave and drive home if things were getting out of hand.

Turns out, I was wrong. She could easily have been pummeled -- a few juniors were. What saved her, I think, was the fact that the seniors have no vendetta (often rooted in bitchy popularity and competitive issues) against her, that she has some senior friends, and that she's generally sweet and mild-mannered and nice to everyone. The "targeted" girls had called some senior (sometime, somewhere) a name, or stolen a boyfriend, or just looked at some senior (sometime, somewhere) the wrong way. Kat wasn't pummeled, but she was tackled and she was involved in some pretty rough "football."

As she told us today, as she, her dad and I spent the day together looking for landscaping materials and plants for the front yard, she had wanted to go home (or at least stop playing) halfway into the whole thing, but she "had" to play the entire game or she'd -- yup! -- be harassed "all year long."

In the end, there was a broken collarbone, some bruised faces, a sprained foot, and some bloody noses. Could we have stopped Kat from going to this insane event? Probably, by locking her in or threatening her with "consequences" -- which is not our style.

I am just absolutely amazed that, in this comfortable, tight-knit suburban community of highly educated and dedicated parents and driven and achievement-oriented students, an event such as this Powder Puff football game would even take place! Somewhere we must have failed our kids, somewhere they're failing each other, and when they act like complete bitches in cat fights straight out of Mean Girls, they are definitely failing themselves.

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Dixie said...

It makes me sad that these young women don't get that they can be their own best supporters instead of their own worst enemies.

Carol said...

Yeah, kinda like stay-at-home moms vs working moms -- goodness, we're all moms... let's support each other!


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