‘Good Girls’ Still Don’t

The conversation on my neighbor’s front porch is so animated the mosquitoes have trouble lighting on us.

My daughter Katie and I have stopped while walking the dog to say hello to a friend, which seemed like a good idea before the possibility of malaria evinced itself.

Bug spray, anyone?

No matter. My neighbor, Lisa, has questions about the current state of social life for high school girls. Her only daughter will be a freshman in the fall, while my eldest daughter graduated a year ago. This makes Katie an expert on the subject.

Lisa is worried. Already she sees her daughter’s friends changing — acting more worldly and sophisticated than she thinks is appropriate for 14-year-olds. She’s concerned about protecting her daughter’s innocence against the peer pressure to grow up too fast.

Based on our experience, her concerns are not unfounded.

“I’m not going to lie,” Katie tells Lisa. “The girls in high school can seem scary. I remember my freshman year, some girls showed up drunk at the very first dance, and I was shocked. But I just kept my distance and stuck with my group. My friends were all good girls — and they still are.”

Katie paints a positive picture of high school as a self-proclaimed “good girl,” and Lisa hopes her own daughter will follow my daughter’s example. She’s relieved to hear that it’s still possible to make it through high school without partying, hooking up or becoming a serial girlfriend.

There’s just one caveat: “Of course, I’ve still never been on a date,” Katie admits.

Lisa is shocked.

In truth, everyone who hears this is shocked. Katie is beautiful, articulate, fun and friendly — and I don’t care if I am her mother, it’s true.

Sadly, those qualities aren’t likely to attract a guy these days: Being a good girl seems to have consequences.

Author Wendy Shalit’s new book, “The Good Girl Revolution: Young Rebels with Self-Esteem and High Standards” (Random House), brilliantly explores the cultural conundrum my daughter is experiencing.

This is a book — and a movement — whose time has come.

“I wanted to showcase a new generation of role models beyond Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, to get people thinking about — and talking about — girls who represent something deeper. There are so many amazing young women out there, but all you usually see in the media is the exhibitionists,” Ms. Shalit says.

Of course, celebrity role models of the “bad girl” variety are only part of the problem. Ms. Shalit explains a host of reasons why today’s hypersexuality and bold attitudes have permeated girl world, from the pathetically trashy Bratz dolls to parents and teachers who pressure girls to vamp it up just to fit in.

As the mother of three daughters, I’m grateful that Ms. Shalit has recast “good girls” as powerful and self-possessed. Rather than feel sheepishly awkward about admitting they don’t date, I want my girls to feel proud that their authentic self-esteem and high standards are worth honoring.

Of course, it’s hard to ignore the irony here: In our culture, it’s hopelessly uncool to be good, while being a “bad girl” is both normal and expected.

Mosquitoes notwithstanding, I take the time to reassure my neighbor that not every high school girl morphs into a tart for the sake of popularity and social status.

“You’ll have some challenging experiences, and it’s a good idea to go into the next four years knowing that it won’t always be easy. But raising good girls is entirely possible and worth the effort.”

Then again, if it gets discouraging for Lisa and her daughter, I know just the book to recommend.

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  • Claire

    There’s nothing wrong with a 14 year old who has never been on a date. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no need for children to date until they are ready to discern marriage. Until then, they can socialize in large groups.

  • dominicus

    I second that! There is nothing wrong with not having gone on a date yet, even if you are “just out of high school.” I’m a 17 year old guy, senior-to-be, and graduating this year and never been on a date. Sure, girls ask me out, but it’s rare, you know why? Because they have this idea that I’m a “good boy” and don’t go on dates, dance, etc. Haha! I wish they could see when I’m not in school. Not that I’m , it’s just – I’m not BORING, that’s for sure. Mrs. Hicks, please tell your daughter that there ARE guys out there who hold good, Catholic values and who WAIT and LONG for girls like her. I guarantee you, if she but holds fast to what she know is true, GOD will lead her to true love and happiness both in Himself and in the heart of, perhaps, her one-to-be-husband.

  • ekbell

    I went on my first date the week after I turned twenty, having just finished my first year of university. I can’t say that feel like I missed out on much not dating in high school.

    I ended up marrying that man two years later and almost fourteen years (and five children) later I’m still glad that I didn’t let some idea of not having enough ‘dating’ experience get in the way.

  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    When Katie Hicks said she’d never been on a date, she was a year out of high school. But I don’t see anything wrong with that, either.

  • Lucky Mom of 7

    My daughter is entering her second year of high school. She says she doesn’t have time for playing the dating game. She’s too busy with better things. I’ve done my best to teach my kids about courting versus dating. Dating isn’t recreation. Relationships are serious stuff. I don’t think it’s prudent to enter the arena unless a person is ready to start considering marriage. I do think that socializing with friends is good, though. Girls especially need to develop the skill of saying no.

    Lucky

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