Saturday, May 21, 2011

When is a girl not a girl?

There's been some debate on this blog and out in the real world as to whether or not I can reasonably claim to be a girl. Yes, I suppose technically I'm no longer a girl... if you were to rely on the following dictionary definition:


  [gurl]  Show IPA
a female child, from birth to full growth.
a young, immature woman, especially formerly, an unmarried one.
a daughter: My wife and I have two girls
1300; Middle English gurle, girle, gerle  child, young person;compare Old English gyrela, gi(e) rela,  item of dress, apparel (presumably worn by the young in late OE period, and hence used as a metonym)

galgirl, ladywoman 

It is true that, to quote from one of my favorite films, that I am indeed " old as f*ck" (comparatively speaking) and thus claiming to be a girl might be viewed as an outrageous lie. I would argue, however, that being a girl is not entirely down to how old you are; it can also be a state of mind.

Take my late grandmother, for example. My Texas-born grandma was very much a girl until the day she died; even in her 80's Granny exhibited a girlishness which was closely linked her ready (and raucous) laugh and the determination to have as much fun as possible. 

Some people might see a female of a certain age who exhibits traits of girlishness as irresponsible, foolish or in dire need of growing up. Boffins talk about Peter Pan Syndrome, although this is usually applied to men with a focus on the negatives - someone who chafes at boundaries, craves freedom and is not always capable of dealing with the adult world. The state of girlishness is at least one step removed from this and is, to my mind, not quite so damning.

So what is it? It's about being able to step outside of the constraints of adult-world responsibility (not all the time, but now and then). It's being able to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. It's not really giving a sh*t about what people think. It's allowing yourself to look ridiculous if the need arises because really, who cares? It's about a lightness of spirit, doing something purely because it's fun (and not because it's age-appropriate) and shaking up the mundane - basically, the state of girlishness takes some of the best aspects of being a child and applies it to adult life. 

Being childish is often used as an insult (and yes, I have been on the receiving end of this particular gem) but let's face it, being a grown-up all the time can be rather dull.  Children are fun because they appreciate having fun so much, silliness can be amusing (in small-ish doses) and their zest for life is hugely attractive. Why shouldn't we, as adults, aspire to the introduction of certain aspects of childishness to our lives? 

As I've said before, I'm so pleased I'm a girl. And if I have my way, I too, just like my Grandmother, will be a girl until the day I die.


Suse said...

I'm a girl too! Age ain't nothing but a number.

juicyfatkin said...

If it's about being a girl then surely it should be called the Tinklebell Syndrome rather than peter pan.

Wanda said...

must be a "smith" family thing...

Kate S. said...

Juicy - double like! Now, why didn't I think of that? Lovely.

Wanda - it's in our blood! No escaping it...