By Lisa Barr
"I'll tell you the story you need to write ... it has caused major 'Girl Drama' in our Middle School," wrote in one of my blog readers from Los Angeles.
It wasn't a new story. In fact, it was an old story. One of the oldest in the book. It goes something like this ...
A 13-year-old boy -- "Zack" -- was the designated Middle School "It" boy. Great at all sports, made all the A-Teams. He is, by all accounts, a great-looking kid. Not to mention funny, smart, and when he says he likes something -- it is suddenly considered cool -- whatever it is. In the Middle School World, this kid is king.
So what does he do with this power?
Zack "infiltrates" a group of girlfriends and starts playing one off the other, using his "status" to manipulate friendships and get in the way of tight girl bonds. Four out of the seven girls in 'The Group' are now not talking to each other. Seven out of seven are talking ABOUT each other.
Zack has learned at a young age that he is a 'chick magnet' -- known for being "hot" -- not just in his school, but apparently, his reputation extends to other nearby Middle Schools. Girls vie for his attention. In one weekend, he allegedly asked one girl out, kissed her friend, and flirted with her other best friend via texting.
So how does "Bad Boy" get away with this? Why are the girls mad at each other and NOT at him?
'Bad Boy' is not unique -- he has been around since the Cavemen. Why do we girls, later teenagers, then young women, gravitate toward the guy who is ultimately going to hurt us?
Because we believe deep down, that we are going to be The One to change him.
This writer is guilty of this particular relationship crime. Bad Boys -- better known as Jerks -- were once, long ago, my specialty. Especially during college and my early 20s. The thrill of the catch, the belief that I would change his ways, and the pain/surprise/realization that Bad Boy will always be Bad Boy -- with or without me. And usually (not always) Bad Boy, with enough reinforcement, turns into Bad Guy, and later Bad Husband ...
These boys are so used to getting attention and assuming the role of Rejector and not Rejectee, that many have never had to really work on their personalities. The Get was so easy, so why bother.
Not all boys who "have it all" evolve into The Jerk. It is definitely too strong of a generalization -- but perhaps the more important issue is why, we girls-cum-women, allow Bad Boy to keep up the shenanigans at the expense of ourselves, and our besties?
"Guy Code" is so ingrained -- What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas ... You don't sleep with your friend's girlfriend or hit on his wife (uncool) ... Be a good sport and always congratulate the winner (only in the privacy of your own home can you let out all the "unfair calls" steam, or how pissed you are at fumbling the ball or missing that key catch ...) -- but at the game itself, a handshake or high-five with a forced smile is protocol. Most guys comply with the Basic Rules.
Guy Code with but a few exceptions is pretty solid.
What about Girl Code? Why is it, too often, so flimsy? Do we as parents NOT instill the basics?
No boy-friend stealing.
Watch your best friend's back. Period, no exceptions.
If the cute guy is giving YOU attention, but your friend is "in love" with him -- stay away, no matter what. Don't let the guy -- any guy -- come between a friendship. Bad Boy, especially, will be long gone ... leaving you and your shattered girl bond in the wake.
Don't talk trash about one of your friends to another friend -- IT ALWAYS COMES BACK TO BITE YOU. ALWAYS. (Guys for some reason don't have this issue the way girls CONSTANTLY do).
If a guy invites you to a party but NOT your best friend -- ASK if she can come too. Having one special person's back is a great life lesson at a young age -- it's not all about you; it never will be.
The truth is this: If we girls/women band together -- Bad Boy does not stand a fighting chance (I footnote the teen flick "John Tucker Must Die"). Yes, he can look "totally hot" and score the winning touchdown, but if he begins to play games with your girlfriends pitting one against the other -- form a blitzkreig of No Way. I promise, his bad-boyness will be defused.
This behavior starts young, Moms (way younger than when we were growing up).
Bad Boy will come into your daughter's life. Teach her NOW to never sell herself short to a Player. Once a Player Always a Player. (As in once a cheater, always a cheater). And you don't want her to marry Bad Boy, trust me -- it never ends well.
Moms (and Dads too), if your son does fall into the category of IT Boy -- make sure to teach him how to best utilize this "power".
Teach him chivalry -- opening doors, good manners, being nice to girls -- those who like him and those he has no interest in (meaning, tell him how to reject gently, kindly). If "all" the girls are "in love" with him, and he is overwhelmed and does not know how to handle it -- help him through it -- it truly is a lot of pressure to be That Guy, especially at a young age.
Teach him to stand up for the Underdog -- other kids WILL listen and back off from bullying if he leads.
Help him not to be cocky and arrogant. I guarantee, the constant reinforcement he receives is not always a great thing. Unless checked, he will turn into a cocky, arrogant adult. If a group of girls are all clamoring for his attention (and girls can get aggressive/territorial in this department) -- help him figure out what he really wants and what he is looking for. Just because your son can "get" Any Girl -- maybe Any Girl is not right for him. He doesn't have to pick the prettiest if she is not nice or sweet to him, and especially to others. Teach him to choose wisely.
Most of all, teach him to never turn girl against girl, friend against friend, just because the world IS his oyster.
Someone like 'Zack' can enjoy his 15 Minutes of Fame, while doing a lot of good. He can set examples, and show his fellow Middle Schoolers that he is much more than just his looks or his athletic ability. Teach him how to build himself internally, and his life too, will be a lot happier and more fulfilling than just surface recognition. He will end up making good choices, better choices. And in the process, he will learn to be a giver, not a taker.
People -- especially girls -- will want to be around him not for shallow reasons, but because he is an all-around Great Guy.
Lisa Barr is the editor of GIRLilla Warfare: A Mom's Guide to Surviving the Suburban Jungle (www.girlillawarfare.com), and author of "Fugitive Colors" (historical suspense -- available on Amazon and in local bookstores).