“Girls and Boys”

I have written before that in my early years all of my friends were boys. Above you can see the guests at my birthday party, six little boys, including the twins in nice white shirts. We played together for hours, mainly chasing, running, hiding, swinging, sliding and shooting. We all had cap guns and gleefully shot them with no thought about how later generations might condemn such play.

I had several dolls that I cherished, but I never tried to play with them with my friends. I understood that dolls were for girls, as were play cooking and tea parties. Once I started school I made my first friend who was a girl, and learned about hair styling and makeup applications, at least those that six year olds could master. I enjoyed this new kind of play, certainly never a part of my earlier fun.

By third grade the sexes had completely split. Girls played with girls and boys with boys. Our activities too became more gender specific, even on the playground. For instance only girls jumped rope, only boys shot baskets. I quit thinking of boys as friends. From fourth grade on, boys figured only in conversations with other girls about who liked which boy.

The 1950’s had very clear understandings about gender. The toy catalogs had boy toys and girl toys. Clothing was either for boys or for girls (I couldn’t even wear pants to class in college.) Boys talked freely about the cars they wanted. Girls fantasized about future houses. We really seemed to inhabit parallel universes.

I would love to know from my readers how things might be different now. I also wonder if this gender distinction was true in other parts of the world. Please comment.

40 thoughts on ““Girls and Boys”

  1. Oh yes, back in the day, very much my experience of girls with girls and boys with boys once I got to secondary school…but I do remember male friends before I reached 11 and I would play marbles with them sometimes, and football occasiOnally

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  2. My junior school had separate entrances for boys and girls, even though the classes were mixed. But at play break and lunchtime, boys played rough games or football, while girls played with skipping ropes, hopscotch, or ‘two balls’. When I moved to secondary school in 1963 aged 11, the mixing of sexes was well established, and I used to sit next to the same girl in classes, as well as having female friends to chat to during breaks.
    But some lessons were gender specific. The girls did cookery and homecraft, while boys had to do carpentry and metalwork. Gym classes were also separated by sex.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. not sure on gender differences when I was younger but now as an adult if I say “I’m having a coffee with a woman friend” absolutely no issues but if I say “I’m having a coffee with a male friend” – I’m suddenly have a marriage on offer.

    And if any of my other friends see me lunching with a guy – oh boy! The comments start rolling, especially if the week before it was a different guy…

    and no I don’t have to answer to a SO, as I’m home alone and nowadays single 🙂

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  4. This gender distinction was part of my upbringing, too. I played with boys before elementary school, but that certainly changed. Funny thing, my ‘Jennie Story’ today at lunchtime was about no pants for girls, even in college. I described jeans at the time, which were called blue jeans. They were only sold at Sears in the ‘farmer’ section of clothing. I described how stiff they were- and there no blue jeans for girls. Sports were totally separated, and most southern girls did not do sports. I wonder how many boys would have loved doing ‘double Dutch’ with jump ropes. And I wonder how many girls would have loved playing war ball.

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  5. Strangely, my first infants school was a girls schoo – with the word ‘GIRLS’ over the entrance; the BOYS entrance and playground were the other side of the building) but when we went up to the Juniors, the sexes, and playground, were mixed. We moved out of town before I got there, only to find that my suburban primary school was mixed all the way through.
    Once I was home from school, I played out with the boys of a similar age who lived down our cul-de-sac. There weren’t any girls in our close. That wasn’t a problem – I wanted to be a boy when I was small, only I was no good at climbing trees, to my eternal shame. It wasn’t till I was at secondary school (an all-girls’ school) that I realised I didn’t want to be a boy after all.

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  6. I lived in the country with no close neighbours so any company was welcome, no matter what gender. Infant school and Primary school, up to age 11, both had boys and girls entrances with little mixing in the playground. Single sex Secondary schools kept our minds on education, or so the teachers thought. Then I joined the army which was mostly male orientated.

    Just what is a girl????????

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  7. An interesting post. My sisters, cousins and I were what people called “tomboys” – climbing trees, playing ball games including cricket and soccer, and our male cousins and brothers were part of the gang. Later, my best friends were girls, but my dreams and activities were not restricted to gender.

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  8. A female teacher once said my group of boys “you might think girls are horrible at the moment but in a few years’ time you’ll be falling over yourselves trying to catch one.”

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  9. Hi Elizabeth, South Africa was, and still is, a patriarchal society. Girls were brought up to help around the house, wear dresses and ribbons, and play with ‘girl’ toys. I don’t know much about boys as I had three sisters and no brothers. I know that although I work in a mans world and I am very good at what I do, my upbringing has stood in the way of my career in many ways. When I had my children small I expected, and wanted, to look after them and I became a part time worker with reduced hours. It took years for my career to recover from that and by the time it did, I no longer wanted to be a partner in the firm as I was firmly entrenched in the world of writing.

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  10. My mother tried very hard to make me a girlie girl, which you can see didn’t turn out so well. My biological father was not opposed to having a tom boy who would fix cars with him, so he undermined that by buying me bikes, trucks etc.

    Growing up, I mostly spent time with my boy cousins and boys on the playground. I found girls to be annoying and boring. In some ways, I still do.

    However, when I hit puberty, boys struggled with the concept of just friends. I was a 36C by 14 with 36″ hips, an itty bitty waist and long legs (I’m now 5″9). This really damaged my relationship with boys. I tried my darnest to hide my body, but it didn’t work. So I made sure I went to an all girls school from 7th to 11th grade (high school years in Jamaica).

    By the time I started college at 16, the boys had mostly gotten a hold of themselves again, so most of my friends were boys. That has continued into adulthood. One bestie is from that all-girls Catholic school and the other is from college.

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      1. You know, I find this isn’t always true. I have met some women and even more men who take pride in pigeonholing themselves into gender roles.

        Men who are super macho and can’t hold their girlfriend’s purse while she goes to the lady’s room, because they are men. Women who believe their place is only in the home and that women who get sexual harassed at work deserve it because they shouldn’t be there in the first place. Sadly, they’re out there!

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        1. That is truly depressing after all these years. I wonder if that rigid distinction is part of the confusion by some young people about whether they “fit” with their gender.

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        2. It definitely creates some confusion. Some millennials are still fetishizing their grandparents’ marriages while others are perfectly content with more modern gender roles. Sadly, those traditional men and women spend a great deal of time fighting feminism.

          The most ironic one was a woman saying she’s voting for Trump because “F**K Feminism.” We had to laugh, because how does she think she can vote if not for feminism??

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        3. Wow! I am always surprised by how little Americans know of their history. Some idiot on YouTube was just asking why Biden is quoting Lincoln when Lincoln is Republican. I had to explain about how and why the Republicans became Democrats and vice versa, but that the liberal north and west vs the conservative south and midwest never really changed.

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        4. It is. They need to spend more time fixing themselves and less time focusing on “America”. They seem to forget a country is the sum total of its people and HOW they think, not WHAT they think.

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  11. I didn’t really realize gender until just before High School. I was just happy to play with ‘friends’ whether boys or girls. Gender differences weren’t important to me & really didn’t cross my mind.
    Then puberty changed that of course & when attending a coed high school for awhile I was bullied by a male bully (who ended up in prison in later life) which was a nasty experience.
    So, I was rather pleased to go to a girls high school after that when we relocated for my father’s work!
    Today, I see same gender groups in school playgrounds huddled together! So it really hasn’t changed much here in Australia!
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

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  12. When I was in Germany I was surprised to see that baby boys had blue dresses and pink for girls. We don’t have that distinction here. Earlier, white blankets and sheets were used for baby boys and coloured for girls but I don’t know if it is so now. For both my grandchildren I used old, soft cotton saris. My daughter tells me that my granddaughter loves to play with dolls and kitchen set, though they never made her play with them. It was as if by instinct. Our grandson played with cars and other vehicles 😁

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