What I know about girls
Girls are cryptic beings, and perhaps that is even an understatement.
And all this time I thought I had an advantage over other guys in decoding girls. I mean, I spent my entire preadolescence at St. Scholastica’s College, at a time when it was still mistaken as an institution exclusive for girls (back then, grade school was already co-ed). In a class of around 40, we boys were outnumbered with a population of eight.
As a result, I grew up with girls. When we were in Grade 4, I nearly succeeded in convincing my friends that it was time we protested a female class mayor (and perhaps the boys should be given a chance to lead the class) when we reached Grade 5. Of course, it never happened. We were scared to stand up to our girl classmates. Instead, we were at the receiving end of their ire as their preadolescence prompted them to be aesthetically conscious, while we were dirty and sweaty after lunch.
My formative years at St. Scho taught me two things about girls and women: that they are beautiful, strong, and courageous in all shapes and sizes, and that they can seldom be fully understood. I would like to believe this gave me an advantage somehow. One time when I was applying for a job, my interviewer said after noting my resumé: “So you came from St. Scho! Then you must know how to deal with bitches?” She was an alumna, by the way.
My figures of authority were not men but nuns from whom I eagerly anticipated German cookies during St. Benedict’s feast day. St. Scholastica had prayed for a downpour that hindered St. Benedict from traveling, so they could talk some more in her abbey. Truly, she wasn’t someone to mess with, along with the other saints we learned about in school—St. Mechtilde, St. Hilda, and St. Agnes, among many others. I remember the lectures of Sr. Mary John Mananzan when the NBN-ZTE scandal was at its peak, as well as her bravery and zeal. Beautiful music back then meant the girls were practicing their John Thompson’s at St. Cecilia’s Hall. And the framed photos of German nuns that stared back at us from the archives taught me of mission and leadership.
From those school halls and culture I realized that girls, too, have their struggles in a society that expects so much of them. Of course, they can rise to the occasion.
Last month, the International Women’s Forum held in Chicago brought together 6,400 women leaders from across the globe and varying cultures and fields of expertise. This gathering of women with astounding backgrounds is an annual convention with the purpose of exchanging ideas and inspirations for a better world. These women are on a mission of opening opportunities for many other women, especially in communities where these opportunities are scarce. But it is interesting to note that strong, inspired women also make better men.
Last Oct. 11 we marked the International Day of the Girl, an initiative of the United Nations aimed at promoting the rights of girls worldwide. Truly there is much to celebrate in the achievements of women. But as some activists point out, these achievements still come at a slow pace. In certain parts of the world, there are girls who continue to be disadvantaged because of their gender. The International Day of the Girl raises awareness that girls do face challenges in their lives. This year’s theme, “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress,” highlights the point that a girl’s progress advances the community as a whole.
I’ve met so many girls after St. Scho, that’s for sure. Many of them I loved deeply, sometimes all at once. That they are cryptic beings is true. They can hurt many times and still love as profoundly as the first time. Their words may sometimes be few but can mean so much. They can make homes even with bricks thrown at them.
And to make the world a better place for women will make us better men, too. Brigham Young is right: You educate a man, you educate a man. You educate a woman, you educate a generation. That’s all I know about girls.
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