Growing up as a vaguely autistic, closeted, and extremely awkward child, I didn’t have the easiest experience at making friends. It’s not that I was bullied per se, but I just could never mesh with people my age– especially other girls. It didn’t help that I moved around so much either, so I could never really form those crucial bonds that so many kids my age did with their peers. I felt like an alien. So naturally, I turned to media to soothe my yearning for female companionship.
The urge for a friend group is something that’s common for a lot of lonely children, but especially girls. It’s all you see on TV, in movies, and even in books. You see a group of girls your age laughing and having fun (together!) and you can’t even bring your little brain to be happy for them. You’re seething with jealousy. Why can’t you have a group of girls to entrust all your secrets to? The constant sleepovers, the group trips, the reassuring feeling that someone– multiple someones– will always have your back.
These thoughts plagued my mind for years, and while I somewhat got something like this in middle school, it just didn’t feel whole. Like, it wasn’t genuine. The girls didn’t feel like people I could truly confide in. Surface level friendships. I’m used to surface level friendships– however, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. So, while I spent my adolescence waiting for the perfect friend group, I filled the void with weekly trips to Barnes and Noble and the school library.
My favorite ensemble series to read was by far the Beacon Street Girls by Annie Bryant. Unbeknownst to me that Bryant was a pseudonym for a bunch of ghostwriters who participated in writing the series. These books are what kickstarted my romanticization of New England suburban living. Having four gorgeous seasons, big beautiful houses, the knowledge that a quaint coffee shop with a sea view is just a block away… chef’s kiss!
The BSG is about five girls: Charlotte, the writer with a single dad, Maeve, the dsylexic ginger wannabe actress, Avery, the adopted athlete, Katani, the fashionista with a stereotypically autistic sister, and Isabel, the painter whose mother has MS. Their books go over typical teen stuff like peer pressure, bullying, moving to a new place, etc, all with a pretty, picturesque Boston background.
I first came to know of the BSG when I was in third grade. Funnily enough, I was also going to school in a beautiful, picturesque suburban New England town. I felt like I was a part of their adventures, whether it was going to a party for the first time, or visiting the big apple with a friend. As a ten year old, I’ve never been to a party before (even now as a 22 year old, I still haven’t), nor have I visited New York, so these were all cool, new experiences for me to have– vicarious or not. And while seeing these girls overcome their differences and grow up together made me a bit jealous, I realized that this was good enough just for right now.
My other favorite girl-centered piece of media was also a book series. I consider it a literary masterpiece– the origin of my sense of humor, and likely where I got my sarcastic, witty responses and outlook of the world. It’s a complete 180 from the wholesomeness of Beacon Street Girls. It is, of course, Dear Dumb Diary, written and illustrated by Jim Benton. And I read every single one.
For a series for girls written by a grown man, it sure does perfectly encapsulate the feelings of just being a fucking insufferable loser (said affectionately) in your later elementary school years. No friends except for a girl with morally questionable motives who you have a homoerotically-charged codependent friendship with (even if she won’t admit it). The one-sided rivalry– and extremely hidden-deep-down crush– you have on/with the prettiest girl in your class. Deciding you have a crush on this guy who’s only kind of cute, just to say you have one. Seldom is there a book that I open up and immediately go: “oh wow, she’s just like me!”.
The main character, Jamie Kelly, writes in her diary as a way to cope with the things in her life constantly happening to her– dog being gross, Angeline (her archrival) being Angeline, her mom’s gross cooking. Yes, they’re all trivial in comparison to the bigger picture but to a young girl, any moment is a big moment worthy of being documented. Young Sydnee also loved to rant about people in her many journals. Writing was always an escape for me. I loved writing, and then high school happened, and I hated it. And then, the pandemic hit, and I love it again. I can see Jamie going through the same thing, honestly.
In fact, I think Jamie and I would be good friends. Better friends than me and the BSGs, because Jamie is dramatic, a loser (said affectionately), and probably a lesbian– again, she’s just like me! Of course, as a college goer, there are times when I miss reading these. I miss having nothing to do other than crack open a New Girl Book (bright covers, embracing its girliness, soaking in the goodness and sometimes hell that is being a young girl.
And now a bonus section of my other favorite pieces of girly media. Bonus points if they filled that lonely void in my heart:
- Movies: Bratz (2007), Aquamarine (2006), Hannah Montana (2009), Princess Diaries (2001), What a Girl Wants (2003), The Parent Trap (1998), all of the American Girl and Barbie movies, Cheetah Girls 2 (2006),
- Shows: Hannah Montana, all the Strawberry Shortcake direct-to-VHS specials, Winx Club, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (I was nine! It counts!), H20: Just Add Water, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, iCarly, The Saddle Club
- Books: The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin (!!), American Girl’s Care and Keeping of You (it counts!), Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park (Dear Dumb Diary for younger kids, dare I say), My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald
For some reason, I thought that list would be longer, but I also wasn’t.. really.. the most girly girl? Sure, I liked princesses and whatnot, but I was also unfortunately bit by the “not like other girls” bug way too early on. Soon after that, I ditched the pink and fairies for action figures and anime. It’s sad, because I always felt like I wasn’t being my true self. But at that age, I felt like I always had to play to what my peer group liked, never to what I personally liked. Luckily, I’ve grown from this phase. I’m fully back into liking pink, and I feel more at home and in tune with my inner child, inner teen, and outer adult than ever.