I'm sitting at the kitchen table, doling out after-school snacks and casually talking to some preteen girls about their lives. I hear about the playground drama, the hurt feelings, and the popular girls who control the whole scene. (This is 5th grade, by the way.)
"You have to be gamma girls," I tell them, remembering my friend Kellie's advice about popularity and teen drama.
"What's a gamma girl?" one girl asks, chomping on trail mix.
"Well, one sociologist wrote about how the popular girls you see on the playground in their tight circle are the 'alpha girls.' The girls jumping all around them and trying to get their attention all day long--those are the 'beta girls'."
The girls nod.
"Then you have the gamma girls. These girls are smart, confident, creative, funny, and just plain awesome. They're out building forts in the woods, talking about literature and music, and enjoying their lives. These girls love their parents and God and don't care one bit about being popular."
It's like I've shared some deep secret, some key to unlock the universe for them.
The girls don't say a word, waiting for me to tell them more.
I pull up the "Meet the Gamma Girls" article from 2002, and I read some excerpts. I remind the young girls that certain teen girls don't do drugs, get drunk, obsess over boys, or do poorly in school. They choose to be gamma girls. They have close friends, tons of ambition, and great relationships with their parents. And they are not popular.
That was it. End of conversation. The girls left and went to rescue that baby squirrel.
Four days later, a mom finds me and gives me a big hug. She tells me how her daughter was on the playground trying so hard to get the attention of the popular girls. The daughter said: "They kept abandoning me and walking away."
I imagine the pointing and whispering. I imagine the gossip. I imagine the girl standing on the outside, wishing with all her heart to be popular.
"My daughter told me that she stood there, and all of a sudden she said to herself, 'I'm not doing this anymore. I don't have to be alpha or beta. I can be a gamma girl'."
The mom tells me that then, her daughter looked around the playground to observe who was actually having fun. She ran to where some creative kids were building forts and talking about their spelling tests. She was warmly welcomed and spent the afternoon enjoying herself with girls who couldn't care less what the popular girls were doing.
Besides, who has time for drama when you want to write a new song on your guitar, hang out with your family, make cupcakes with your friends, and play with your little sister?
There's another way to be.
Were you a gamma girl?