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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Girls talk

In 1978 Elvis Costello wrote that song about loving to hear girls talk. On a station platform yesterday morning it struck me that, thanks to the mobile phone, we're all getting to hear girls talk.

Men have generally used the phone as a means of obtaining information, whereas women have seen it as a machine that enables them to devote time to talking. The mobile's like that only more so. The young woman on the station platform was phoning her friend ostensibly to tell her that she'd been to the sale and the shop didn't have anything in her size whereas Rachel bought loads of things. In reality I guess she was just killing time until the train came by doing what girls do from about the age of six, making contact with their circle of friends and taking the temperature of their friendship. Having brought up two girls I have learned that young females have a capacity to wound each other that their male counterparts rarely bother with. They always socialise in threes which tends to mean that one is always uncertain of her position. Their mobile bills are higher than their brothers because they don't wait to be rung. They check in.

I worry that the mobile and the text and Facebook and the rest of it have provided them with new weapons to make each other feel excluded. This could be why I have noticed that the overt expressions of friendship during those phone conversations become more showy. They call each other "hon". They finish phone conversations with "love you". Even their texts manage to be high-pitched. They invent pet names for each other. I saw a colleague's leaving card recently which bore a good luck message addressed to "ladyface". The girls at the bus stop squeal when they see each other. I have a friend who is a head of a large secondary school and she now tells me they have considered building more time into the timetable to allow for all the kissing goodbye that takes place between lessons. I don't think she was entirely joking.