My mother–in-law, who gave birth to five daughters, used to look at my sleeping infant girls and say, "Oh boy, look out, girls are screamers." My husband and I would smile slyly at the sexual innuendo. We were smug in our belief that our girls would defy stereotypes.
We're not smiling anymore.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
I'm now convinced that parenting tween girls requires ear protection, extreme patience and a high tolerance for high decibels.
Of course, adolescent girls have been screaming since Elvis and The Beatles came to town. But because I was never one of them, I never gave it much thought. I'm not quite sure how I produced two offspring that now rip into toenail-curling shrieks whenever a lizard appears in our house (almost daily), when they become frustrated with homework (almost every afternoon), when they see their friends in the school hallway (every morning), and when something startles them while they're covertly watching moves on their iPads in bed in the wee hours (almost nightly).
They scream when they're happy. When they're scared. When they're angry.
Right now, as I write this, three of their friends are over. They're playing in my bedroom, in front of my mirrored closet doors, singing, laughing and, yes, SCREAMING.
I can track all this high-pitched shrieking back to the same time they started to ask for training bras and whether they could start shaving their legs. So it must be hormonal, right? If so, then why don't boys of the same age scream, too? They just seem to play hard, drink several gallons of milk a week, and knock things over.
Is this sociological? Does society train girls to scream to get attention? Or is this impulse to wail buried deep in our brains, a primordial cry for recognition or to ward off attacks?
In his book, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, the psychologist Erich Fromm claims that girls scream to demonstrate to each other that they are normal – that they are of the same mindset as their peers, and that they share the same interests and values. With the desire to be like others paramount to their pre-pubertal bodies, girls scream because they want to be a part of the (screeching) crowd.
I tried to Google for some other anthropological explanations for girls screaming, but I had to abandon the search because I was afraid my laptop would crash from all the porno sites that popped up.
I don't remember being like this. Maybe I just blocked it out, along with all those painful sixth-grade fitting in moments. Tell me, should I just accept this shrillness as fact and abandon my Girl Power/Don't Be a Part of the Dumb Pack indoctrination attempts? If you have an answer, please speak up. But do it loudly. Everything sounds muffled through these earplugs.