GIRL GANGS I HAVE KNOWN




have written before of my love for Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; how that slim song of puberty and the mysteries of belted sanitary pads ignited my 11-year-old imagination. I found the late-blooming Margaret relatable, but what I really loved was the Four PTS’s (Pre-Teen Sensations) – Nancy, Gretchen, Janie and Margaret: my first literary girl-gang. I had encountered groups of children in other books but they were less organised, more "club" than "gang", and their adventures limited to the external world. The PTS’s were exploring interiors, secret girls’ business. It was the covertness that made me think of them as gang-ish, the feeling that together they had power – they could incite rebellion and disrupt the social order, in small, suburban ways, but still. I found my next girl-gang when I was minding my neighbours’ kids. In the house that smelled of babies, the children were watching the video of Grease. Their dad had edited out the most edgy moments (the T-Bird’s verses in Summer Loving, Danny Zuko getting nut-slammed at the drive-in) without realising that the real danger lay in the Pink Ladies. From the minute I saw their matching satin bomber jackets, I felt the call to strut and squeal, to confide and chortle. I believed them.I had a reverence for their teenage troubles – Rizzo getting slut-shamed just for having sex, Marty’s potential #MeToo moment. The sleepover at Frenchie’s was seminal – feminal? – it was my dream to re-enact it. (To this day I love a sleepover scene almost as much as I love a falling-in-love montage.) The Pink Ladies sent me scouting for possible affiliates to help me make it through my girlhood. This much I knew: it was tough out there.

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