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GIRLS AND PUBERTY

Each year my daughter, Area, and I get together with a group of our friends and rent a houseboat. We spend a week cruising up and down the California Delta, the series of rivers that lead into the San Francisco Bay. We swim and fish and dig for clams and have mud fights and lie round in the sun and have a wonderful time just doing nothing. It’s much the same group of us every year. All of the adults are single mothers or single fathers, and we all have daughters about the same age. The girls went to primary school together. In fact, that’s how we adults got to know one another in the first place.

We’ve been getting together like this for a number of years. Our daughters are teenagers now and they go to different schools. Even though we’ve all gone our separate ways since the girls were little – some of us have even moved to different cities or towns – we still get together every year for this houseboat cruise.

Well, one year it happened that Area and I were putting the finishing touches to the book about girls and puberty when the time came for our annual cruise. Because we were going to spend a week on board a boat with six teenage girls, we decided that we’d take the rough draft of the book along and try to talk the girls into reading through the various chapters and making comments or suggestions. The girls were all about the same age, but they were in various stages of puberty. We thought that the more developed ones might be interested in the later chapters and that the girls who weren’t so developed might want to read the earlier chapters.

We were wrong. All the girls wanted to read the same chapter – the one about boys. They couldn’t have cared less about the rest of the book! They grabbed that chapter and went giggling off to the roof of the houseboat with their towels and suntan lotion and read it together. Later, some of the girls read other chapters, but the big hit was definitely the chapter about boys.

We think their reaction was a fairly normal one. As we’re going through puberty, we usually get at least some information about what’s happening to our own bodies, if not from our parents and teachers then from our friends. A lot of times, though, parents and teachers don’t tell us about what’s happening to the opposite sex. They may feel that we just don’t need to know this information or that telling us will make us ‘too interested’ in the opposite sex or will make us want to rush out and have sexual intercourse. Our friends may not know much more about this subject than we do.

All this makes it difficult for us to find out what’s going on, and not knowing how puberty happens in the opposite sex can make it seem a lot more confusing and mysterious than it needs to be. So in this chapter, we’ll be talking about how puberty happens in girls’ bodies. If you’re like most boys, you’ll probably be curious about this.

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