The new girls' world
‘All teenagers want some sort of secret life. I know I certainly did. It’s just that, these days, they have more ways to hide,” said a mother when discussing her teenage daughter this week.
The recent deaths by suicide of two teenage girls, 13-year-old Erin Gallagher, from Co Donegal, and 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley, from Co Leitrim, both allegedly linked to online bullying on the website ask.fm, have pushed the lives of today’s teenage girls centre stage. The usual preoccupations, such as crushes, clothes and celebrities, haven’t changed much, but with technology teenage girls can conduct their business less visibly than their parents, who were limited by the landline. We asked four teenage girls to tell us about their lives: the good, the bad and the Ugg boots.
We spoke to Sarah, a 14-year-old dancer from rural Co Donegal; Jenny, a 15-year-old bookworm from inner-city Dublin; Polina, a 15-year-old feminist originally from Poland now living in Ireland; and Lucy, a 14-year-old Rihanna fan from Co Dublin. Some names have been changed.
On the bedroom wall
Lucy: “Posters of Rihanna and pictures of friends and family.” Jenny: “Bruno Mars and pictures of places I’ve been.” Sarah: “Photos of family and friends, a Harry Potter poster and tickets.” Polina: “I’ve got two poems: one is a Polish poem, Milosc, by Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska.”
Lucy: “I get €20 a week and earn more from babysitting.” Sarah: “A tenner a week if I clean my room.” Jenny: “I don’t get regular pocket money, but if I need something I’ll ask for it.” Polina: “I get €10 every month, but if I ask my mom for money for something, I know she’ll give it to me.”
Hobbies and interests
Sarah: “I am in rehearsals for a panto and for the school musical. I do dance every Friday night for two and a half hours.” Lucy: “I play piano and I try to get a short practice in every day.” Jenny: “I love painting and drawing; I can get lost in that for hours. I am also in a choir.” Polina: “The drama group I’m in is more like a really close group of friends. I’m a member of the Socialist Party and United Left Alliance. I support LGBT rights; I’m pro-choice and a feminist.”
Music, books and TV
Jenny: “I like Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga. I have to admit I watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians; it’s entertaining, though I can’t stand them. I am reading Gigi by Colette. Lucy: “Since Twilight I like anything with vampires. I’m a fan of Chris Brown . . . of course I think what he did to Rihanna was horrible, but he has such good songs for our generation that everyone I know puts that aside. Sarah: I am into Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles and The Script. I am rereading Harry Potter for the billionth time. Polina: “Mostly, I listen to skater and classic rock. I’m reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I don’t have a TV, so I mostly stream episodes of my favourite shows, including an animated one called Young Justice.
Social life and alcohol
Lucy: “I would go out to parties every two weeks. Everybody drinks. Normally we drink vodka in somebody’s house before the party or on the bus on the way there. A few friends have had their stomach pumped. I am careful, though, because my mum says if I ever have to get my stomach pumped I will never be allowed out again.” Sarah: “I don’t drink, and lots of my friends don’t either. I think there is plenty of time to do it when you are 18. I do go out sometimes, but what I like best is sitting in my jammies all day watching TV like a middle-aged person. I am probably not a very good example of a teenager.” Jenny: “I took the pledge along with a lot of my friends, so I don’t drink.” Polina: “None of my friends drink, and neither do I, but I know that girls in my class do. One classmate comes in every Monday telling me how wasted she was during the weekend.”
Lucy: “The best thing about being a teenager is going out, having no responsibilities and discovering who you are. The worst thing is worrying about boys, our bodies and our clothes, but mainly about how we look. Sometimes I think, I am so fat compared to her, I am not as pretty as her. I look in the mirror and tell myself to lose weight. You want to be skinny and have nice hair and good makeup and have the right shoes, such as Uggs. I don’t know any teenage girls who are content with themselves.” Jenny: “I like having the freedom to do what I want, without stress about work or bills. But I feel overwhelmed by schoolwork sometimes, and I don’t really feel secure at this age.”