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12th Sep 2018

‘Will you meet my mate?’ All-girls schools and the chronic inability to talk to teenage boys

Jade Hayden

Shift Happens

Going to an all-girls school from the age of 11 to 17 made it chronically difficult to speak to boys.

Anyone else? Just me.


Forcibly separating boys and girls in their teenage years for the purpose of education probably seems like a good idea when you consider that all boys definitely fancy all girls and vice versa, until you realise that they don’t.

Instead, for the most part, what you’re left with is a group of girls who lose the run of themselves when they are presented with a young member of the opposite sex.

If you know it’s coming, you can prepare yourself (makeup, rolled up skirts, cigarette in hand to look cool even though you don’t smoke), and if you didn’t, you couldn’t.

For context, here’s a list of things that actually happened when ever there was so much of a whisper of a boy (or God forbid, a man) in an all-girls secondary school.

1. Makeup goes on, all angles covered, no spot can be laid bare for the presence of the young impressionable male.

We’re talking caked layers of Dream Matte Mousse, we’re talking pencil eyeliner only on the lower lid, we’re talking clear lip gloss, crackle nail polish, and just a hint of an orange hue on a white school collar.

It all went on and the lads didn’t didn’t notice anyway. Because they were 14-year-old boys.

2. A male substitute teacher meant nobody got any work done.

Not him, not you, not the entire class. All bets were off once Mr Rowley, fresh out of St Pat’s, rocked up in his chinos and button down shirt. He was a man and all-girls schools didn’t have men. Not young ones anyway.

And everybody was of course so institutionalised that no matter what this individual looked like, no matter how blatantly dull he was, everyone fancied him.


3. Someone was forced into shifting someone. And that someone was usually a frigit at the time.

Didn’t matter if the person in question didn’t want to kiss a boy right now – if one happened to wander in off the street or appear as part of a laboured musical production, there would be kissing.

There had to be – who knew when he and his overtly rare male vibe would be back in town?

4. The tension between your school and the boys school across the road was palpable.

Rivalry. Sideways glances at the bus stop. Some lad shouting ‘will you meet my mate?’ before the mate clips him across the head with his wheelie schoolbag.

It was all there. You were all as repressed as each other. Bound to happen.

5. Anyone who had a boyfriend was A Big Deal. It was never you or literally anybody that you were actually friends with, but the girl who had the boyfriend did exist and you just know she spent her lunchtimes telling all the other girls how to give handjobs in the bathroom.

You never attended these educational sessions yourself. Mainly because you weren’t invited, but also because you just had other places to be.

Basically, actively separating boys and girls and calling the scenario normal led to a lot of questionable and oftentimes inappropriate behaviour when a member of the opposite sex did eventually wander onto the scene.

It was unnatural but then again, maybe all teenage behaviour is.

If it isn’t though, and if this forced separation is actually stunting our ability to socialise like regular human beings, what’s the solution?

Make all schools in the country co-ed? Force teen boys and teen girls to hang out for at least five hours a week minimum so they become increasingly comfortable with one another’s presence? Ban Dominican colleges?

To be honest, none of the above (chronically excessive) suggestions would do much to eradicate the weird and ingrained boy/girl divide that so many of us have fallen victim to until we go to college and finally get over ourselves.

If you grow up thinking that any interaction with a member of the opposite sex will be shrouded in potential romance and/or awkward pained interactions, then it probably will be.

And while pretty much all of the women I currently work with say that their all-girls school experience did lead to an overwhelming inability to speak to boys for a period of time, a lot of them also said that they still wouldn’t have rathered going to a mixed school.

They didn’t come away from their secondary schooling experience with the debilitating feeling that their teenage years would have gone so much smoother if there had’ve been a few lads around to lighten the I’m-vaguely-terrified-of-men based load.

A lot of them, in fact, actually enjoyed their all-girls experience a lot.

Which lends itself to the theory that this chronic awkwardness around members of the opposite sex didn’t actually have anything to do with my single sex school at all.

Maybe I was the problem, a teenage girl simply too awkward to hold a conversation with a teenage boy without wondering whether this was an appropriate time to lie about the fact that I hadn’t yet scored anybody at the Wezz disco yet.

Everyone else was probably getting along just fine.