As has been noted by numerous exasperated
parents, girls appear to run faster than light. Some of them, at any rate, have
been clocked at such speeds, managing to appear at the finish line even before
the timer has begun; scientists have consistently recorded these speeds as
"a million billion zillion miles per hour", perhaps reflecting the
exhortations of the children themselves. Certainly there is no easy way to
measure speeds faster than anything ever known, or even possible, at least
until Million Billion Zillion becomes a standard unit of measure.
At this point, scientists are examining the
question of how these girls manage to move so fast, given that they seem to be
not only breaking the laws of physics, but managing to avoid the sort of air
friction that would see their flesh burned off. When pressed, the girls simply
say, "Because I said so," echoing their mothers. Social psychologists
posit that for these children whose entire reality is defined by the words
"because I said so," they have discovered that they can do anything
when they say these words. So far humanity has only seen these girls running
faster than light; who knows what else they might do. Girls who are not
constantly presented with these admonitions, perhaps having more indifferent or
more caring parents, are observed to be unable to use the phrase to the same
Which raises the question -- is this a matter of
sex, or perhaps of gender? Is there something about being a girl, physically or
emotionally, that leads to the use of the "magic" phrase? In one
sense, yes indeed, for boys of the same age do not appear to run faster than
light. On the other hand, these same boys -- boys that grow up in similar
households as the observed girls, with the same sort of imperious parents --
are able to jump high into the sky, and come back down again without injury, by
dint of the same command. Because they say so, they can do so.
Teachers across the nation say that this is what
happens when you combine "because I said so" with "You can do
anything if you try."
And here is the key to the whole mess -- the boys
and girls seem to be working in a different reality than adults. It is a world
of greater possibilities than the "real" world that adults speak of.
Adults see the "real" world as one of hardship, cruelty, and
grief, long hours for little pay and arbitrary death, great joy and shudder some fear, a world of chocolate-covered pain. It is a world where not everything is possible, as they see it, where there are many roads but they are certain roads, and the farther down one you go the more difficult it is to move to another. And while this is true,
to the children their worlds of endless possibility are no less real. It is
easier for adults to understand the world of children if the adult world is
called simply that, or perhaps the sweet cruel world. For many children are born into
the world of cruelty, and never know what it's like to run faster than light or
jump higher than the clouds. If we call it the "real world", says the
columnist R.J. Finkley, we are assuming it must be cruel, will always be cruel.
The children, while they themselves are capable of great cruelty, present other
There is also the question of why girls run
faster then light while boys jump high. You'd think that, if the magic words
are simply "because I said so," children would be able to switch
between the two, or do anything they wish. But boys and girls tend to stick to
the ability their peers do, perhaps feeling it more proper to fall into certain
gender roles. Peer pressure starts from an early age. On some occasions
teachers and parents have noticed girls jumping high into the sky and boys
running faster than light; some of them are brought into line by those they
would join, while others are accepted, based on criteria adults cannot guess.
Perhaps cruelty and arbitrariness are common to all worlds, then, not just the
realm of adults. More to the point, these children seem to be limiting
themselves, despite their ability to step beyond limits fairly easily.
Perhaps that is a good thing.
Parents are now divided on the issue of
authority. Should they continue to say, "Because I said so," knowing
it is what creates these exceptions to the laws of physics, or should they back
off in the name of good parenting? Extremely few children beyond the age of
thirteen have been able to replicate the physics-bending powers of their early
years, and not one beyond age fifteen, as all who grow up manage to move into
the realm of adulthood and learn the rules of the adult world. In that regard,
some parents say that letting these kids jump and run all over the place isn't
preparing them for adulthood, wherein jumping to the sky is impossible. Others
say that letting children play is one of the things that actually prepares them
for adult life, and fosters great creativity.
The debate is ongoing. The only consensus is
that the girls who run faster than light are hard to keep track of.