The Female of the Species

Yesterday morning, W (15 months) and I were headed to the park. I was pushing his empty stroller and he was walking alongside me, holding my hand. He gets a lot of looks when we do this - it's that funny little kid walk that's funny and cute. It doesn't hurt that he likes to wave and say Hi to random people. Anyway, we were walking along, and we were overtaken by a bigger kid - maybe three or four years old - a little girl walking along with her mom (I assume) and another lady. If the adults noticed W, I didn't see, but the little girl sure did. She locked her eyes onto him and did not stop staring 'till she was too far ahead of us to comfortably look that far behind her. She started with what seemed like a "serious" look, and as she (and we and it) progressed, her look got meaner and meaner. She was staring daggers at W.

I wondered what she was thinking - because he's too little to be anything but oblivious - and I flashed back to an incomplete memory of girls acting a lot meaner than they actually were. Unfairly, I only clearly remember being the victim of those "mean" girls - trying on extra meanness learned from TV or bigger kids or who-knows-what for effect. It's just a funny thing that seems to happen - like some kind of junior-social-darwinism - like puppies or bears play-fighting, I suppose.

The girls I remember practicing meanness on me, the ones with whom I'm still in touch, have all (as far as I can tell) grown up to be lovely women. I assume - I hope - this little girl will do the same. I still can't quite figure what's being worked out in the exercise, though. What are the little girls learning through the process and what would be lost if they stopped? And are the boys doing this too? (My sense is that, whatever boys are doing, it's different.)

Maybe someone science-y will leave a comment with the answer.