Gertrude and I are heavily into Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones books. Right now, we're reading Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, which is all about how Junie B. and her friends Lucille and That Grace try to impress the chunky new boy in Room Eight.
Lucille wears fancy dresses that her richie nana buys her, and fluffs her fluffy hair.
Grace shows off how fast she can run.
Junie B. makes a lame joke, and then finds herself rolling in the grass on the playground, unable to stop laughing.
Warren concludes that Junie B. is a nutball.
So at the end of a chapter, we parked Gert's caterpillar bookmark in between the pages and I set the book on her nightstand.
"Which one of those girls would you want to be friends with?" I asked casually, always chasing the reading comprehension monkey.
"Lucille," replied Gert, without hesitation.
That surprised me. Lucille, while harmless, is clearly a vain and shallow little rich girl. She's thoughtless and self-centered, and certainly not very good friend material. So maybe my compassionate little Buddhist daughter was simply sensing that by befriending Lucille, she would somehow be able to address the core of suffering and insecurity that caused Lucille to look down on those less fortunate than her, which would free Lucille to blossom into a kinder, friendlier person.
"Why Lucille?" I asked.
"Because she's pretty."
I was suddenly seized with the horror that all these years of "pretty on the outside, ugly on the inside" analogous tales we had read to our daughters had instead indoctrinated them into the belief that being pretty EXCUSES inappropriate and unkind behavior. Oh crap. Crap, crap, crap.
"You know," I said, "just because you're pretty, that doesn't make you nice."
"Oh, no! I'd rather be friends with a nice person than a pretty person. In fact," I went on, totally making this next part up, "there's a girl at my work who is very pretty, but no one wants to be her friend because she's so mean."
Gert was intrigued. "What kinds of things does she do?"
"Uh." Thinking. Need a believable example. Okay, how about this. "She makes people feel bad. She says things like 'Nice shoes!' but then she laughs at you and makes fun of your shoes when you're not around."
Weak. It was the best I could come up with.
Gert nodded. She seemed to get it. Then she said, "If that girl does it again, you oughta punch her in the beans."
I sighed. For the hundredth time, "Girls don't have beans, Gert."