Sunday, February 5, 2012


As the days passed, then the weeks, and then (wow) the months, I have thought in stolen whispers of time about Girls in the Hall and how I very much needed to make time to continue writing on here. I debated with myself how much I should share, and then realized that if I had already bared my soul to you, I should continue to be utterly honest and open. If didn't continue on the path of openness, then what would have been the reason for starting Girls in the Hall in the first place?

It is 1am. I haven't slept--I mean, really slept, like a good night's rest that leads you into the Saturday afternoon sun--in ages. Not because I am sick, not because I am an insomniac, but because I gave birth to the world's youngest member girl in the hall two months ago. I don't usually talk about my age or where I am in my life on here, but this is important.

I started Girls in the Hall to empower all of us. For those girls in high school and those who still feel like they are in the perpetual universe that is a type of high school, we need a place where we can just BE. At least, I do. When I look at my baby girl, I see the enormous feeling of hope--a life filled with possibilities where everything is new. I think about the first time she will drive a car, what her first heartbreak will be, where and if she will go to college. I wonder what she will dream of becoming and what she will become. I look in her eyes and think all of us girls in the hall started here. We each started with a cry for our moms, and our moms cried for our grandmothers. We are a piece of the cycle of amazing girlness. We all have to learn how to grow up sometime.

I wonder if my girl will read this blog some day, or maybe even take it over in her teenage years. Or maybe she will think I am silly? Who knows. All I can think now, as I write this to you all in a secret moment while she sleeps happily next to me and the computer screen glows on both our faces, is that it is good to be back.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I look in the mirror. Gazing back at me, I see my mom's forehead, my dad's smile.  The color of my eyes--along with my sisters'--are plucked from generations of baby blues.

As a teen, like a lot of us, the mirror was often a place of self criticism. I avoided it, and when I had to look at myself, most times were a passing glance to get a ponytail without bumps before a sports match or to get the right amount of makeup on before acting in a school play. Most of all, it was definitely not a place to think about where I came from and how many ancestors worth of DNA were put into how I look.

Whenever anyone said I looked just like my mom or dad, I would cringe. "I am my own person!' I wanted to scream. I see my yearbook photos now and think about just how much I looked like my grandmother's teen portraits, even though I am wearing flannel shirts and jean skirts in mine and she dawned buttoned up cardigans and long skirts.

Last month, my dad and his wife were visiting me up in the Big Apple. On East 23rd Street and Park Avenue, he and I posed for a photo with our matching coffee cups that his wife shot with my iphone. A random lady walked by and said loudly to herself, "Damn. That girl looks just like her daddy." It was one of the nicest things a stranger has ever said to me.

What if, instead of picking ourselves apart, we wondered.... How many people in my family also had my nose? What relative grew up with natural red hair too? What great-great-great-great grandparents were as tall/short as I am? Then, maybe just maybe, the things we hate in the mirror could transform into the things we learn to love about ourselves.

I am currently getting that iphone photo of my dad and I framed to sit next to the picture of him holding me as a baby in the hospital. It will stand amongst photos of generations of people who are MY people--they are part of everything that comprises me. When I feel adrift with my family (including my dad) living thousands of miles away, I will got to the picture and think, "I am my daddy's girl, just like he was my grandmother's boy and she was my great-grandmother's girl. Always."

Monday, August 8, 2011


Sofia in NYC

Sofia Johnson, 17, is the youngest playwright represented at the New York International Fringe Festival this year with a production of her work, 22 Stories. We asked Sofia to write a guest entry for Girls in the Hall about both the plot of 22 Stories and her experience writing it. 

I started writing 22 Stories when I was a sophomore in high school. I was also going through somewhat of an identity crisis. Like any student, I was beginning to branch out in terms of friends and opportunities, and I found myself in situations that I never though I would be in. I loved it, but there was a sharp divide between this new life and the life I was used to. In terms of 22 Stories, I didn't know if I was Nicole, the bookish perfectionist, or her twin, Natasha, the emotional non-conformist. So I split myself into two personalities and constantly jumped between them. Writing 22 Stories helped keep both personalities intact for the better portion of that year.

The security of a group is a key component in a girl's life. For her, it means shelter from isolation, support, and a sense of belonging and purpose. This rings especially true for teenagers, when girls have hormones and all other things to deal with.

Obviously, girls are composed of many elements and put together by many different experiences. We are multi-faceted, layered, and complex in a way that makes us all gloriously unique. Yet groups are often based on similarities. As a result, girls often play up some of their many distinctive qualities, while ignoring or hiding others.

This is not only true to girls only in tight cliques, however. Sometimes a simple identity can hold the same place in a girl's heart as a group. By claiming to be one thing, a girl feels more comfortable with who she is. Nicole likes her glasses because "they made everyone know who [she is]." She focuses on her schoolwork to the extent she does in order to distance herself from Natasha as much as possible.

Even when we try to construct our individual identities, we still neglect other aspects of ourselves. Natasha (and her friends) voice a negative opinion of modern establishments and their success criteria, but Natasha still cries when she does poorly on a state test. As much as her sister epitomizes everything she detests, Natasha is still crushed at her Nicole's apparent indifference to her struggles.

This is never a good thing. Even though we might not all jump off a roof a la Natasha, we are still affected when we ignore part of who we are, as Nicole discovers throughout the play. The only way she can get rid of the itchy feeling in her brain and make peace with herself is when she gets in touch with her inner Natasha.

I like to entertain the idea that I am part Nicole and part Natasha. On one hand, I am fiercely ambitious and a bit of a perfectionist. On the other hand, I cannot stand all these rules and regulations we set up for ourselves, and how we can cheat each other out of living. For most of my life, I've had to choose between the two personalities. Through writing this play, they became unified.

We are all strong and every bit of us deserves celebration. But that can only happen when your inner Nicole and Natasha come to terms with one another, and join together. 

-Sofia Johnson

If you are interested in hearing more about 22 Stories (which plays August 12-28) and Sofia, check out her blog by clicking here

Monday, July 4, 2011


When I think of Fourth of July's as a kid, a flood of images race to my mind... My mother's berry flag cake (which I was allowed to put the stripes on as a teen, careful to measure out the right amount between the rows and rows of strawberries), going back for seconds and thirds of grilled goodness and then, of course, fireworks. One of my first memories is as a four year old begging my Uncle to take me to see them off the coast in Miami. Then, I remember one of our grandmothers (gram, we call her) taking my middle sister and I to watch fireworks at the racetrack in Kentucky, and the magic of seeing a kid discover them for the first time. During my high school years, we usually rang in the patriotic holiday on our father's boat. There would be yelling, of course, and me voicing just how mad I was to be missing the party going on an hour away where all of my friends were lighting of sparklers and probably getting into a little bit of trouble. But, when the fireworks started, we were silent as the symphony of bursting gunpowder filled our ears. My middle sis and I watched our baby sis, both the delight on her face and the bursts of the fireworks reflected in her eyes. Though I would have rather died than tell my parents on those nights each summer, there was no place I would have rather been than sandwiched between my sisters, lemonade in hand, watching the fireworks.

For Girls in the Hall living in other countries around the world: The Fourth of July, Independence Day,  celebrates the independence of the USA from Great Britain way back on July 4, 1776. Each year, Americans take this day off from school, work, or other obligations to celebrate our country. What national holidays are in your country?

Monday, June 13, 2011


Another school year has come (or is rapidly coming) to a close. What did you learn? I don't mean the equations in algebra, or the meaning of The Awakening (though Girls in the Hall does heart that book), but what have you learned about yourself and the world around you? In the past month as I have gone underground, I have been reflecting on my school year in the classroom of the universe. The lessons I realized that have guided me into the girl I am now surprised me. Now, I'm ready to share the top five with you:

Dive in and let the world catch up with you.

Have high standards for yourself, and those around you.

Dapple in a daydream, maybe today's dream will be tomorrow's reality.

It is ok to be wrong sometimes. Mistakes are often the best lessons to grow from.

In the rush to grow up, savor moments to remember the beauty of life in the present, the here and the now.

Drop us a message and tell us what you have learned this year!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


021., originally uploaded by starless_city. MTV Logo. All rights reserved.
Today, May 4th, is the 10th annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. According to CNN, an irony is that an estimated 1,000 teen girls will give birth today.

From sex ed to THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER to JUNO to those addictive marathons of 16 AND PREGNANT, we witness how hard it is to be a teen who is expecting, and harder still to be a kid while raising a kid. We see girls from every corner of the country, with every grade point average, from every background and with all sorts of dreams go through this.

On last night's episode of 16 AND PREGNANT, an honors student with a promising college-filled future gave birth to a baby girl after having unprotected sex with her boyfriend and without birth control. She didn't think it could ever happen to her and, of course, she was very wrong. Do you know any one who has gone through this? Have you gone through it?

Encouragingly,  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy reports that teen pregnancy is at an all time low, but it isn't low enough yet. What do you think can be done to spread the word even more?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Big Sis & Little Sis, originally uploaded by J.DoyonPhotography.

It was 1998. At 16, I was dancing between the identity of the drama nerd, school council activist and cheerleader. However, there was one identity that everyone knew about me--and it was my favorite one--I was a sister. I will always be a sister to two amazing ladies.

That spring afternoon, an eclectic collection of my six closest friends and I sat in tiny plastic chairs in a room that smelled of glue, play doh and little kid. Most of the friends with me that day weren't even really friends with each other; they were united by their love of me (I am very lucky) and a certain curly haired blond girl who peeked out from the hallway to get a glimpse of us.

We are 11 years apart, but were inseparable for most of my high school years. During the week, my sis went everywhere I went--dinner with friends, out for ice cream, to the park---you name it, she was there, her little hand in mine.

That day, we watched her graduate from kindergarten. My mom had to be out of town for work, and my dad didn't know if he could swing being there with his work schedule, so my friends came out in droves. As she adjusted her tassle on that tiny hat, no one had a bigger cheering squad than my sister.

It is a moment in my rites of passage that is just as distinct as my prom or when the envelope came in the mail saying I had gotten in to my first choice of college. As I pick her up to give her a congratulatory hug, I remember wanting to freeze the moment to encase her in a cocoon of blissful innocence. She didn't know yet what it would be like to fight with our parents and realize they are human, or have a boy break her heart, or face the crushing failure of disappointment when she makes a mistake. My heart was heavy as I realized she would have to go through all of those things, and the big sister in me couldn't protect her. All I could do was pick her up when she needed me.

It is now 2011 and I am a certified grown up, but with the heart of a teenage girl. In a few weeks, my family and I will sit side-by-side and watch the youngest one in our family walk across the auditorium of her high school and passage through another graduation; this time it's the big one. After she throws her hat in the air and comes over to give us all hugs, I will feel that same pride that I felt in that ABC decorated classroom so long ago. Also, I know that worries of everything we can't protect her from in this next phase of life will flash through my brain. While the world was spinning, our family's little girl grew up. Like always, I will remind myself that whenever she needs me, I will always be there to pick her up.