I believe that romances that come before driver’s licenses are silly. Tweens and younger teens seem to think that they are mature enough to have boyfriends and girlfriends and all the milestones that come along with adult relationships. I believe that if your mom has to drive you to your date, you are probably too young to be calling it that. I’m all for having childhood sweethearts, handholding, and innocent pecks on the cheek, but agonizing over baseball metaphors at eleven isn’t right.
This spring I was a counselor for an outdoor school that hosted fourth and sixth grade classes for a week. It was interesting to see the differences between elementary and middle school students at fourth grad; most boys were still in that “girls are icky, let’s throw rocks at them” stage. They were so much more innocent, and were often shocked by the antics of the students just two years older. I was constantly fielding complaints that they were cussing, bullying, and having completely inappropriate conversations around the younger kids. At one meal I sat at a table of sixth grade boys. Some of them were giving one boy a hard time about a girl he was apparently going out with. They said things like “You call that a girl?” The boy defended himself by yelling back “Yeah, well you dated her too!” By this time I was already surprised, but the response to the accusation was even more surprising. Although I had been pretending I wasn’t listening, when I heard him shout “Until she got ACNE!,” I had to look up. Not only were these boys already unsympathetically shunning girls based on their appearance, but it was obvious that they were dating before they hit puberty.
In sixth grade, I was an awkward, gawky mess. My sister, a grade ahead of me and way cooler, was suddenly asking my parents if she could have a boyfriend. I had no desire to have a boyfriend, and thought it was weird that she wanted one, but I wondered if that was a bad sign. Was I supposed to want a boyfriend? Should I try to find one anyway? I was lucky. Because of my sister, I got a heads up as to what I should expect academically and socially, and had a little more time to make important decisions as well as learn from her mistakes.
At that age I also worried that for the first time I was actually getting homework, and it was entirely possible that I could fail history. However, I did notice how the conversation topics were shifting from toys to boys. They would remain the topic for at least the next six years for some. I, however, had more important things to worry about, since school would become the bane of my existence. While I seemed to always pass up the rare opportunity to break my single streak during high school, I don’t regret it because I know I wasn’t ready. I saw the tears over the disintegrating relationships and was even more confident in my decision. Rather than agonizing over something that I would think back on and laugh about, I could focus on something far less amusing: failing history.
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