The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why Dating in Middle School was the Dumbest Thing Ever

In sixth grade (also known as the Year Which Must Not Be Remembered), it seemed like everyone was dating... except for me.

I was eleven or twelve, awkward and tall, with long, spindly legs. My hair was a blonde bob which I had no intension of brushing, and I had never touched makeup in my life. My biggest interests were my friends, Pokemon, reading, and a slightly unhealthy obsession with dog breeds.

I got put into a class with 90% of the kids who would end up dubbed, the “popular kids,” in high school. The girls looked nothing like me. I might have had budding breasts, but these girls prided themselves on being skinny, flat-chested, boy-crazy, into cheerleading and hating to read. I still don’t understand anyone who is “proud” of hating to read.

Needless to say, I was the odd sheep out in that Johnston Middle School classroom. My interest in boys was… zilch. Nada. Zero. And on top of that, I didn’t know how to date.

Regardless of the obvious issues associated with it (i.e., none of us can drive), everyone else seemed to be dating. The girls in my class proudly asked boys out and were asked out on dates themselves. I didn’t understand. I even asked the class once why anyone would date right now. “I don’t get it,” I said, “What’s so exciting about it?”

The class laughed at me.

“So when are you going to date?” asked a boy.

“I don’t know,” I said, blushing, “When I feel like it? Maybe when I’m 21 or something?”

The class laughed at me again.

I soon changed my animosity towards dating, but it was probably due more peer-pressure than a real desire to date. Even in ninth grade, when I went on my first date, it was one of the most awkward experiences of my life.

I was asked out via note in class, passed from my friends to his friends and back. The date itself consisted of playing Dance Dance Revolution at the local movie theater and being dropped off and picked up by our parents. I had heard rumors about him that both horrified and fascinated me.

Once he tried to touch my boobs. I laughed and pushed him away.

The odd thing was, at Johnston, when you and a boy went on a date, you were considered “going out.” So because this boy and I had gone on a date, we were now “going out,” whatever that meant. I was his girlfriend, he was my boyfriend. If we had known about Facebook at the time, we would have changed our relationship status immediately, even if the “date” had gone horribly. I had my first kiss that year while watching “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Despite that, it's still my favorite Lord of the Rings movie. I thought that when you had your first kiss, it was supposed to be sparks flying and rainbows and maybe some music would play… But it was just a kiss, and we really never kissed again after that.

I was more interested in having a boyfriend than my actual “boyfriend.” I was intrigued by this dating thing everyone was talking about, but my boyfriend himself? I found myself getting sick at the thought of seeing him. I didn’t want to ever be around him. All I wanted at age 14 was pretty much the same things I wanted when I was 12; I wanted to watch Lord of the Rings with my friends, not him. I still wanted to play dress up (we called them fashion shows instead) and talk about the possibilities of boys, but not actually “be” with any boys. I wanted a dog. I wanted to play Petz and The Sims on my computer. I proceeded to ignore my “boyfriend” until he broke up with me over AIM.

In high school, I went on a date with one of my good guy friends. This was intended to actually be a date, but I hadn’t decided yet if I wanted to be with him. After the date, he called me his girlfriend, and I freaked out. I wasn’t ready to commit to anything, but I felt guilty for what he saw as me stringing him along.

It wasn’t until I got to college when I had an epiphany; I could go on dates without "going out" with the person. These strange rules- which had previously separated the “good girls” from the “sluts” in Middle School and High School- no longer existed. I realized that when my mom had laughed at me when I tried to explain that going on a date meant that you were now an item, she had been completely right. It was freeing to be able to hang out with a guy and not have to worry if this meant I had to change my Facebook status. It meant that I could go on dates whenever I wanted, and if I didn’t end up liking the guy, I could just tell him and that would be the end of it. This meant I could be “dating” a guy for months, and it didn’t mean we were in a committed relationship.

How weird, right? My middle school self would have been horrified. She would have called me a slut (behind my back, of course) and insisted that dating and going out were the same thing.

I’ve only technically gone out with two guys, including my current boyfriend. I’ve dated a lot more, but still a lot less than most people. You know as well as I do that people change, and our views on more than just this elusive concept of “dating” will change with us.

Does “dating” mean that you and the other person are exclusive? Does it mean that you’re getting to know each other? That you intend to marry? That you went on one date? Are "dating" and "going out" the same thing? Maybe you’re just feeling each other out (or up). Maybe it means whatever you and the other person decide it means.

Maybe “dating” doesn’t need a definition.

My middle school self is banging her head against a wall.


  1. Although my lovely daughters considered me the meanest mom ever, they were not permitted to "date" until they were 16, when they and any of their potential suitors were of an age to drive. (Which eliminates the awkwardness of a parent taking you on said "date.") I'm sure both had "boyfriends," (in their minds or in a school hallway sense) before 16, but they were not permitted to be escorted and/or attached permanently, socially to a boy until (well, close to with Julia) 16. This family "policy" grew out of the infinite wisdom of MY mother, now almost 80 years old, who said when boys and girls begin trying to forge romantic relationships at 12 or 13 or even 15, the only place left "to go" by 18 or 19 is "all the way" (her modesty is so sweet by today's standards) and that girls should seize the opportunity to BE someone first before they become intimately involved with a man. Your views of "boys--meh--I could live without them" in middle school was much more normal than you perceived at the time. It's just that the kids who were pairing up then were being very vocal and public with it to validate their behavior. This, my sweet pseudo-daughter, is the origin of "peer pressure"--as a kid, if you see some, popular, kids doing something, you think "everyone" is doing it and that you should too. You were/are a strong, independent young woman for realizing that it's OK to be "weird" and to honor your own conscience and your family's values in just being yourself and letting these things unfold as they may. I have a close girlfriend who did not marry for the first time until she was 45 years old--she finally found the man of her dreams, she was not willing to settle for anything less than her bliss, and she is deliriously happy. I applaud you and agree with you. "Dating" rules in today's society are kind of silly and screwed up and both boys and girls should be able to see a movie or go together to a ball game or concert without being permanently conjoined or labeled a "slut" for socializing with many people of both genders. Socializing should not presume sexual intercourse. Somehow, we've arrived at that conclusion...that a boy and girl cannot be together, even briefly, without "doing it." Ick.

  2. Dear 15 year old self,

    You screwed up a lot, even in the face of helpful comments from your parents and even your closest friend. You did a lot of stupid things and hopefully you gained some valuable experience from it.

    What you are now is a result of those decisions. Some weren't popular back then. Some turned out just fine. Those popular kids in high school aren't running much of anything but their mouths these days. The distance you put between yourself and high school, not only in the physical sense but by growing up mentally, has proved you to be a better person.

    Get to know the kid who hangs out in the library. Just don't live in that room/building like they do.

    Also, you didn't do a good job with those early relationships. Thankfully one of them forgave the mistakes and is still a close friend. Cherish that. Do not get hung up on finding "the one". Instead, find "the one who's right for you". The first "one" you found wasn't and you really lost there. Do NOT think that you need to get into a serious relationship right out of college. (or start one in college) You have no idea what you want, which will be evident when you change your major 8 times in 3 months. Go out and enjoy life first. Get hurt, pick yourself up, smile and move forward. Cry over a heartbreak. It makes you stronger. Enjoy your friendships and trust them. They know you as well as, or better than, you do. If they tell you someone's not right for you, they're spot on. If they say nothing, that's worse. You'll be used for less-than-flattering motives.

    Don't ever let anyone drink and drive. I will not give details but it does cause a lifetime of heartache.

    Get out of town more. The longer you stay in one place or only visit a short list of places, makes you a closed-minded person. Try new things. Being "scared" of something is stupid, unless it's big, hairy and has sharp teeth.

    The worst thing anyone can say to you is "No". You'll face rejection constantly. Get over it. Even from a relationship, it's not you. It's them.

    Get silly drunk. Once. Hopefully your friends won't let you get arrested.

    Find someone, of the opposite sex, that you can get an honest opinion from. They know the mindset. You may find him/her after realizing that you two shouldn't be dating. Be honest with them and that relationship will be better and stronger than what you tried when you dated. In fact, be honest in every relationship. Even if it's going to hurt the other person to hear the truth. Hearing the truth first doesn't hurt as much as finding out later and realizing you were lied to.

    Don't ever be bitter about a break up. it's a waste of time.

    Bottles of rum are not "single serving size". You'll thank me for that.

  3. You certainly mean well and you are not unintelligent. The side effects of what you are doing can be life long for your kids. Escorte Romania


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