Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ooh, ooh I gotta crush on you

My daughter's social interaction with her peers is always a curiosity to me but the other day, under the impression that she might be acting on a little crush on a boy from school, I was watching the way she smiled uncontrollably and persisted in trying to get the boy's attention while waiting in line for the wave ride at the local pool. As it turned out, it was his first stab at body surfing on the waves and she was merely offering her very best encouragement and support. She later informed me that she does not have a crush.

As I wondered about Martha having a crush, I was, of course, forced to revisit some of my own childhood crushes to see if I had any brilliant advice to pass on to my child. I definitely do not. I was an absolute disaster when it came to liking boys. And the worst part of it was that I liked about 500 of them between age 5 and 15. Maybe it was because I didn't have any brothers and my dad was largely absent from my life, but from very early on I was extraordinarily fascinated with the opposite sex.

I remember a boy in kindergarten who I found irresistibly adorable. I remember standing behind him one day, staring at the nape of his neck and his tidy blonde hair and I thought, obviously, I should reach my hand out and tickle the back of his neck. As he swatted at his neck, he turned around, blushing bright red, and all I could do was stand there mute. He stared at me, as if to ask, why the fuck are you touching my neck (but in an innocent 5-year old way) and I stared back at him thinking what do I do now, why did I do that? And that was that. My budding romance with him was doomed by the bizarre, random tickling. Seriously, what was that all about??

So then we move on to 2nd grade and the boy with the palest blue eyes and the curliest eyelashes I had ever seen on a boy and I sincerely believed he was the most beautiful human being I had ever seen in my 7 years of life. Mute staring continued to my standard M.O. Oddly, this did not inspire his affection for me. It probably only inspired nagging discomfort around me. My love was misunderstood.

Why would my mom do this to me?
There were several other elementary school crushes, none of whom I actually spoke to, even when the boy sat directly across from me all year long. Elementary school was a bad time for me with boys anyway, probably because I actually looked like a boy. Oh, the countless times kids would stop me and ask, "are you a boy or a girl??" I can only hope that the instant weeping this question produced gave it away, but who knows, I could have just been a really sensitive boy and not just a girl with a bad haircut. Many of my friends in 5th and 6th grade had boys bringing them Bubble Yum every day, but do you think I had any big, fat, sugary gum to chew? No, it was all home-supplied Trident for me. Love hurts.

As soon as I got to junior high school, I got busy scouting out new boys to have crushes on. Before long I was scanning the entire C section of the phone book trying to locate any nearby addresses that could possibly be the home of the boy I liked from Shop class. Not surprisingly, he ended up asking my best friend to "go with" him. Although she did say yes, I never believed she fully appreciated his charming smile or the precision of his bowl-cut hair hanging straight across his brow.

The 8th grade crush was the crush to end all crushes. It's still a little heartbreaking to me to recall how much I loved that 9th grade boy who was the object of my affection. It's also a little disturbing to recall how bizarre my behavior must have seemed when I saw him every day and was so completely unable to even say hi. He sat behind me in math class and his locker was right near mine and after a few months the entire school new I liked him but each day I freaked out a little more.

Did not make me a boy-magnet
I blame Styx. They totally ruined it. It's all their fault that I put that picture of them from a magazine inside my locker door, provoking total ridicule from the pack of 9th grade boys. Even though I tried to replace it soon after with a poster of The Rolling Stones that was big enough to wallpaper the entire 2nd floor of Smiley Junior High, the cool factor was ruined as I wrestled my huge poster into my locker, practically rolling myself up in it before eventually abandoning the whole effort.

Despite letting him cheat off my math tests (which he totally needed) and finally managing to squeak out a greeting by the end of the year, that crush obviously went nowhere. By the time I got to high school my new BFF and I discovered the drive-thru liquor store in Denver that would sell beer to anything behind the wheel of a car and alcohol saved me from my debilitating shyness. Maybe "saving" is kind of misinterpreting the situation, but it did finally facilitate a first sloppy kiss/make-out session in the back seat of a car and for that reason, I will always have a soft spot for grape Kool-Aid and Everclear punch.

But the bottom line here is, I have pretty much nothing to offer my child in the way of helpful advice with boys. Martha is really not afraid to talk to anyone and she is largely oblivious to the subtleties of nonverbal communication, which may be a blessing. If she ever does ask me for advice, I think I will offer this: 1) mute staring becomes more creepy than alluring faster than you'd think; 2) do not let Grandma take you for a hair cut; 3) Styx just isn't the band for everyone, and 4) just be yourself, baby.

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