My son just started middle school. From what I can tell, he's no different than he was in fifth grade. But the girls are another story. Many of them are suddenly mature, and by "mature" I mean they dress like cocktail waitresses. They sport sexy hairdos, tight tops and short skirts, as if trying to cause impure thoughts in the opposite sex.
The problem is that the opposite sex is still playing with LEGOs. There seems to be a huge maturity gap between the boys and the girls, and I wonder how my son is supposed to navigate this strange new world. He notices girls and even has an innocent crush on one of them. But he wouldn't know how to talk to her if you handed him a script. Should he even try at this point? Or should he just wait until his hormones catch up with him?
Father Figure: First of all, don't panic. This is all part of the Circle of Life. Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, decided that girls should mature earlier than boys, perhaps in order to stick it to boys one last time before they take over the world. Add to that the fact that, thanks in part to better nutrition, today's girls mature earlier than ever. (Some now enter puberty in embryo.) Now, factor in the role that society has come to play in sexualizing adolescence, and…okay, maybe you should panic.
Or not, since you have a son. He's not going to cause you much of a problem for a couple of years, unless you try to take his Xbox 360 away from him. Or if you force him to talk to one of those girls. I was at a middle-school social event recently, and the gender separation was absolute; nobody crossed the line. And when I eavesdropped on the conversations, it was like I was visiting two different worlds. The girls were all concerned with which one of them had said what to whom about whoever. Meanwhile, the boys were discussing the finer points of AK-47s.
Okay, maybe you should panic after all. Or maybe you should force your son to talk to one of those girls. In retrospect, I wish someone had done that to me. It amazes me, looking back, how much I was able to accomplish romantically without actually talking to girls. Shannon M. and I went steady throughout seventh grade, and I'm pretty sure we never exchanged a single word. It was all done with intermediaries and notes exchanged between classes. (Today, it's probably done with text-messaging.)
Here's the thing, though. The girls I remember the most are the intermediaries, not Shannon. She was like Charlie Brown's Little Red-Haired Girl, admired from afar, there but not there. Whereas the intermediaries were flesh and blood - real-live girls with thoughts and opinions on matters other than AK-47s. Everything I knew about girls at that time I learned from them. And a lot of what I learned about myself (that didn't have to do with AK-47s) came from talking to them. Thank you, Jan. Thank you, Debra.
So, although I wouldn't encourage your son to talk to the girl he has a crush on (I wouldn't discourage him either, of course), I would definitely encourage him to talk to any and all of the other girls - about AK-47s, if he has to. Simply by engaging them in conversation he'll open up a world that goes beyond dolls and guns, a world where boys and girls talk about whatever they would talk about if only they talked. He could start by asking them what's up with those tight tops and short skirts.
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