Hey Beautiful

1 Oct

The other day my eight year old shared a school anecdote I can’t stop thinking about. We were talking about art class, specifically a project they’re working on called “Sandwiches” where they were given a long, skinny blank sheet of paper with a piece of bread inked in at the top and bottom, and instructed to fill the sheet with drawings of wild and crazy sandwich fixings. All very Dagwood.

She giggled as she told me that one of the things she put on her sandwich was a picture of “Johnny,” one of her classmates. “He sits on one side of me, and I thought he would think that was funny,” she said.

Then she said, “And on the other side of me sits “Billy” and guess what HE did all during art class, Mom? He would lean over really close to me and get right in my face and say, ‘Hey beautiful.’ He did it over and over! Then he said, ‘I’m gonna MARRY you!’ And Johnny was laughing, so he said that again, too.”

The look that passed over her face as she told me this was one I recognized, and it tied my stomach in a knot. It was 50% flattered, 50% uncomfortable. It was a look that matured her sweet face in an instant.

I remember how it felt when people started to respond to me as something other than a little kid. It’s not that little kids are genderless, not at all, but they’re KIDS, immune to overtly sexual overtures (at least ideally, ugh.) I don’t remember this transition happening to me in the third grade, though.

And look, this boy is a third grader, too, I get that, so I’m trying not to blow the incident out of proportion. My daughter didn’t seem so much upset as confused. She laughed about it, but with a twist to her mouth. I didn’t want to freight her response with the power of what I was feeling, so I tried to stay calm and neutral in probing a little.

My internal response is not calm or neutral, though. I went through my teenage years feeling like prey, for lack of a better word, and at the same time desperately wanting attention from boys I felt like were forever withholding it from me. That dance, between courting attention and rejecting it, is one I still hadn’t perfected in my twenties, when I was living in a big city and trying to navigate dating. I’m more protected from it now as a married lady in middle-age, but seeing my child’s face contort like that brought it all back.

Growing up is hard whoever you are, but growing up a girl has some unique challenges. I guess I’d better strap in–seems like this ride has already gotten started.

16 Responses to “Hey Beautiful”

  1. deedeestewart October 1, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Hey beautiful! I’m very happy to see your blog up. In elementary school, we held weddings in our long driveway, and arranged the marriages of most of the neighborhood. My brother had 3 ex-wives before he got out of fourth grade. Divorces were cheap and quick back then — settled by verbal dis-agreements. I was always the jolly matchmaker, officiant, and gossip monger…never the bride.

  2. amomynous2 October 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    Well, it’s a really good thing to remember that kids do experiment with this stuff, and that’s how they learn about it. I think she’s been sheltered from play of this kind to some extent–there’s a lot less fooling around at the end of the driveway than I remember from the 70’s, unfortunately. Part of what made this incident concerning to me is that “Billy” is not a friend of hers, so this didn’t seem to read to her as safe talk, really, you know? It read to her as strange. Anyway. Nowadays the fine line I most often walk is between discerning what feelings are hers and what are mine. Thanks for commenting, Dee Dee. XOX

  3. Wendi October 2, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    Congratulations on the new blog! Love the background.

    And my son Jack is in third grade, too. Last week there were two of his girl classmates riding their scooters up and down our driveway desperately trying to get his attention and he had that same expression of being both embarrassed and flattered. The next few years should be quite interesting to say the least.

  4. amomynous2 October 2, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    HOLY CRAP, thanks for reading, Wendi! Wish we could get our kids together, except that apparently you’d have to eventually force yours to make mine that crazy corsage thing, which would be a helluva lotta work. XOX

  5. Alice Reed October 2, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    I love this so far. I love your thoughts and stories!

    • amomynous2 October 2, 2012 at 1:17 am #

      Thank you! I have been suffused with self-doubt about posting all afternoon. Really put myself into crazy head-trip mode. I very much appreciate the positive feedback, lovely. 🙂

  6. Ray October 2, 2012 at 3:49 am #

    My heart was never broken more than when I was in 4th grade – what is that? 9 years old? — and at recess, I saw that my friend Tom had all the candy that, in the morning, I had given to Donna. And, the afternoon before, I had had to walk miles to buy that candy (literally. we lived in the country.) And she just gave it away. A real… I-like-her, but she-likes-him, but he-likes-candy love story.

    • amomynous2 October 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

      Please allow me to say that that’s a very *sweet* story, Ray. And Donna was not making good choices, in boys AND in not hogging the candy to herself. Your losses, Donna!

  7. dieckmann October 2, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    So happy to finally get to read this!

    • amomynous2 October 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

      Thank you for reading, Dee-light! XOX

  8. Jane October 3, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    At around 3rd grade, I was told by an adult male, that I had bedroom eyes. I felt horribly uncomfortable, and of course, had no idea what he meant. Later that year, another comment about my lips. After that, I’d try to make my lips disappear and I think I squinted alot. LOL. But, actually, not funny.

    Your blog is so very wonderful. Can’t wait to read more.

    • amomynous2 October 3, 2012 at 12:27 am #

      Thank you so much for reading, Jane! And thank you for sharing the stories. You are describing perfectly the kinds of interactions I’m talking about–and how much more disturbing between an adult and a child. Sigh. Great to hear from you–miss you so! XOX

  9. Rachel October 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    I’ve just now had a chance to read your blog, Miller. So glad you’re moving forward with it. I don’t have any third graders in my life, but I have to say that your description of your teens and twenties is the best I’ve heard of that very bewildering love/hate relationship with attention. Look forward to reading more!

    • amomynous2 October 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      Wow! I am thrilled you came over to take a look, Rachel. It really means a lot. Thanks for the encouragement! XOX

  10. Elyssa October 14, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    The boys wouldn’t have withheld their attention if you had bigger tits. This is an important life lesson.

    • amomynous2 October 14, 2012 at 3:39 am #

      I could not agree more! I can only hope my daughter has a nice rack. Scratch that, I can only hope she DOESN’T have a nice rack.

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