Archive | October, 2012

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.