GIGGLE GIGGLE GIGGLE
My 14 and 11-year-old daughters, Hadas and Hallel, were discussing the hot topic of the year: high school acceptances for Hadas. And they were putting themselves into hysterics envisioning the worst possible thing that Hadas could possibly say while being interviewed by the principal of her dream high school.
Hallel, our resident comic, had joked that Hadas could say that she needed to delay her interview because she is too busy going on dates with boys.
And for my sheltered, FFB daughters, the idea of a 14-year-old girl going on a real-life date with a real-life boy was so outrageous, so unthinkable, so beyond the pale that they couldn’t control their giggles.
And that transported me back 27 years to a conversation I had with my own 8th grade vice principal.
I was 13-years-old and had been called in for this special meeting with Mrs. Davenport because my dear friend Alisha (not her real name) had just come to terms with the fact that Andy would never love her. And, as a result, she had swallowed a bottle-full of pills.
And I had told my mom. And my mom had told Alisha’s mom. And Alisha’s stomach was pumped and she was placed in a psychiatric ward…
And that was, I suppose, the beginning of the end for Alisha.
Over the following 2 years Alisha descended horrifically quickly from being a somewhat troubled but clean-cut Friends School honor student to being a girl with a very scary boyfriend with a criminal record and who was in an out of psychiatric units for repeated suicide attempts. During the first week of 10th grade, Alisha was murdered by a drug dealer. (You can read Alisha’s entire tragic story at this link.)
But back to my meeting with Mrs. Davenport. My vice-principal was concerned about me.
“How are you coping with this news about Alisha’s suicide attempt?”
I didn’t know what to tell her. I had reacted to the trauma by completely ceasing to function, like a computer electrocuted during a lightning storm. I couldn’t think anymore. I couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore. I just felt totally numb.
“I am doing OK, I guess…” I told her.
“Do you have other issues that trouble you? With self esteem?”
“I worry a lot about my weight…” I confided, “and I don’t think my clothes are nice enough…”
“Oh, I don’t think you’re overweight. And I don’t think you need to worry about how you dress, but…”
Mrs. Davenport leaned forward in her chair towards me with a significant look, “…there is something that concerns me about you. And several teachers have mentioned to me that they are concerned about this issue as well…”
“We are extremely concerned, Jenny, that you are romantically immature. Your classmates are starting to date, and to have boyfriends and girlfriends. And we notice that you do not seem to have any significant relationships with boys.”
How thoroughly embarrassing, how completely humiliating, to be such an utter failure in the realm of junior high dating and love that the entire faculty was discussing Jenny Freedman’s “romantic immaturity.” I saw a glint of satisfaction in Mrs. Davenport’s eyes at my discomfort.
I was dismissed from our meeting. Mrs. Davenport never invited me in for another meeting, but her accusation stung for a long time. Since I remained “romantically immature” for many, many years. For years, I was always the girl without a boyfriend, always the girl sitting alone in the college library without a date on Friday night. I felt like a total failure. Like the perpetual ugly duckling whom no boy would ever, ever be interested in.
But then, B”H, right after my college graduation this ugly duckling became a swan. I met my dear husband at the age of 21, and this coming month we will be married for 16 years.
In the end, it turned out, I married far earlier than my “romantically mature” classmates. And, in the end, several of the marriages of my “romantically mature” classmate have ended in divorce. Which leaves me totally and completely mystified.
Why, for G-d’s sake, does anyone think it is so important for a 13-year-old girl to be dating…
What good can possibly come out of it?
Looking at my own adolescent daughters, giggling giggling giggling, I am prouder than proud that they are “romantically immature.” I am proud that they are growing up in a society that delays dating until girls reach marriageable age.
But more than that, I think the atomic pressure put on me and so many girls to be “romantically mature” and to date and to be sexually active at such a young age is a real tragedy.
Image courtesy of Flickr.com user Shirl