Romantically Immature

Romantically Immature


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 user Shirl


  1. wow!!!i have no words!
    i was like you, in french we say a “gamine” and at 20 i looked as if i was 14…and felt so ashamed for years…until i married my extraordinary soul mate at 22 and now at 36 i still look 10 years younger but now i am PROUD of it!!!! and i hope for my daughters (11 and 7) to be pure like yours…
    immaturity or purity,arayos or KEDOUCHA?

  2. I am currently reading Wendy Shalit’s book “Return to Modesty” and she makes the same case in her full-length book that you so beautifully made in a few paragraphs! I thank G-d for sparing me so much heartache, although it certainly was a struggle in my high school years to resist the societal pressure to measure my self-worth by how many boys I had trailing after me. I never thought about how ironic is is that I married younger than any of my friends and that it was to the first man I ever dated.

  3. shandel strasberg

    I love this post! we all wish for our kids to be pure like that! may they bring you lots of nachas!

  4. This is so strong. So strong. I can feel the acute pain in your experience then, and at the same time the wonderfully pure and unadulterated joy you must now feel, not only at having resisted falling prey to either promiscuity OR despair, but in understanding the underlying truth behind it all. Your purity, your daughter’s, and G-ds personal hashgacha and mercy.

    Amen to Shandel!!!

  5. I am amazed at what your principal told you. How misleading. I am so sorry you had to go through all that.
    It is so hard when the outside world has values that do not jive with our own.

  6. I experienced the divorce of my parents at a very young age. Because of this experience, I was extremely tentative to be in a relationship. I couldn’t understand the point of emotionally investing myself if I knew it would eventually end. I told everyone that I would not date until I found the relationship that would last forever.
    For years, everyone around me tried to convince me out of this mentality (including and especially my parents!) “If you don’t date other people and get experiences, you’ll never be ready for a marriage relationship,” they said.
    Towards the end of high school, I started to cave into their badgering and dated a little, only to find I had been right. It was not worth it, and if anything I was worse off and less ready to devote myself to a husband after a failed relationship than I had been before.
    Thank G-d, shortly into college, before I had an opportunity to fall prey to this mentality yet again, I met my husband, discovered the beauty of Yiddishkeit (not necessarily in that order), and learned so much along the way…

  7. ah, the utter stupidity of the so-called professionals totally blows me away! how could the faculty fail to see your friend’s obvious failure to be mature ENOUGH for a love relationship? and then to turn around and INVITE you to jump into the same shark-infested waters?? one of the biggest failures of our modern society is the assumption that children are just short adults, with the same ability to understand and manage their world.
    contrast this story to Orthodox Jewish rules of dating&marriage and we see how the wisdom of a life of Torah has sustained us for centuries.


    you said it so well. Mrs. Davenport sees Alisha committing suicide from being “romantically mature” and at the very same time tries to shame you into jumping into “the same shark-infested waters” (so well said, Tamar).

    is Mrs. D still guiding young minds and hearts to fulfillment and maturity?

    I am so glad your girls find the thought of dating in early teens hysterical. boruch Hashem!

  9. Caroline Bass

    I was just at the Chabad Kinus last week in NY and at the Kinus a frum doctor named Miriam Grossman (author of “Wonder of Becoming You: How a Jewish Girl Grows Up” in addition to other books)addressed the women. She talked about this very issue and has in fact dedicated her medical training and life to redirecting girls and young women (not just Jewish girls, but the public at large), in their approach to sexuality and how the over sexualization of girls is detrimental to their health. Interestingly, when she brings up abstinence until marriage she is met with strong opposition by the medical community, by the public school system (since she challenges current Sex Ed curriculums starting from 5th grade and up), and by the public as a whole. But she continues to press forward since as a doctor she sees firsthand what happens to girls who are sexual at such a young age. It is so refreshing to hear the story about your daughters and you should be proud of the young women they will become. They will serve as the role models for the next generation. Kol Hakavod.

  10. That was so wrong of her to say that you were “romantically immature.”

    Real maturity means that you are willing to wait until you are ready to have a serious relationship with someone.

    So many young girls today are succumbing to guys who are not even sure if they want a long term relationship, and that eventually leaves young women in vulnerable situations.


  11. I read this post when you first put it on, and have been wanting to read it again. So glad it popped up!

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