Do You Pursue Friendships with the Opposite Sex?

Photo courtesy of Pictures88.com

Photo courtesy of Pictures88.com

Cuddling and reading Harry Potter in bed with our daughter is one of the highlights of my evenings. Our nine year old is often talkative and revealing at bedtime, especially as we’re giggling about Ron and Hermione’s constant bickering. Little did I know these beloved characters’ mutual crush would provide fertile ground for an eye-opening, painful conversation.

After a juicy discussion of Ron and Hermione’s flirtatious antics, I playfully broached the subject of crushes, asking if my daughter had a crush on any kids in her class.

“I don’t have a crush on anyone,” she answered, avoiding my gaze.

Certain she was on the verge of opening up to me, I pressed on. “When I picked you up from school this afternoon, I thought I saw you staring at Joe, but not talking with him. Are your feelings for him similar to Hermione’s feelings for Ron?”

“No, mom, not at all,” she said. “I am nervous around him. But I’m nervous around all boys. I’m scared to talk to them, and I don’t know why.”

As tears flooded her lashes, Ava explained that she didn’t understand why she was so uncomfortable when all the other girls seemed to interact well with boys.

So much for my maternal instincts. Where I perceived an innocent first crush, my daughter was experiencing real discomfort. As I held her and brushed the hair out of her eyes, I realized I had little experience-based wisdom to impart on this topic. My own lack of male friends throughout my school years and beyond was not a formula I’d want my daughters to emulate.

The best I could offer in the moment was tell her she wasn’t alone, that I remembered being scared to talk with boys too, and was open to talking more about her fears whenever she wanted.

Sated by my response, she fell asleep in my arms, leaving me to review my own history of interacting with boys.

As one of three sisters with protective parents, I never spent much time around boys. I never made friends with them or really got to know them. For me, boys felt magical from afar; terrifying up close.

My past is littered with experiences of ignoring boys who were nice to me and wanted to be my friend in favor of longing for those who ignored me, wishing they would choose me for relationships. Although I had little actual experience interacting with boys, my obsession with them taught me lessons I don’t want to pass on to my children.

In kindergarten, my rogue classmate Devon grabbed me by the arms after school and attempted to plant a rough kiss on my cheek. I, in turn, hit him with my blue Barbie lunchbox, winning his devotion for the rest of the school year. Lesson:  play hard to get, the boys will love you.

In second grade, I eagerly tried to win over Edward, a scrawny, tow-headed boy who repeatedly ignored me and my offerings of the dry Stella D’oro anise cookies my mom packed in my lunch. Lesson:  Keep chasing, sooner or later you’ll win his affection. Or bring better cookies.

In fourth grade, I graduated to Donald, the tough neighborhood kid who rode his bicycle to my house and threw rotted green apples at my legs to win my affection. After several days of this mating ritual, my younger sister sprayed Donald with our garden hose, ending his infatuation. Lesson:  keep your smarter, braver sister away so you can enjoy the attention.

In sixth grade, my undying devotion to Michael, the nearsighted boy who never acknowledged my existence, led me to commit the first of many fashion don’ts – octagon shaped, wire-framed glasses to match his. Lesson:  do whatever it takes to make a boy notice you.

My high school and college years, with their mix of hormones and unrequited love, offered similar lessons; the more uninterested the male, the better. My motto:  completely ignore me, I’ll follow you forever. Be nice to me, want to be my friend, I’ll look through you to the unavailable guy in the corner.

While my relationships with men have blossomed with time, maturity and therapy, I don’t pursue male friendships. If I’m going to model healthy interactions with the opposite sex for my kids, I need to get some male friends. Stat.

I wonder what Devon, Edward, Donald and Michael are doing these days?

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Tangled Web

“These are my favorite cookies!” she said. “They’re Entenmann’s, right?”

In that moment, I had a choice. The first of many.

Save my face. Or save my ass.

I didn’t have time to bake my usual chocolate chip cookies for the potluck. My gooey, chunky cookies always garnered accolades from my fellow gymnastics team members. I prided myself on those cookies almost as much as I did my back handsprings, two things in high school I knew I did well.

I bought a box of Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies, the distinctive bite-sized ones, put them on a decorative plate and brought them and my shame to the party.

I made a choice. My face.

“They’re not Entenmann’s,” I lied. “I made them. Yesterday.”

We stared at each other over the buffet laden with homemade goodies.

“Really?” said my teammate. “They taste and look exactly like Entenmann’s.”

Eyes now glued to the plate of frosted brownies between us, I chose again. Face.

“Do they?” I asked, fear dancing in my belly. “My mom found the recipe in a magazine, and I used it to make these cookies. I thought I’d try something new instead of my usual cookies. I didn’t know they’d taste like Entenmann’s!”

I looked up quickly to gauge my lie’s impact, unsure if I would ever stop talking.

Silence. She spoke first. A weak choice.

“These taste exactly like Entenmann’s. I want your mom’s recipe.”

I busied myself straightening the cookies on the plastic, flower-etched plate; popped one in my mouth to buy extra time and sugar-infused stamina.

“They do taste a little like Entenmann’s. Not exactly, but they’re close. I think I like my usual recipe better,” I offered.

Her eyes never left mine. “I have to have the recipe. Everyone’s going to want it.”

Panic. Face.

“I’m not sure I have it anymore,” I answered. “It was my mom’s recipe, and I don’t know if she kept it.”

My teammate never hesitated, “I’m sure she still has it. You used the recipe yesterday, right?”

My throat felt hot and prickly; the fifth cookie I swallowed no salve for my terror. “Right. Sure. I’ll ask my mom for it.”

Once home, I baked and inhaled a batch of cookies to soothe my shame. Momentarily sated, I weighed my options.

  • Make up a recipe and pass it off as magazine version
  • Convince my mom I was sick (does a sugar-induced coma count?) and stay home from school for a few weeks
  • Avoid my teammate for the rest of school year
  • Blame my mom for throwing out recipe

Sadly, I never considered changing schools or feigning a terminal brain malady. Or asking for help.

“Did you bring the recipe?” she asked.

My choice, repeated daily until I wore her down, “Oh, I forgot. I’ll bring it tomorrow.”

Lisa, if you’re reading, I hope you believe in the adage “better late than never.” I am sorry.

And yes, my ass feels better.

I am linking up with Yeah Write for Week Four of their Summer Writer’s Series

read to be read at yeahwrite.me