Young Adult

Dear J-

When I was in eighth grade(1), my friend and neighbor Jason pointed out one of the girls in our class and declared that for sure, if there was an apocalyptic-type situation (hey, even though it was 1987-88 it was the Cold War and the ever-present threat of nuclear attack was real in our fevered brains, given that we had a USAF base nearby), he was taking her against the wall to, er, take her, because he for sure wasn’t going to die a virgin(2). When your brain is basting in hormones there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground of what’s appropriate and what’s not, only your immediate sense of needs and values, and none of those seem to work, or at least your brains are not in your head at that age.

I watch the kids play together right now and it’s a fun time, no deeper meanings assigned to boys and girls and games or looks or actions or hugs. No ulterior motives, if you will. When you get going with the hormones, though, and as you start to notice them (that he or she in particular) you have to retrain your body in what’s appropriate and what’s not. It becomes far more important to say what’s on your mind, even though I know I’ve heard all the advice in the world on nonverbal communication and the games (look at her lips, eye contact, don’t call back too soon). No single rule applies except this: if you want to let someone know how you feel, the easiest (and surest) way is by talking about it, right?

Of course then you really have to concentrate on the mental filter, which is much slower to develop. Should I be saying that? Now? At around thirteen or fourteen I thought my tongue thickened enough that the words started to stumble out of my mouth, but it’s more a question of familiarity, I suppose. How do I know you’re not going to just laugh? Or worse yet, say no? There is always that risk, sure, but let’s consider the actual consequences of it. Hmm. Potential confusion averted. I know they call it a crush for obvious reasons but you will survive no. And that’s the chance you have to take in order to find yes.

Mike

(1) You realize that “when I was in eighth grade” is code for “the following story may be offensive” right? Because, you know, eighth grade boys.

(2) And no, obviously there were no bombs that fell in eighth grade, though I wonder if Jason was secretly praying for the end. He would have been better off with the obvious pick-up line “Hey, if the world was ending in five minutes, I’d choose to be with you. Wanna go out sometime when we’re not about to die?” Even that’s terrible, but much better than the forced consent of mutual mortal peril.

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