I discovered Stephen has two girls harboring crushes on him. The first, from last year, was revealed to me and Eric at a parent/teacher conference.
“I assume you know all about A,” the teacher said with a smile and raised eyebrows.
Eric and I looked blank. “A? Who is A?”
“Oh my! You don’t know about A!? The whole school day, it’s ‘A and me this, Stephen and A that,’ they’re practically joined at the hip, it’s so cute.”
We had never heard her name mentioned. When I asked Stephen about her, he turned red and then hid behind the couch.
“Stephen?” I asked the couch. “Stephen? It’s ok, I was just wondering about her. Your teacher told us you’re good friends.”
No response from the couch.
Then later, Stephen complained, “It’s so annoying that everyone thinks A and I like each other. People are always teasing us about it. And it’s not even true, I don’t like her.”
“Well, sometimes people think the more you say you don’t like someone, the more you actually do. You protest too much, as the saying goes.”
“No that’s not it!” Said Stephen.
“Kids also think it’s fun to get a rise out of people. So the more excited you get about it, the more people will tease you because you get worked up.”
“Even you tease me about it,” He said glumly.
“You ask me about her all the time! And you make funny faces! Like your face is funny right now!”
“Well, it is awfully entertaining to watch you turn colors and hide,” I admitted. “You shouldn’t make it so fun to tease you. Also, you will be having different feelings as you go through puberty, and I want you to know that I’m always here for you and we can talk about anything and….Stephen?….. Hello? …….. Couch, have you seen Stephen?”
And another day, “People keep saying A and I like each other but I told them all I don’t like her.”
“How do you think she feels?”
“Does she like you?”
“I have no idea!”
“Maybe you should find out. What if she likes you and you’re running around telling everyone you don’t like her. How do you think that makes her feel?”
His face looked blank. “Um…..I never thought about that.”
“Yeeeah.” I said. “So maybe don’t make such a big deal about not liking her? It could hurt her feelings.”
“Oh. How do you know when you like someone?” He asked.
“You think about them all the time. You wonder when you might see them; if you’ll pass them in the hall or see them in the cafeteria. You think about what they’re doing, and if they like you. If your eyes meet in line at lunch, you wonder if you should smile or pretend you didn’t see them in case they don’t like you after all….. *sigh* young love.”
“Ew Mom, that’s weird. Did you feel like that with Dad!?”
“Oh yeah!” I responded.
He shook his head with apparent relief. “Well, that’s just weird. I don’t have that,” He said.
He and A kept in touch over the summer and are in many of the same classes this year. Now he has also made friends with our neighbor, T.
“Stephen and I are going to the fall dance together,” T informed me casually as she breezed in the house one day.
“Oh really?” I asked. “I didn’t know there was a dance!”
“Yup,” she said. “And we’re going.”
“Ok, cool. That sounds like fun,” my cool-mom persona remarked.
Going together!? What does that mean, ‘together’!!!??? Does that mean ‘together’ like ‘we’re both going to happen to be there at the same time together’ or does that mean ‘together together’!? And what is ‘together together’ in 6th grade??? I don’t remember! What is happening!!???
T’s grandmother confided in me that T was anxious about asking Stephen to go. The grandmother counseled T she should let the boy ask and be patient, but T didn’t want to wait and asked him right away. Possibly due to his friendship with A? Could Stephen be involved in a love triangle he doesn’t know exists?
“Thank goodness she asked,” I said. “Stephen is just a typical boy, he isn’t thinking like that yet. I don’t think it would have ever occurred to him to ask anyone to a dance. He probably would have forgotten there was a dance until the night before! Poor T would have waited all month for nothing!”
After “the ask,” T had gone home to her grandma, bouncing and excited that Stephen “said yes.” When I asked Stephen what happened, he shrugged. “She asked me if I wanted to go, and I said, ‘sure.’ Why not?” He barely looked up from the comics he was reading.
This non-response, as opposed to hiding, beet-faced, behind the couch? A mark of maturity, or a sign that A is winning the battle for Stephen’s heart? Did he learn to play it cool to avoid further questions and funny faces? Or am I reading too much into it yet again?
As my mind raced with possibilities, I thought of us poor adolescent girls, anxiously planning the purposeful-accidental-meeting in the hall, dreaming of that coincidental-hand-brush as we both reach for the napkins, feeling crushed when no one asked us to the dance….while the boys were probably just thinking about lunch, clueless about our internal drama.