A Guide to Middle School Dating

Hannibal Lecter at Scotts Antique Market Atlanta

My most recent column for Northside Woman magazine ...

Here I Am, Back in Middle School 
Now that my daughter is in sixth grade, I find myself back in the middle again. Middle school, that is. That fun mix of algebra, acne and angst we reflect on like tooth extraction: had to be done, glad it’s over.
Why is that murky time so wrought with emotion? Is it the raging hormones? The ravenous hunger brought on by an explosion in height? The inability to keep one’s skin clear no matter how extreme — or flammable — the solution?
Part of the turmoil is taking those first tentative steps towards romance. Of course, these faux-relationships are fraught with awkward overtures, last on average 3 days, and many are a miscommunication: “I thought you asked if I like the color blue, not will I go with you!”
But learning how to navigate middle-school romance can help avoid bigger heartbreak in the future. Here’s some advice I’ve given my daughters:
If you tell your posse of BFFs who you think is cute, everyone within a 100-mile radius will know within the hour. Middle school girls are genetically wired to download tidbits of juicy info at warp speed. They aren’t bad friends, they simply lack the ability to store information. Plan accordingly.
Let him text or call you first. If you call a boy, he will brag to his friends that you like him. You’ll come home upset, and I’ll have to shoot some kid dirty looks until he graduates from college. Save us both the effort.
Put nothing in writing. Even subjects as mundane as lunch can be humiliating if read aloud by your teacher. Also, I am saving items for an elaborate, multi-media presentation at your rehearsal dinner. Don’t add to my arsenal.
We’re nuts — spread the word. I don’t condone lying, but I’ll take no issue with you hinting your family has a world-class machete collection. Or that your aunt is rumored to have beaten an intruder half to death with a flip-flop. If boys think you have crazy and potentially violent relatives, they tend to handle your feelings with care.
If a boy doesn’t ask you to the dance, it doesn’t mean you aren’t wonderful. It probably means he was scared to call, or maybe he’s grounded for making straight Fs (because he’s not very smart if he doesn’t think you’re wonderful.) Don’t allow your worth to be determined by some kid whose name you won’t remember in 5 years.
Be kind. Boys may act tough, but they feel insecure and get their feelings hurt, too. Manage your friendships so everyone maintains their dignity.
It’s a shame so many opinions about ourselves are formed when we’re unsure of who we are and our place in this world. I wish I had known then that the algebra gets done, the skin clears up, and the angst … well, it gets transferred years later to worrying about your kids in middle school. But I’m pretty sure that turns out okay, too.
Amy McCormick Dawson is an Atlanta-based columnist and writer who will not confirm nor deny if she considers flip-flops a weapon. See more columns at www.amymacwrites.com.
Photo taken at Scott's Antique Market in Atlanta. 
Mask considered, but ultimately (and regretfully) not purchased.

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