This got me thinking about my own high school romantic experiences. Which largely occurred in my head. According to this article (which is reporting on this new study), dating in high school does take place exactly as everyone thinks it does – hot, popular people hook up with each other, and less hot, less popular people hook up with each other. And if there are plenty of boys to go around, girls basically decide how far things will go, and if there are plenty of girls to go around, boys decide. And boys usually decide on more sex, with more people, and girls usually decide on somewhat less sex, with fewer people. It’s all hardly surprising. (And – message to all you gender essentialists – this data DOES NOT mean girls “naturally” want less sex than boys. The cost of sex, regardless of the boy/girl ratio at a particular school, is always higher for girls than for boys, and not just because of the risk of pregnancy.)
Whatever. I’m sure the study is mostly right. But it doesn’t really factor in EXTREME STUPIDITY. Which was largely my experience in high school.
I was not at the top of any social hierarchy in high school. I was overweight (although a lot less so than I thought at the time, and a lot less than I am now), with bad skin (I still have that, too! WTF? Maybe I should go back on the pill.), and a rather extreme degree of nerdiness. I was a hanger-on to the band geeks, that’s how uncool I was. So I’m not here to lament all the football players I never went out with. I never even thought about the football players.
But I didn’t even go out with the nerds! Because I was so stupid! Here’s how stupid I was: I had this huge crush on a senior my junior year. I even engineered things so that he would be my pre-calc tutor. And everyone knew I had a crush on him; I didn’t even try to hide it. Like, my teachers knew. My swim coach knew. So, when we were away on a school trip together, OVER VALENTINE’S DAY WEEKEND, and he was flirting all weekend, and then he went for a kiss? I got nervous and turned away! Because I am actually that stupid! I spent the rest of the school year wishing he’d give it another shot and totally unable to express that thought to him.
There was also this boy who liked me. When I met him I liked his best friend so I turned him down. Stupid, stupid, stupid. We even had, like, a crazy romantic moment once that would have been the perfect time to kiss him, when, in fact, my whole subconscious was screaming at me to kiss him. I did nothing. I continued to do nothing for a long time. Then when I fell for him, he was basically over me. Oy, that’s a long story. Or a short story. Which I already wrote, and was published in my high school lit magazine. He’s read it. And at least we were friends, throughout this and afterwards.
Even worse was this guy from my temple. We can call him M. I had a massive crush on him from, oh, I don’t know, the time I would never admit to such a crush because boys have cooties, ew, until . . . well, I met my husband in the first week of the first year of college. So I guess until then. I never told ANYBODY who knew him. I think my friends in high school who didn’t know him knew. My sister knew. That was about it. I assumed throughout middle and high school that he found me vaguely repellent. Partially this was because I assumed everyone found me vaguely repellent, unless I had direct evidence otherwise. Partially this was because he said things that indicated that he found me vaguely repellent. We had that kind of say-nasty-things-to-each-other relationship, especially early in high school. You know, the kind where, should an older person hear about the boy’s behavior, they’ll definitely tell you, “He would only act that way if he liked you!” And you’d vow never ever to speak to him in your whole life but then he’d kind of save your life when you were pretending to be the Lady of Shallot but your boat was leaky and you were stranded under a bridge and then he’d tell you he liked you the whole time and you’d get married and have several babies? (If you get that reference . . . well, I know exactly who among my readership would get that reference. Hi!)
But back on the point, later, at some point in college, I was telling a story that I believed to be unrelated to my deep and abiding love of M. The story was, at one of these youth group retreats I used to go on with my temple, I had hooked up with this guy (read: This guy and I shared one brief, public, and not very good kiss, and much flirting.), and my friend, J, was berating me for it. She said I should be choosing different guys, and, as one example, suggested M. I told her – I think I said something like, “I really don’t see that ever happening. Ever.” My reasoning was, because he thinks I’m gross, but I didn’t say that out loud. Also, I was in panic mode, afraid that anything I said would indicate that I *saw* that happening all the time, in my head. My point in telling this story at the time was how involved peripheral people tend to be in one’s love life in high school, how one’s romantic encounters tend to take place under a lot of scrutiny. But this is where the person I was talking to sort of raised her eyebrows. “Did J know M?” she asked. “Yeah, they were pretty good friends.” And then I facepalmed because seriously, was I that stupid? Was J, knowing that M liked me, trying to find out if I liked him? And did I, basically, after being crazy about this guy for years, basically tell her, “Uch”? The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that that is exactly what happened. And I am really that stupid.
And those are just the three biggest examples of my extreme stupidity. There were plenty of other, smaller examples of stupidity on my part when it comes to boys.
So what’s my point? 1) I am enormously dumb. Or at least I was. It’s sort of shocking that my husband and I got together. I guess it’s due to his utter lack of what might be called “game.” I liked him right away, but more significantly, he made it pretty obvious when he liked me. So I didn’t get bogged down by the “how could he or any other guy be attracted to me?” nonsense. (Also, by freshman year of college, I had lost some weight and gained some confidence, and I was in college, where showing that you’re smart is no longer social suicide, so I no longer felt like that one counterexample to the idea that a boy wants to have sex with anything in a skirt.) 2) Studies of high school romance should probably take into account SERIOUS STUPIDITY. Unless I really am the only stupid one. When I tell this to other people, they say, “Oh, no, I was stupid in high school, too. I mean, the guy I was dating? Please! But then I say (usually just to myself), “Yeah, but you’re regretting something you did. All I’ve got is all the fellas I haven’t kissed.” (And yet Santa hasn’t brought me a yacht yet. And if you get that reference, you are my new best friend.) 3) If you’re in high school, and reading this, which is unlikely, know that maybe I’m not the only one who’s that stupid, and maybe the guy/girl acting bizzarely towards you is as stupid as I was.
But my main concern is that I have this total lack of experience, and how am I going to advise and help Zoe when she’s a teenager? I know I have a while to go before I have to worry about that, but I won’t have any more experience then than I do now (God willing). The only advise I’ll have is, you regret what you didn’t do more than what you did. And that’s terrible advice to give a teenage girl! Would I have regretted getting pregnant more than not hooking up with someone? And if I were a teenager now, would I regret exposing myself in some stupid way via text or social networking site more than not doing that? And who knows what paths of stupidity will be available to her?
Then again, what teenage girl ever took romantic advice from her mother, anyway?