Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Middle school problems

In today's Ask Amy, a middle school girl has nebulous drama. Then, I have middle-school drama!
I am a seventh-grade girl. I have been having trouble with a guy at my school. We'll call him "Chas." Me, my friend and one other girl all like him.

Chas has shown some interest in asking all three of us out. To make matters worse, our Valentine's dance at school is coming up.

The three of us girls decided that we won't be mad at whoever Chas asks to the dance. But to add even another problem, we all have other "crushes" as well.

I thought I only liked Chas, but in the past couple of weeks, I have seen a guy who I like even more. We'll call him "Randy." Randy has also shown an interest in at least talking to me. I think he might ask me out.

I wouldn't mind dating either of these guys, even though I think dating at my age is a little insane. But even if I dated one I would still like to have a friendship with the other boy. What should I do?
I can see where Amy is coming from with her advice, but it's just the sort of thing an adult would say.
The first thing you need to do is - simmer down.

I realize that asking a seventh-grade girl to simmer down is like asking Justin Bieber to stop being adorable, but all the same, if you could relax you'll have a better time at the Valentine's dance, and beyond.

You and your friends are starting to choreograph a dance you'll be performing for the rest of your lives.

For now you should do your "dating" as a group. If you don't pair off, you won't have to worry about a boyfriend relationship interfering with your friendships, and you'll be free to enjoy your crush-of-the-day.
Lulu: I just don't think it's feasible.

Ashley: I don't get either the problem or the response.

Lulu: It's a non-problem. She's new to dating and exuberant and doesn't know the rules. For her reference, here are the rules:

1. If you want to go out with someone, ask them
2. If someone asks you out, decide whether you would like to go out with them, and say yes or no accordingly.

That is all!

Ashley: Ha ha.

Lulu: I know it's more complicated in practice. And Amy's advice to relax and take things as they come is good (if hard to implement). But her advice to not date and just go out as groups is not going to work at all. That's a total adult fantasy of what young teen social life should be like. Like it or not, middle and high school kids are all about couples and pairing off. Doing stuff as a group is fine, but there will be pairs within that--even if they change daily--and the participants will always be obsessing about who is with who.

She can choose not to date, but she won't, because that's no fun when you're the only one, and she certainly can't change what her friends do, or the boys do. You can engage in the dating culture that's around you, or not, but you can't just decide to have a different culture.

Ashley: I didn't participate in seventh-grade culture, but I don't remember being particularly confused. If she likes a guy better than another guy... ask the guy out. What's the problem?

Lulu: It's unclear. I think she likes 2 guys, and even if she sort of likes the one better than the other, the other is more popular and she doesn't want to be out of the running? I dunno. If she can't decide between them, she can just wait and see if one of them asks her out. Or she could decide which one she likes best and ask that one out. Or she could flip a coin. Middle school relationships don't last that long, as a rule; it's not a huge commitment.

And to answer her actual question, dating one guy absolutely doesn't mean she can't be friends with the other! She can have as many friends as she wants. She PROBABLY can't date both at the same time--that would have been frowned on in my middle school--but she probably won't get the opportunity, so it's no problem.

Ashley: She also says it's insane to date at her age??

Lulu: Yeah, maybe that's why Amy is telling her not to date. She seems to find the whole thing overwhelming and a bit ridiculous. It is a bit ridiculous, because you say "going out" but you're not really going out--neither of you can drive, you can't get anywhere, you mostly probably hang out at school. All it really means is that you have a special feeling about somebody and they have the same feeling about you, so you've agreed to give each other titles. If that seems fun and exciting rather than totally pointless, then you're old enough.

[lull; Lulu checks work email]

Oh god, officewide Valentine's candygrams!

Ashley: Oh god.

Lulu: I can't afford to send one to the entire team and yet if I don't I'm playing FAVORITES.

Ashley: Send them to no one!

Lulu: Yeah. That is what I will probably do. But I want to GET some. Maybe I will send myself like 4.

Ashley: How expensive are they?

Lulu: 2 for $5.

Ashley: How big is the team?

Lulu: Like 20 people!

Ashley: Hah!

Lulu: There are only 5 in the row, but there is ONE PERSON I like outside the row. And there is one person that I have a childish crush on, but my first instinct--to send them four--could probably be considered workplace harassment.

Ashley: You're just screwed then.

Lulu: Probably it is more cost effective to just buy myself candy that I like, but that's not fraught with potential important office drama!

Do we have any readers, still? This is an open call for advice for MY middle school level non-problem! Or the LW's, I guess.


  1. Man, sometimes I really have a problem with these pretend names. Let's call him Chas. Can we not? Ever?

    Also, way to hit on popular culture Amy, without seeming to stretch a simile AT ALL. Jesus Christ, I'm too old to know who Justin Beiber is, and my parents probably could have crawled out of Amy's dusty old cooter.

    I have no idea how old Amy actually is.

    Advice for Lulu!

    Find or create pattern that could be recognizable by the type of nerds that you work with. Buy candygrams for people according to that pattern, but center it on your crush. That way you can gleefully reveal your pattern to people when they wonder at your seemingly random candy-giving, but SECRETLY know that it was also based on love.

    Also if your crush is crush-worthy he will instantly recognize the pattern due to cosmic lovemonics and smooch you on the face. This is law.

  2. Or she. I was in a groove, I forgot your totally gay gayitude.

  3. That's a good idea!

    My important gayness is VERY important. However, the person in question is male, not somebody I would probably actually date, and maybe just got a girlfriend? Also, he is round like an apple, deep like a cup, yet all the king's horses cannot pull him up.

  4. Lulu, I vote you play favoritism. Those other people you work with need to know that if they want candy-grams on V-day, they need to step their fucking game up.

    LW is in seventh grade, right? Ah, the innocence of those first crushes! Too bad in like one hot second she will be more worried about blowing dudes because that's all anyone will be talking about.

    Maybe someone should tell her that when a guy expresses interest in you AND two of your friends: red flag. That's a dealbreaker ladies.

  5. It depends, are they willing to share him?

    Which I guess is what Amy was saying, in a way. This is what has always seemed so befuddling and inconsistent to me about the standard Adult Dating Advice To Teens: shopping around and dating multiple people casually is GREAT and settling down to one person is AWFUL AND SCARY, but then at some point a switch flips and settling down is GREAT and liking more than one person at a time is IMPOSSIBLE AND IMMORAL. Make up your mind: monogamy y/n/m?

    My experience in middle and high school was that people were mostly serially monogamous, and dating more than one person at once would have been seen as scum behavior. My general feeling about nonmonogamy at any age is that if everyone involved is into it, there's no problem, but if it's not standard operating procedure in your culture, you have to be extra careful to make sure everybody's on the same page.

  6. Wow I totally agree Lulu! Adult dating advice aimed at teens confuses the crap out of me!

    I think that kids should DEFINITELY be serially monogamous, too, if only because that was my experience and it makes sense to me. Casual dating is an adult experience, an at least late teen (probably not before college) phase BETWEEN being in relationships on either end.

    Done right, romantic life should be a slut sandwich, basically.

  7. Sorry man, I didn't see this comment needed to be adminned until just now. Usually it just lets your comments through, but the odd one is held for moderation. Maybe it was the phrase "slut sandwich." :)

    My experience has been like yours, and the serious/casual/serious again relationship arc does seem normal to me, although when you think about it, it is pretty weird.

    For me, actually, serial monogamy seems *most* normal; it was just easier to do it in school. It was a small community where everybody knew each other when you started dating someone, you were either already pretty close, or at least you knew a lot about them by reputation or through mutual friends. Early-adulthood relationships are more casual because there's less of a foundation at the beginning--it would be weird to jump right into commitment with someone you're only just getting to know.

    So the slut sandwich thing is not really by choice or design or because it's the right or best way, so much as it's a side effect of the difficulty of making new friends and forming close-knit communities outside of school.

    I can see merits to monogamy/commitment and to more casual relationships. I just don't think it's as easy as advice columnists seem to think to practice one when the prevailing culture values and expects the other. You can't date in a vacuum; it requires at least one other person. At LEAST.