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Troubled Waters

Monday, July 20, 2015

Yesterday, as my eighteen-year-old niece frolicked with her boyfriend in the pool, her ten-year-old cousin looked on in dismay.

At first, I imagined her pre-pubescent concern was that boy-girl touching was “yucky,” but perhaps I was projecting my own self-conscious horror of public displays of affection—hell, any kind of public display.

But that’s just me.

She was so upset that she complained to her mother, at length, afterwards. It turns out that the source of her concern was something else altogether. 

A lot of her friends, at school, were dating (which was, in itself, quite a revelation—that ten-year-olds were dating).

When our son was only slightly older, there had been many short-lived romances among his friends—but they occurred mostly in the minds of the girls. The boys were mostly unaware that they were even in relationships or—if they even knew—had no clue what it meant, or what their roles and responsibilities in the relationships might entail. But that was around age twelve, and we only got to see the boys’ side of the drama. The girls’ side of the stories was, apparently, very different.

She went on to reveal—with increasing levels of emotion—that her friends and their “boyfriends” were constantly breaking up. This comes as no surprise to me (I was a former boy, myself). The break-ups caused endless anguish among all the girls, even those—like her—who were merely spectators of the primal struggles.

Oh so slowly, I deduced that she was not disgusted by the observed physicality of the romance, but dreading the inevitability of a painful break-up. Her concern reflected her, albeit limited, experience: that all romantic entanglements must, perforce, end in disaster. Her worries about her older cousin’s potential for suffering were touching—and strangely informative—because she had no personal knowledge of any part of romantic entanglement except of the unavoidable agony of separation.

That this tawdry sturm und drang is the stuff of literary tragedy—not to mention countless country/western songs—suggests that the chroniclers of misery might, themselves, be cases of arrested pre-adolescence.

1 Comments:

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October 5, 2015 at 4:23 AM  

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