Dating: Kid Division

As much as I love all things Harry Potter—and believe me, you won’t get far in our house without a sufficient love for all things Harry Potter—I do have one bone to pick with J. K. Rowling.

Which, I am sure, sitting in her mansion making paper airplanes out of 100-pound notes, she is very concerned about.

The odds that you will meet the love of your life at 14, commit to them by 17, and be in a happy long-term marriage with them by the Epilogue (that’s another bone: The Epilogue? Bad.) are … um … slim? But thanks to J.K.—and Hollywood, and the Disney Channel, and Glee, and Degrassi, and a million other inputs I’ve worked really hard to block out—my kids have been utterly and absolutely convinced that one must have found “the one” for a long-term, committed relationship by the age of 15, 16 tops.

This has led to nonsense at best, tragedy at worst. One year, when they are probably 13 and 15, both kids met someone at summer camp. The total time they spent talking to these someones—combined—was probably about an hour. This meant they were “dating.” They continued “dating” even though said someones lived at least an hour away, and I think each boy saw his someone exactly once. I’m pretty sure they spent those outings discussing china patterns.

Mark recently reflected that so far he has only had one relationship. It took me until the next day to realize he meant the someone he had gone to dinner and bowling with. Once.

For his part, Daveon decided he needed a relationship by about age 12, and he spent the next two years in relentless pursuit. And by relentless, I mean coming on so strong and getting so overattached so quickly that he pretty much scared off, freaked out, grossed out, or otherwise alienated just about everyone. Including a few who, with a slightly subtler approach—like, maybe two conversations before you tell this person they are “the one”?—might have actually been candidates. (This rejection in turn led to some of the self-harming behaviors I describe elsewhere.)

I was in my finest “old man” mode when I reminded them that one could date from 16 to 106 (look at me—I’m still working at it), so there’s no rush. They in turn hit all the high teen notes:

  • “It’ll be awful if I don’t have a relationship by the end of freshman year.”
  • “It’ll be awful if I don’t have a relationship by the time I graduate.”

And everything in between.

Ironically, as they have gotten older, they’ve eased up on the pedal somewhat—the opposite of what you might expect. Daveon has figured out that he has many more opportunities to explore in college*, while Mark has resigned himself to being too busy with skating to worry about much else.

(*This did not stop him from calling me on Wednesday to tell me that as of Tuesday, the girl he had met on Monday was his new girlfriend. Some things never change.)

As the dad who sees pretty much everything my kids do in terms of how it might impact me, I of course am more than happy for them to take their time pursuing serious involvements. If they can find some happy middle ground between Harry and Ginny at one extreme (committed before they’ve left the acne-prone years) and me at the other (still in the hunt approaching 50) we’ll call it even.

Next: Hair

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