Dating Reality for the 10 Year Old

The boys and I were taking a walk and I was talking about how bummed I was to miss the SF Pride Parade this year.

My ten year old said, “Well, I’m not, with a slightly turned up nose.

“What? Why? I asked. He had always enjoyed going into the city for the parade.

“Mom, I’m not a little kid anymore. You have to think about that.

“Um, ok, I do. What does that have to do with the Pride Parade?

Then he got a little less snooty, “Because, you know, I’m not a kid, so guys there, you know, they might want, to, like, hook up with me. You have to think about that. He nodded his head with the last bit, to affirm himself.

I’ve developed the instinct that when important stuff like this comes up, keep the eyebrows calm. Nothing shuts down communication with my sons like my eyebrows flying off my face or crunching together to hide my eyes. So the combination of my ten year old son referring to hooking up and expressing your most basic form of narcissistic homophobia in one sentence was like an injection of Botox. Frozen face, calm voice, nothing too dramatic. But which to address first?

I know he and his friends started using the term “hook-up to describe when their 4th grade crushes were reciprocal. We called it “going together when I was in elementary school. As in, “Did you hear that so and so is going with so and so? I remember dishing the latest gossip to my mom when I was his age, and it was full of “he wants to go with her, but she is going with this other guy, but really, he’s just waiting to go with this other girl. And all my mom would say is, “But none of you of are old enough to actually go anywhere. Ugh, she so didn’t’ get it.

So I decided to start with the homophobia first:

“Do you think that all girls your age want to hook up with you?

A sideways glance, a little smirk, “Well, that would be nice, he waggled his eyebrows. This boy has been waggling his eyebrows since he was 3 years old and flirted with the check-out girl bagging our groceries by informing her about his recent mastery of toilet training.

“Yes, but is it true? Is that how it works at school? Do all the girls want you, and do you want all the girls?

“No. There are girls that I am not interested in at all¦

“¦ and there are girls that you like that are into other boys.

“Ya, maybe, I don’t like that though.

“Well, honey, nobody does. But can you see that all girls just don’t automatically like all boys and all boys just don’t automatically like all girls? It’s about what you like about the person.

“Ya, but Mom, I just don’t want boys liking me.

“I understand that. But you don’t control who likes you or not. Just like the girls you want to like you but don’t, and just like the girls who want you to like them, but you don’t. All anybody has to do is say yes or no and have that preference respected. (Might as well address date rape while I’m at it.)

Cue the eye rolling, “Respect respect respect, it’s so not that easy.

“It can be if you don’t lump people together. Look, it’s a little much to assume that just because a boy likes boys, he’s going to automatically be into you¦

“Mom¦

“¦And if a boy does like you and tells you, then you tell him no thanks, just like you would a girl that you’re not interested in.

“Fine. That’s so awkward.

Much as I hated to, I had to deflate his mega hetero-normative sails with a mom-sized dose of the realities of dating: “Rejection is part of the game, you’ll give it and you’ll get it. Now go play Pokemon with your brother, we’ve bored him to tears.

Which was true, we had arrived home and my younger son was just about to lose it if he didn’t get to play their game. “And there is absolutely no reason we can’t go to the Pride parade! the eyebrows were now free to furrow threateningly.

“Ok, ok, agreed.

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Airial Clark

As of May 2012, I will have completed my Master’s Degree in Human Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. Prior to attending graduate school, I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2007 with a double major BA in English Literature and Anthropology while raising two young sons as a single parent. At Cal, I was President of the Student Parent Association. I am a regular contributor to the Sex Positive Photo Project of the SF Bay Area and Shades Magazine. I have presented my original research at multiple academic conferences and symposiums. I will be presenting my Master’s Thesis Study at the OpenSF Conference this June. I have trained with Community at Work to be a group facilitator and am fully committed to the participatory process of decision making.

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