One day, as we drove to gymnastics together, I made innocent conversation with Frances by suggesting that The Boy who had sent her roughly 3000 texts in a single month, might just “like her” in that that special way.
This backfired terribly, as she vehemently denied such terrible slander, sniffed derisively at my shoddy parental detective work and defective intuition, and continued to tap frantically at her phone with her thumbs composing yet another text.
Already knowing the answer, but somehow not able to stop myself, I asked her who she was texting with. She looks at me sideways, and rolls her eyes at me in a way that lets me know that I have done it again.
I nodded, and returned my attention to the road, chanting one of the commandments of parenthood to myself to keep from breaking out in gales of laughter:
THOU SHALT NOT LAUGH AT THY CHILDREN UNTIL THEY ARE OUT OF EARSHOT
Over the course of the ensuing year, Frances did finally admit that not only had The Boy “liked her” in that special way, but also that they had “gone out” for a while.
Of course, they never actually went anywhere, so I have to conclude that the modern translation of “going out” is that they spend their time texting, facebooking, and video chatting. I think roller-skating would be more fun, but what do I know….after all, I can’t even tell when a boy likes a girl.
In any case, she insisted that this part of the relationship was old news now, although this assertion was somewhat undercut by the simple fact that the frequency of text messages had not appreciably slackened. When I dared to share this simple observation with her and she became adamant: The Boy is simply her best friend who she tells everything to, and needs to speak to constantly.
Granted, I am old, and everybody knows that once you pass the teenage boundary your brains turn to mush, but I do remember a time in the distant mists of antiquity that I once had a best friend of the opposite gender who I needed to speak to constantly and tell my deepest secrets. I am also pretty sure that I had those kinds of feelings for that person.
I bit my lip to keep back the autobiographical information which she would more than likely view as completely unrelated to the current situation. I still felt the need to say something, despite my certain knowledge that she was not going to go along with any of my ideas and that she would be very likely detonate if I did not immediately cease this line of discussion. So it was that over my own internal voice screaming at me to stop I heard myself wondering out loud that perhaps The Boy might still like her.
I guess I had to say it, but true to my prediction, she goes off like a roman candle.
NO WAY, she insisted…That is just gross!!!! The Boy is my friend and I do NOT like him that way! The denials continued along that vein for quite some time, but even though I managed to silence myself, I had more than a glimmering of the truth now.
As the last sultry heat of August beat down on us, heralding the start of school, Frances became increasingly moody and withdrawn. This in itself is not such a strange thing in a teenager, but it was accompanied by a dramatic decrease in the density of text messages from The Boy, so I was a bit suspicious and a little concerned.
Finally came the day when the dam broke. In a staccato torrent of emotional declarations, the story emerged.
Apparently The Boy has had a long standing crush on That Girl, who apparently possesses just about every negative characteristic it is possible for a teenage girl to possess without actually being the spawn of satan. Now, at long last, The Boy has succeeded in winning the hand of That Girl, and they are now “going out”. Of course, since Frances is not interested in The Boy that way, it does not particularly bother her that he is going out with someone in the abstract sense, she patiently explained to me. It is more that he is going out with this particular someone that bothers her. After all, she continued with profound sadness in her eyes, she has been warning The Boy about That Girl for quite some time, sharing with him her sure knowledge that That Girl was not right for him, and would bring him nothing but heartache. She is upset and mad at him, she concluded with a tearful sniffle, because he did not trust her and failed to follow her advice to stay away from That Girl, therefore demonstrating that he is not as good a friend as she previously thought.
I nodded knowingly and suppressed the impulse to question the emotions underlying her pique.
I do NOT like him!!!! She cried, obviously seeing past my façade and hearing my unsaid comment.
This morning was the first day of school.
As went about her morning routine, taking quite a bit longer than usual, I noticed that she had really put together quite a ”first day of school” look for herself. Gone was the carefree preteen athlete in her baggy sweats and faded t-shirt. She has done away with the messy bun and no longer wishes to rely on her dazzling smile alone to enhance her face.
Today, my teenage daughter is chic and put together.
Her clothing is simple and flattering in shades of black and grey set off by carefully layered bright necklaces. Her lightly freckled face is framed by her painstakingly straightened hair and she has lightly lined her eyes with a bit of black eyeliner (parentally sanctioned, of course) to accent her thick lashes and the pale blue of her eyes. She is not overdone, and she is devastating. I know I should have snapped a picture, but I suspect she would have regarded the lens of the camera as akin to the face of the gorgon and run.
She glided out the door, heading for the bus stop, yellow binder in hand, too cool for a backpack. I mentally fumbled with the idea of a photograph again, and in my hesitation the moment slipped away.
If asked, she would probably insist that her sudden interest in fashion and makeup has nothing at all to do with boys in general or The Boy in particular (that she most definitely does not like). In fact, she recently told me that she was so disgusted with The Boy and That Girl that she has decided that she is done with boys until they regain their collective IQ points.
I translate “boys” roughly as The Boy….who I think is in for an interesting time.