Yesterday when I picked up my son from school, we walked past a few of his female friends from class. They were plotting something nefarious together, and all I overheard was “Okay so I’m gonna dare George [not his real name] to date YOU Milly [not her real name] and so he’ll HAVE to be your boyfriend.”
These girls are barely 10 years old.
My son tried to talk to one of them and she did her fake “ha ha oh that’s funny” patronizing laugh.
I could feel my lower molars creating new grooves in my upper ones. I took a deep breath.
“Dude, did you hear what they were talking about?”
“Ugh,” I said. “They’re planning something awful.”
“They’re going to manipulate your friend George into dating Milly. Like you guys even know what dating is.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means they’re going to make him do something that he may not really want to do. And, let me stress, that is a HUGE NO when it comes to dating. You cannot force someone to do something AT ALL in that context. You can’t make someone like you who doesn’t. You should ask them and if they say no, people cry and you just move on. Ugh. Hey dude, do you even know what dating someone is?”
“When you have a boyfriend, or a girlfriend.”
“And do you think you’re old enough for that?”
“Well, I don’t know. Am I old enough?”
And I knew I would have to face this question sooner or later. I figured and hoped it would be much later. But I took a few more steps. After all, we know that the outright ‘NO WAY’ answer just leads to sneaking out windows and doors at night and hiding stuff. With my son, you have to frame it in a very logical way, like he’s Mr. Spock with enthusiasm.
“OK, dude. Here’s the deal. Dating isn’t just having a boyfriend or girlfriend. There is much more than that. Any monkey can hook up with someone else.”
The word ‘monkey’ elicits peals of laughter.
“It’s true. But if you really want to show someone you think they are special, then you have to be ready to do special things for them. Like cooking. What sounds nicer? Taking someone out to eat at McDonald’s or making them a meal from scratch like they do on MasterChef?”
“MasterChef! Those kids are awesome!”
“Right, because any monkey can pay for a meal. You really show someone you care when you take the time to make food for them. And then you have to be able to take care of yourself. Nobody wants to date someone who can’t wash their face or brush their teeth. Wait, your friend Gina who was talking to Milly, she’s in Daycare, right?”
“Yeah. And she has a boyfriend.”
“Yeah, she told me.”
“Well listen, dude. Do you think it’s right that Gina, who is still in Daycare, which means she cannot look after herself or be alone at her house, is ready for a boyfriend?”
“But she has one.”
“That isn’t what I asked. Think about it. Gina’s parents can’t leave her alone to make decisions about her life. That’s why she’s in Daycare. She’s not ready or old enough to be responsible. Does that sound like someone you’d want as a girlfriend?”
“That’s the other thing, dude. Once you can take care of yourself, be responsible for making sure your face is clean, teeth are brushed, you can make yourself a meal, and you have your own money – because you don’t want to use my money to pay for your date, right?”
“Because that means your date is my date because I’m paying.”
“Exactly, dude. So once you can take care of yourself, cook a meal, and have your own money, you’ll be old enough to date. That could be next week. It could be well after you’re 45. But if you can do all of that, then you can show someone else the same respect you are showing yourself. Make sense?”
“Oh, and you can’t tell Gina you overheard her talking. You can, however, tell George that those girls are manipulating him. And then if he still wants to go ahead, you can always just tell Gina's father about her boyfriend."
I have no idea how I'm going to explain Tinder...