By KIM POINDEXTER
I’ve never had a teenage daughter. A son was bad enough, but boys don’t suffer the angst that infects every teenage girl. I speak as the voice of experience.
Over recent months, four or five friends reported their teen daughters have started dating. Most haven’t even made it to the hand-holding stage yet, but one worried mom caught her girl doing what we used to call “making out.” These days, thanks to the Harry Potter movies, another colloquialism is used. “They were snogging right there on the couch,” my friend said. Then she added, on a brighter note, “Well, at least she gets along with boys now. Used to, she hated them; we figured she’d wind up an old maid.”
This typecasting had a familiar ring. I found out several years ago my father had urged me from my earliest years to go to college so I’d have “something to fall back on” – his words – because he didn’t think anyone would marry me. It wasn’t my looks or intellectual capacity, he hastened to add; he had feared I was too “strong-willed” to attract anything more than a passing fancy from a sensible young man.
He presumed all young men felt the way he did about “strong-willed women.” Much to his chagrin, he wound up with one son and three daughters, all of whom earned berths at one level or another in the obstinance department. It’s amazing how stubborn, opinionated and temperamental men always seem surprised when their children take after them, rather than their more mild-mannered moms.
I appreciate the concern, though, and must admit it was almost universally shared by my peers. I remember one time when I was in junior high, I was in one of the stalls in the girls’ bathroom when a couple of my classmates came in. I stayed mum when I realized I was the topic of their conversation. “Poor Kim,” one of them said. “She’s never going to get anyone to marry her because she’s too mean to the guys.” Initially, I wondered why anyone, in the eighth grade, would be mulling matrimony. But then I checked myself; this was Fort Gibson, after all, and a savvy young lady would have at least one or two good prospects lined up as potential altar fodder before she turned the mortarboard.
Most of my friends in elementary school dumped me when we approached the teen years, because I apparently did not share their growing interest in the opposite sex. I say “apparently” because I always had a crush on someone, starting with Robin, the “Boy Wonder” of Batman fame. It’s just that I never admitted to these episodes of puppy love. Even now, I feel debased by confessing affection for a guy who wore green underpants over tights.
I blame my secretive nature on embarrassment; I didn’t want to act as silly as the other girls. One friend in sixth grade had a thing for a mature ninth-grader. She wrote his first name on a fragment of paper, and put it in a locket she wore around her neck. One day I opened the locket, to find the paper missing, and I asked what happened to it. She ducked her head demurely and murmured, “I swallowed it.” I asked her, “Why?” She put her hand over her chest and said, her voice welling with emotion: “I wanted him down in my heart.”
Fear also induced my silence; I worried that my dad would speak to the father of the object of my affections, which would have sealed my fate as an “old maid.” My father often proclaimed belligerently, “My daughters are NOT going to be boy-crazy!” He also made rude remarks if he saw any peer of my sister’s or mine with an entourage of more than one boy at any given moment. These comments suggested the popular young lady was getting an early start in the world’s oldest profession, or was on the verge of “getting herself into trouble” – the kind that diverted your allowance from junk food, record albums and mood rings, to diapers, formula and teething rings.
It’s no wonder everyone was so shocked when I actually started dating a boy my sophomore year. I think other kids must have teased him about me; although he would take me to the movies on Saturday night and chat with me on the phone most evenings, we didn’t “hang out” much at school, and we certainly didn’t engage in any “PDA,” as the school administrators called it. Come to think of it, he sometimes acted in public as if he didn’t know me. I wish I’d asked him about that when I had a chance. We had kept in touch off and on since high school, but last year, he got mad at me for making a critical comment on Facebook about Paul Ryan, and we haven’t communicated since.
All through high school, whenever I was out with a guy and ran into any of my classmates, shock always registered on their faces before they quickly masked it with a sociable smile. But I could read their first thought: “Someone actually asked her on a date?!” Once I overhead a girl ask her boyfriend, “Do you think she’s ever been kissed?” He considered, then said, “Nah.” He was wrong, though. In fact, one time I walked onto the Fort Gibson football field in the moonlight with a boyfriend who did hold hands with me in public, and we ran into another couple who was about to engage in a snogging session. I can’t recall who they were, but they were kids I knew very well, because one of them yelled, “OH MY GOD! Is that Kim POINDEXTER??” I can only be grateful we didn’t have cell phones in those days.
I may have gotten the last laugh. I’ve been married to my husband for more than 25 years, and I’ve brought him to several functions with former classmates. Those who have met him have all told me how much they like him. Maybe it’s my imagination, but they always sound surprised.
Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.