Relationship School

We watch The Bachelorette on Monday evenings. There, I said it. This is the first season that we’ve tuned in. At first, I thought it would provide silly summer entertainment for us gals. During the school year, everything is pretty serious. Clearly, there is no television on Monday nights. So, we heard about the roses and the cute boys and the dates in foreign lands and decided, Count Us In. 

I must say, watching the show with a twelve and fourteen year old has been a surprisingly valuable experience. A tutorial, really, in basic social interactions that girls will someday need. Boys 101. We have learned, for instance, how to trust your instinct, how to sense deception, whether to give someone a second chance, how to recognize narcissism, and yes, which haircuts look best on which face shapes, which is important to know, too. We’ve also learned about which traits are essential in a mate, and which ones are necessary for each one of us.

It helps that the people on the show, for the most part, do not seem insane, like they do on other such programs. The Bachelorette appears smart, hard-working, appreciative and kind. The six contenders who remain seem like terrific guys, clever, fun, funny. We don’t like that one of them says “like” a lot, but we think he does it when he is nervous. We also wonder how six men can fall in love with one woman, and how one woman can date six men at once. We are learning about the television business, too.

Meantime, we understand that next week, people cry about something. Kissing, laughing, crying…The Bachelorette covers it all. 

Making the Case for Boys

“Mommy, have you ever had a good experience with a boy?” my fourteen year old asked, laughing.

We were telling stories, the ones about my life with the other gender, the males. I have some stories, not many, but some. Interestingly, all of them have elements of disaster, slap-stick and incredulity. They are not the usual tales, I do not think. Most people don’t have boys showing up at their doors flanked by psychiatric nurses, just wanting to say hi, I do not think. 

“That is a movie,” Daphne went on. “I can see it.”

My twelve year old agreed, falling out of her desk chair.

“Did I tell you the one about taking the dog on the train and being kicked off in New Jersey because you are not allowed to take dogs on trains? Flash, did I tell you the one about Flash?”

“Uh, no.”

Well, he was a dog, yes, but really a symbol of my misguided and pathetic devotion to a boy who didn’t, well, reciprocate the feeling, and yes, we waited on the platform somewhere between Philadelphia and Manhattan as train after train blew by, sending our hair/fur into our eyes. Our squinting, visionless eyes. Our what-have-we-done now eyes, because, hey, it was not just me. Flash could have said no.

I have two girls who will soon be interested in boys. Given my history, I could easily suggest to them that they skip the whole experience. In fact, I have, I admit, suggested just that, throwing out the idea that they could sidestep the whole thing by selecting, now, two sons of people I know, dear friends of mine, with solid psyches and brilliant brains. It would make so much sense. They could forget we know them, if they wanted. When they were six, they bought in. Now, it is another story.

“Mommy, you are crazy.”

Okay, then. 

I am left to guide them through the process, when it happens, and I am preparing, mentally. It runs counter to my  current philosophy that boys are like death, you know, with the five steps, but okay, I will commit to the task, as it is a maternal duty. I want my girls to grow up and find the most wonderful mates, yes I do, even if I didn’t. But how, I ask myself, does someone with my clear and disastrous resume impart the right guidance? How does someone who failed the course now teach the class? 

I will have to rely on theory, not personal example. And movies. Movies are good. And motorcycles. When we see one, I point to it and tell them, “If you ever get on one of those things with someone who would drive one of those things, a person like that, with the buckles all over his torso and no graduate degree, you will encounter mayhem in your lives.” 

The whole thing worries me. Don’t make the choices I made, make the choices I would make now, the ones you don’t actually see. Make those. Unless you want to write about it later on. More later. So much more…