Now that school is in full swing, and thoughts of summer are further away than thoughts of Halloween costumes and Christmas lists, and teachers have finished their lectures on what they will not allow in their classrooms, which is pretty much everything, hormones are beginning to bubble. So I try to guide my 12-year-old son, who struggles with his strange new desire to talk to girls and his fear of how they'll react.
"Ask them about what they did for summer vacation. Tell them about yours. You know, regular stuff that everybody does, but that you don't already know about," I advised him one evening at dinner when the subject of girls arose.
A few days passed, and then one evening he blurted out, through a mouthful of butterbeans, "Girls are so weird. Were they that weird when you were a kid?"
I took offense to that, because when I was growing up it was the boys who were weird. But I didn't share that with my son.
"The other day I tried to talk to some girls at break. I told them where I went this past summer, and one of them said, 'Oooh, I've been there. I got the cutest pair of shoes and I saw the most precious dress that I've just got to have.'" He dramatically mimicked their voices and held his hands in a feigned dainty position by his face with his wrists bent and fingers splayed.
I nodded, enjoying his show.
"Then they all giggled," he finished, dejected. I could tell he felt wounded by the girls' laughter. "Fashion and boys, that's all girls talk about."
"That's good then," I encouraged him.
"How is that good?" he squealed.
"Well, they are talking about boys. And if they're doing that, there's a chance, a good chance in light of all the giggling, that they're talking about you."
He blushed and pushed his food around his plate. Then he argued, "Yeah, but fashion?! I don't want to be talked about when they're talking about fashion. That's dumb." Despite those hormones welling up, he's still a boy's boy.
"It's fine for now," I reassured him. "But don't ever marry a girl who remembers her vacations by what she bought while she was there."
His daddy interjected, "Because you'll end up broke with a lot of junk you don't want that she'll fight you for in the de-vorce." The man spoke with vehemence, like a jaded cuckold.
"Is that what Mama did you?" our son asked, surprised.
And yes, again, he managed to offend me. Again, I didn't address it.
But his daddy did. "Noooo. Your mama has Scottish blood. She can squeeze nickels out of turnips. I can't get her to spend money on anything other than the bare necessities. You're lucky she'll let you own a pair of tennis shoes and flip-flops at the same time. And there won't be a de-vorce, because when your mama married me she promised that I would suffer right along with her for the next 50 some-odd years. Your mama's people do love suffering."
My child looked at his daddy confused. Sensing the question quivering on the lad's young lips, my husband answered it. "Son, I honestly don't know which is better. Just be glad you're 12 and that girls giggle when you talk to them There are worse things. You'll find out about those in time, just like the rest of us."
And I'm wondering . . . should I be offended? Or accept that the weird boys from my childhood grew up to be weird men?
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, Ga. Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and to visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)