One of my favorite essays is from a book by Robert Fulghum. The book and the essay are called "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" and it contains many important nuggets of wisdom like put things back where you found them, take a nap every afternoon, and everything dies someday. It’s served me well.
However, I’d have to say that in dating, all I really need to know I did NOT learn in Kindergarten, but in Middle School. Since my daughter Leah is currently in Middle School, it gives me time to reflect on this important process. Watching her go through the difficult and sometimes painful lessons—without being able to lend the wisdom of my years—makes me realize that the way we relate to the opposite sex and how we think about them was not learned in our families or in grade school, but during the awkward period of adolescence. When we are covered with acne and the girls are taller than the boys, when a wayward glance can ruin our entire life let alone day, that is where we glean our meager knowledge of love.
Here is what I’ve learned (with help from my beautiful assistant Leah).
All I Really Need to Know (about dating) I Learned in Middle School:
- Boys (or girls, depending) will come and go, but your friends and family will not. Stay loyal to them.
- Opposites do NOT attract.
- No matter what they might say, most boys are not [completely] liberated. They don’t like pushy girls.
- Breaking up is, in fact, very hard to do. It is also very necessary. Doing it compassionately (not by email or text and by being as honest as possible) is a skill, no less than kissing or texting while walking.
- That sweet, nerdy guy might grow up to be a CEO of a company and friend you on Facebook someday. It pays to be nice to everyone.
- Bad guys are very sexy—this is true when you are 13, 23, and 33. I don’t know about 43 yet, but I’ll let you know.
- Kind of like algebra, a lot of attraction doesn’t really make sense. But if you don’t feel "that thing" within the first three hours of a date, you’ll never feel it so move on.
- Girls and boys are usually speaking two different languages. It’s like one is taking Spanish and one is taking French. Or Klingon. (Please Trekkies I’m begging you to watch this short video for me!)
- Stalker = Not Sexy
- You can’t change someone by dating them. Like Popeye used to say, “I am what I am.” Being with them won’t change you either so don’t look for a rescuer.
- Like Middle School, dating is an opportunity to experience many different people and events. You aren’t locked into any of them any more than you have to become a carpenter because you took shop. Try it out! Enjoy the ride.
- Other kids/adults can be very mean. There are girl and boy bullies alike, and they will use opportunities to exploit your weaknesses. Don’t let them.
- Finally, remember the most important rule of Middle School and of a date—it’s only temporary.