My daughter has been asking a lot of questions lately. Questions about first kisses, and first dates, and first boyfriends. She’s been asking me, her grandma, her aunts, and her older, female cousins. She thinks all of our answers are hilarious, and quite frankly, we do, too. When she asked me about my first kiss, I knew the answer. When she asked me about my first date, I had to think long and hard about it. I honestly couldn’t remember.
My first kiss was in fourth grade with a boy who only went to my school for maybe a year. We had planned it out, and of course I had asked my mom if it was okay. I specifically remember sitting on the counter while she made dinner asking her how old you could be for your first kiss. I don’t remember her answer, but I’m sure it started with this Scottish throat thing she does and ended with, “You’re too young to kiss boys.”
The boy and I met behind the school long after school had let out. We were both on our bikes and the whole thing lasted maybe a couple minutes. After we mustered up the courage, we gave each other a peck, said goodbye and rode off in different directions. Super uneventful.
Then middle school happened and I got completely awkward. I switched schools in 9th grade and it was traumatizing. Up to this point, I had gone to school with most of my friends since Kindergarten. While we didn’t move that far away, we moved to an area where I didn’t know anyone and I became ridiculously self-conscious and insecure. Let’s face it, it’s a horrible time anyway.
My first semester in the new school was a nightmare. The second semester worked itself out and, in the end, I made some lifelong friends in that 9th grade year. It also put me on the path to the high school I went to, which I loved, and met even more lifelong friends. I guess the trauma was worth it.
Back to the first date. I think it was the summer between 9th and 10th grade when our weekends were spent at the mall. My friends and I were dropped off every Friday and Saturday night to either go see a movie, or just hang out with all the other kids who were also dropped off at the mall because that’s what you did then.
I should also note, this was the 80’s. It was the heyday of the indoor mall. If there wasn’t a decent movie playing, most likely we just hung out in the food court, which to be honest at our mall it wasn’t that great. Or you would just randomly walk around running into your friends and just hanging out.
We usually ended the night at Dairy Queen eating Mr. Misty floats and talking about boys we would never actually talk to.
So, my first date was at the mall. It was a “Hey, do you want to meet at the mall on Friday night?” kind of thing. So, we met at the mall. We hung out with our friends, we walked around, and I can’t even remember if we kissed. I’m thinking no, but I don’t remember. I think we kissed later because I’m pretty sure there were several dates at the mall. We liked each other but decided to be friends. Oh, so this is where it started…
And then that was it. I didn’t have many dates after that and I even went to my senior prom with my best friend. We were badass trailblazers who decided we weren’t missing our prom because no one asked us. Probably not a big deal to the teens of today, but it was a big deal back then.
The irony of this whole thing is that even though malls are a dying breed, my daughter has been asking if I would drop her off to hang out with her friends at the mall. My helicopter parent instincts kick in and I’m not sure I can do it. I told her maybe, but I have to be at the mall, too. For the record, my parents never in one million years would’ve hung out at the mall because I was there.
I want her to experience the independence of being alone with her friends, but times have changed. The mall used to be brimming with hormonal teenagers every weekend. Even though we had to call our parents from a pay phone to come pick us up, as opposed to kids now having it all at their fingertips, there was safety in numbers. Today, you’re lucky if there are 30 people there at the same time as you.
Parents have to worry about sex trafficking and drugs, oh my. Our parents worried about it, too, but drugs now are in a different league and sex trafficking is as horrible as it sounds. So parenting evolved, and so did being a tween.
Soon, she will experience the joy of being alone at the mall with her friends. She needs to. She needs to make her own decisions, good or bad. It’s part of growing up. And while there’s no longer safety in numbers, there’s safety knowing mom’s in the shoe department at Nordstrom.