Do you remember middle school dates?
Maybe you touched hands once while reaching for popcorn at the movie theatre
Or he got up the courage to hold your hand while you walked out of the ice cream shop
And didn’t drop it until his mom’s car turned the corner
And you spent the drive home getting interrogated by an intrigued off-duty PTA mom.
My most memorable middle school date was in eighth grade
With the very serious “boyfriend” I “dated” for eleven whole months.
We were three months into our little relationship before we left the texting-only trap
And decided that, because we were so mature, we should go on a proper date.
Our moms dropped us off at the Starbucks at the Domain
We window-shopped while drinking hot chocolate, and I stayed close to him for warmth.
We had our first kiss outside of Tiffany’s.
Our lips were so numb from the cold that it felt like kissing a dead fish.
The first thing I did afterwards was text my best friend. Back then, everything was so exciting.
We lived for stolen kisses and stories to tell jealous seventh graders,
And we knew it was real because we used the red heart emoji when we said goodnight.
Years later, when I text my best friend about a boy, “we kissed!” is not usually the content.
Freshman year, I lusted after juniors and seniors because they made me feel special,
Like I was better than the other girls because my hookups weren’t all legal.
There’s something about being 15 and being okay with feeling used,
Young enough to be naïve but old enough that the stakes are too high.
Innocence disappears in wisps, curling away like the smoke
From the joints we light on rooftops and at concerts and in our bathrooms with the fan running
So that we can forget what happens that night.
We watch it disappear into the nighttime air as we convince ourselves we wanted that
Or drunkenly search for our clothes on the ground.
And our virginities are like our childhoods: we want to be as far from them as possible
But letting go of that last doll is oddly hard.
No kid really knows how young they are.
And as I’m falling in love and starting to feel okay again,
Like I’m forgiven for my mistakes, like there is more to who I am than shame,
It’s hard to remember that not everyone will hurt me
The way everyone has before.
I don’t miss kissing outside of Tiffany’s, and it’s nice not having to get rides from our moms.
I want the middle ground: love without fear, lust without danger
And finally allowing myself to trust.
Anderson High School