Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two Shy Sixth-Grade Sweethearts

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two Shy Sixth-Grade Sweethearts

Article excerpt

MY first experience of "going steady" with someone was spent in complete silence. This offered a wholly different perspective on "worrying about what to say."

My friend Roger was the intermediary for a slender, freckle-faced boy I'll call Joe.

Joe moved into our neighborhood at about the same time that spring weather ushered in cherry blossoms, warmer winds, and a wave of new feelings that unexpectedly hit the sixth and seventh graders of our school.

Boys and girls who had bicycled together most of their young lives were suddenly awkward and shy with each other.

Our world was changing from an environment of apparent predictability to a place surrounded by un-familiar chaos. Going steady was just a symptom of a larger group of feelings that no one seemed to be able to define or understand.

It was like one of those ideas carried along on the strength of popular support, but clearly inexplicable to its constituents. One night Roger's familiar voice was on the phone.

"Joe wants to know," he said, "if you'll go steady."

"Sure," I said, giving it only a bit more thought than I did about to what to pack in my lunch.

My earlier exper-iences with romance had occurred in fourth grade, when another boy flew airplanes to my desk and conducted his courtship in wordless admiration.

I thought it the most natural thing in the world that Roger would become the "mouthpiece" for another silent suitor.

Unfamiliar with what to "do" when you went steady, I simply continued to live my life as I always had. When I passed Joe in the hall, we barely looked at each other.

At a school party, for the entirety of the one song we spent dancing together, Joe's eyes seemed fixed on a spot in the lime-green gymnasium wall. Much too busy examining this part of the scenery, Joe could assume the role of "preoccupied" as opposed to "nervous."

The dance ended. Joe handily slid around as if he were shedding a coat and retreated to the side of the gym where the boys were lined up nudging and bumping one another.

Roger was enthusiastic, though. He kept up a running banter about Joe's virtues. I suspect he did the same thing to Joe when speaking of my good character. …

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