Summer Stories: In which Miss Molly watches middle school heartbreak unfold

I have another summer story to share with you all.

I love summer time because it brings so many people into the library and I love people watching. It is definitely part of the librarian job–observing behavior. It’s ridiculous, at times, but keeps things entertaining. It also, occasionally, makes me glad I’m not That Guy. You know who I mean. Usually That Guy is at the circulation desk….but still.

I especially love watching kids interact. It’s fascinating to watch really young kids introduce themselves, negotiate how and what to play, and then leave one another once the ‘play date’ is over. It’s especially cool to watch the nonverbal toddlers go through the motions. I really think babies and toddlers can communicate telepathically with one another. The looks of intense concentration and focus on their faces, along with their body language, when they are ‘talking’ with one of their peers proves it. It’s amazing. Maybe it’s the Children’s Librarian in me talking, but I find kids fascinating. And don’t even get me started on the intelligence of play!

But this post isn’t about adorable babies, cute toddlers, or even precocious elementary schoolers. Oh no, this is about awkward Tween encounters. I love Tweens. They are the kids who are going into middle school. They are stuck between 11 and 13- too old for elementary school, but too young for high school. They haven’t mastered how to handle their growing bodies, they are trying to figure out what is acceptable to say and do, who they can hang out with, where they can hang out. They are a group filled with awkwardness. They haven’t grown into their faces, arms or legs, they haven’t graduated to contacts yet, and the braces have been slapped on. In short, it’s just a weird time. But they are some of the coolest kids you can meet. They have great snarkiness, can still be silly, and still think the library is awesome.

I am such an authority on this subject because I was one of those horribly awkward Tweens. I wasn’t one of the popular pretty girls who knew how to use makeup and a hairbrush. I was too busy wearing blue camo pants, reading Star Wars related books, and crushing hard on one particular boy. But, I had awesome friends, and I was blissfully unaware of my limbo Tween-state.

But, it tugs on my heartstrings, and brings back memories of “Oh…I know exactly what you’re going through.” This thought then leads to, “Goodness, was I that awkward?” Which finally leads to, “Well, they’ll be fine. I turned out ok.”

Let me set the scene:

Enter a pretty 11 year old girl: one of the ones who knows how to use her brush and has a fashion conscious mother.

Enter an ungainly 11 year old boy: one of the ones with glasses, a bowl haircut, and likes Star Wars (aka painfully adorable).

The boy greets the girl. Each says hello, politely asks about the others summer, and then lapses into silence.

As an outside observer, I know what’s coming. I can tell they were friends in elementary school, but summer happened and each got busy. The boy likes the girl. He’s fidgety and nervous. He’s talking too fast. The girl can tell something’s up. She’s fidgety.

Then it comes…

Boy: Do you want to hang out this summer? *Turns pink*

Girl: *Pause* Yeah. *Longer pause* Maybe. *Another pause* Actually, I’m pretty busy for the rest of the summer.

Boy: *A furious shade of red* Yeah. That’s fine. I’m kind of busy, too. Maybe see you in school.

He turns to the computer to search for a book. She walks away.

Boy: *As an aside/under his breath* Stupid. You knew that’s what she would say. But you had to do it anyway. Stupid…stupid…stupid. *mumble grumble grumble*

It was so cute. It was so sad. I wanted to give the kid a hug, tell him to keep at it, and not to be discouraged if a girl says no. I got turned down a lot. But, I kept trying. Actually…now that I think about it, most of the dates I’ve gotten since have happened because I’ve asked the guy out. So, even though the gender roles are reversed, I was just as awkward (if not more so) and there was hope for me!

I didn’t want to embarrass him any more than he already was, so I kept my mouth shut about The Event. I did ask him what he was looking for and helped him pick out a new book to read. I think that helped. I hope it did. He smiled at me, so I call that a win.

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