Why Won’t You Marry Me?

Jane has a boyfriend. Well, she has a boyfriend in the sixth grade sense of the word, which is to say that the other kids at school call him her boyfriend and she accepts it. Even though they don’t go on dates. Or hold hands. Or hang out together at lunch. Or do much of anything except say hi in the halls.

They did go to the high school homecoming football game together. His mom even made her a “mum” to wear. I took pictures of the nervous couple and then off they went with his mom.

Mat has liked Jane for a very long time. It all began ten years ago in the 18 month old class at the preschool. He started off calling her his girlfriend. It didn’t seem to have much of an effect on her. She was still almost as likely to bite him as she was her best friend.

As they got older, he began to insist that she was going to marry him. Sometimes, he outright called her his wife. For the most part, she tolerated the attention with good grace. They attended each other’s birthday parties and enjoyed each other’s company.

By the time they were turning five and in their last year at the preschool, she began to chafe a bit. One day, Mat became exasperated.

“Why, Jane? WHY won’t you say that you’ll marry me?”

“I’m not going to marry you, Mat.”

“Yes you are! I’ve already decided!”

“No! You don’t get to decide.” At this point she thrust her arm straight up into the air with her index finger pointing to the sky. “GOD decides!”

The next year, they headed to separate elementary schools, still inviting each other to their birthday parties. One year, Jane was the only girl invited to dinner and swimming. The boys were spending the night at a hotel. When it was time for us to pick up Jane, she begged us to let her stay.

Eventually, the distance seemed to make a difference. We heard rumors that Mat had a girlfriend and it wasn’t Jane. Jane was fine with that. She saw him once a week in TAG (talented and gifted). She became upset if we teased her about him being her “boyfriend”. She insisted she wasn’t interested.

Apparently, he still had a soft spot for her though. Once he claimed to a mutual friend, “Jane still likes me.”

The boy responded, “No, no, I don’t think so.”

“Yeah, she still likes me. I know she does.”

“No, she pretty much hates you,” he insisted. And that was my assessment of the relationship too. Not that she hated him, but that she didn’t like him. At least, not that way.

Needless to say, I was caught off guard when she climbed in the car one day after school and said, “Mat asked me to go to homecoming with him.”

“Oh, really? What did you say?”

“I said no, of course! That’s like four years away!”

“I’m pretty sure he was referring to this year’s football game, honey.”

“Oh. Well I still don’t want to go. He didn’t actually ask me. He asked Bella to ask me and when she told me, I said no and then he called out, ‘Don’t listen to her, Jane! She’s lying!'”

“Well, just tell him that your parents said you are too young to date.”

The next morning, she approached me saying that she still kind of liked Mat and didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I told her she didn’t have to go out with a boy just to avoid hurting his feelings. “Just be nice.”

A few days later, I received this off-hand remark: “Oh, by the way Mom, I told Mat that I wanted to go with him so you need to call his mom and work it out.”

“What happened to ‘my parents said I can’t date’?” She shrugged and hurried away.

A day or two after that: “I changed my mind. I don’t want to go.”

“Well, you need to tell Mat since you already said yes.”

“I don’t think he really heard me anyway.”

I was beginning to get whiplash. A couple of days later, a message arrived from his mom. My phone displayed the first part: So Mat sorta kinda asked Jane to homecoming.

I showed her the message and raised my eyebrows. “Looks like he did hear you.”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot. I decided I do want to go, so you need to talk to his mom.”

We had several conversations after that about expectations and proper behavior, what she should and shouldn’t do. We gave her a cell phone for the night and talked about what to do if she was at all uncomfortable at any point. I even stopped by the football game to see how she was doing.

It was a lot of worrying over nothing. They were just hanging out. Sometimes together. Sometimes apart, each with their own friends. At the end of the night, his sister encouraged him to give Jane a hug. He declined. It’s a sixth grade “romance”.

Who knows whether it will grow into something more. Probably not. But I’ll always find it kind of sweet that her first “date”, no matter how innocent, was with a young man that first fell in love with her before either was potty trained.


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