When you're in middle school, you're trying to figure out who Juliet is. To figure out what the phrase "true love" really means.
It's a tough thing for a middle school girl.
In sixth grade, the butt grabbing phase began at my middle school.
As an eleven-year-old, I wasn't sure how to deal with this. There were a few facts to look into, in my sixth grade brain:
1. The butt grabbing is happening.
2. Boys like to grab girls' butts.
3. Boys give most attention to the girls whose butts they grab on a daily basis.
So here you are, and for me, it was pre-puberty, really, though I'd always liked boys. I had a "boyfriend" in preschool, for crying out loud... and you really do want the attention of boys. You don't get what it all means yet, but you want them to like you. Most of the other girls around you are talking about the boy they like, the boy who likes them, the boy they skated with a Skateland or walked around with last weekend at the mall. Lots of girls were getting their first kiss. It was all very exciting. And it's a hard time too. I remember when this kid, Shawn, grabbed my butt on the way out of English class. I remember feeling a lot of different feelings. I felt embarassed first. I wondered if the teacher had seen, if anyone else had seen.
I felt confused - was I supposed to be happy? Was this supposed to "turn me on"? And what does that mean, being "turned on" anyway? And I felt accepted. I felt VALUED. I felt... loved?
Shawn passed me a note the next day and asked me to go with him to Skateland. I will never forget my devastation when my parents said no. They told me I was too young to date. I felt like my life was pretty much over. And I'll be honest. That was the beginning of the end for me. Shawn didn't want to be with a girl whose mom and dad said no to Skateland. To dating at age eleven. There were plenty of moms whose daughers were allowed to go to Skateland, the movies, whatever. Dating was definitely happening when I was a middleschooler. I wasn't allowed. I was left out. And I became an outcast.
Before the butt grabbing phase, I was a pretty popular little thing. I believed in myself. I thought I was pretty. I had a lot of self confidence in my intellect, my athletic ability, my acting, my singing, you name it. I felt damn good about myself. After the rejection I experienced at the end of my sixth grade year, my whole life took a drastic turn. From playing kickball with the boys at recess to being last picked in gym class. From sleepovers at my house with all the popular girls, to having my books knocked from my hands on the way down the hallway and candy thrown into my hair on the field trip bus.
My junior high years, through the end of ninth grade were truly awful.
So, looking back on it, what does it mean? Let the boys grab your butt? Pray your parents let you go on a date at a younger age? Sneak around and lie to your parents so you won't have to hurt later?
I guess the answer is, to put it briefly, no.
Everyone goes through pain during junior high. It might not be the rejection kind of pain that is so often portrayed, but there are other sorts of pain. Sorts that may not even manifest themselves until years later. The pain of feeling cheap. Feeling branded.
The truth is, I didn't just let that one kid grab my butt in sixth grade and then turn around and slap every other boy who tried.
Boys did all sorts of things to me - groping in the middle of class when the lights were off during the social studies movie, grabbing my breasts (or lack thereof) as I walked down the hall, asking truly embarassing questions about hair in inappropriate places, and generally taking advantage of the fact that I was this little girl who had no idea what love was or how to obtain it. She just knew it was something that she needed.
My first boyfriend told me that if we didn't have sex sometime in the next six months, the relationship was over. He said he just couldn't deal with it if I made him wait. I was fourteen. He told me he loved me. And I believed him. I didn't sleep with that boy. He broke up with me before I ruined myself completely, but I would have, you see. I would have, because I needed that love. I wanted so desperately to be accepted.
For a long time, that era of my life made me unfit for relationships. With any sort of boy. And yes, though sometimes few and far between, there are boys who don't go through the "butt grabbing phase".
I guess the deal is, I hope that there are girls out there who will stand tall through that period of their lives, and their whole lives. Who will keep their heads up and their fists ready to punch the first boy who grabs their butt square in the jaw. Might teach everyone a thing or two about what it means to be respected, because there is something I have learned over all these years. A few things, actually, but one of the most important is, if you don't respect someone, you don't love them. Not in the romantic sense. It's an impossible duality. If a boy doesn't respect you, he doesn't love you either, no matter what he says. And no, you don't have to let your boyfriend grab your butt to prove you care about him. Or any boy, for that matter. You have a right to be respected. You are a valuable thing.
That was something I didn't understand. I hope that I can help others to understand it. Girls and boys, men and women, so we can stop the cycle of hurt where it starts.