An older lady comes up to me at the information desk.   She usually asks me to place holds on biographies that sound interesting and unusual enough that I often place holds on the same items for my mother afterwards.   She is very chatty, and tends to talk several decibels louder than she should in a library.  If she’s talking about a Farley Granger biography, that’s one thing.  But if she’s waving a copy of the Merck Manual at me while saying, “I’m 80 years old, and I have vaginal bleeding.  Can you believe it?” … well, that’s something else entirely.  That’s what happened yesterday, and I almost fell off of my chair when she said it.  Oh, and I would like to add that it took every last ounce of my professionalism not to stick my fingers in my ears and start yelling, “LA LA LA LA, I’M NOT LISTENING!!!”

But moving on to a less traumatic and infinitely more rewarding encounter …

At my last teen advisory group meeting, as my kids were starting to settle down with their chips and juice boxes, one of the girls said that she had a question for me.  She waited until everyone was sitting down, and then she asked me, “Is it normal, if you break up with someone, for that person not to speak to you for three weeks!”  My first reaction was to feel a flush of pleasure and pride:  Hey, look at me!  I’m an authority figure, but I’m a COOL authority figure!  She’s asking me a question that she thinks I can answer based on my life experience and general knowledge as a grownup!  She TRUSTS me enough to ask me this question.  She wants my opinion!  She thinks I know something!  She thinks I can give good advice about this subject! This was immediately followed by my second reaction, which was: Oh, CRAP.  What should I say?

I started the ball rolling by saying that silence was better than the alternative of the exes saying bad things about each other, and that sometimes people needed to get past their anger and their hurt and stay away from each other for a while.  I was pleased to be asked my advice in this matter, but the difficult part was that I found myself doing a balancing act.  I was trying not to speak in grownup platitudes like “when I was your age” and “time heals all wounds,” but I was also trying not to reveal too much about my own personal life.  Based on conversations that I had when I was a kid with authority figures like teachers, parents, and camp counselors, I remember it being really weird whenever some aspect of their personal lives was revealed.  And I don’t want to be that weird grownup who reveals too much and then everyone gets uncomfortable afterwards.  But still, she asked me the question, and asked it in front of the other teens in the group, so I figured that she wanted some kind of real advice that I could provide.

So I told her (and the rest of the group) this.  I’ve been in situations before where I dated someone and then later we stopped talking to each other, or I dated someone and then there was criticism and arguing afterwards.  And silence is the better option.  It’s awkward, but it’s better.  I didn’t date anyone I went to school with until I was in college (you should have seen their little jaws drop at that point).  That was primarily because most of the boys I went to school with from first grade to eighth grade were idiots, and by the time they started figuring out that they liked girls they would communicate that by chasing and hitting the girls that they liked.  And, I also admitted, just like the girl who asked me the question, I stuck up for myself and if any boy hit me I would hit him right back (which was bad for my social life and got me into trouble with the teachers).  I also told them that I went to an all-girls high school … and that set off another jaw-drop moment, followed by cries of outrage on my behalf.

My final pieces of advice to her, based on my own life experience, were:

Enroll in a self-defense class.  It helped me defend myself against idiot boys who hit me, it got me in better shape, and it helped me meet different boys who were cool and athletic (and the male/female ratio made it a dating paradise for girls!)  Honestly, I would never have gone to a senior prom when I was a sophomore if it wasn’t for those kung fu classes.

An all-girls school isn’t the worst thing in the world.  On the plus side, you can get much more focused on your studies while you’re in school, and you can always worry about boys after school or on the weekends.

And most importantly, don’t worry about a boy giving you the silent treatment.  It’s not worth the drama.

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