Labels Are For Jars

Monday night, I snagged DJ who was about to get on the train home and gave her a ride home instead. Really, I just wanted someone to go with me to the store because I knew it would be a mad house. And why go alone.

While we were driving, she started babbling as she is prone to do these days.  My older daughter is smitten with a girl, you see.  And older girl who didn’t see her as a silly freshman in high school but a witty, smart and self-aware teenager.  And recognizing how special that is, pursued her.  This has baffled DJ a bit as it is awkward and weird and just weird.   Needless to say, DJ is learning to embrace it because, well, she kinda likes this girl too.  Her first crush – and it’s a girl crush.

“But I feel like such a bad person”, she explained, “because  my friend – one that I care about so very much, well, he revealed to me the other day that he has a total crush on me and has for a year – and now sees my girl friend as competition.  And I look back at our conversation and see how he was trying to tell me he had a crush, and I was oblivious and honest and hurting him – and it sucks.”

She then started talking about how, when she was a 6th grader in middle school, she felt pressured to like a boy who liked her.  She was supposed to like the boy back. She was supposed to have a crush. And after about 5 days of trying to pretend – she tossed up her hands and said “this isn’t me right now” and decided to never do the crush thing again.  “I like these people – and all I saw a crush do was cause weirdness and confusion and the pressure was to like back and what if I didn’t like that person in that way.”  I was happy to hear that she tossed aside peer pressure like she did.  That she valued people above the drama these crushes could bring.  But then I cringed….

“People started asking me at the end of 8th grade, why don’t you have a crush on anyone? And I started wondering if something was wrong – if maybe I was a-romantic meaning incapable of being romantic with another person.  Was something wrong with me?”

My kid is too smart.  And our dialogs with her are great because of this – and I often ask myself if something we’re talking about is too much for her because she is well beyond her years.  Usually, the answer is that she will be fine.  But in this discussion, I realized how her own brain got in her way.  She knew too much – she was too aware – she was too worried about respecting the labels others gave to themselves that she started wondering if what she was feeling meant she needed more labels.  She started thinking she was broken.

And while she struggled with all of this, she did so alone…..then she met this girl who made her realize she could feel a crush – and, well, things changes.

Now before I go on, I should mention that DJ is an incredibly loving and caring person.  And that isn’t just because I’m her Moe.  No, she really REALLY is.  SO learning she was feeling this way – learning she was willing to take on a label that didn’t fit because she hadn’t been ready for a proper crush? That just killed me.

After thinking about our conversation, I wanted to continue it tonight.  I wanted to tell her how proud I was that she decided she was not ready for a romantic relationship, so instead of bending to peer pressure, put her energies to other things – more important things.  I needed her to hear that what she did had a label of maturity and being true to herself and being a freethinker – not anything less.

I said all of those things.  She started telling me more about her conversation with the girl friend today – conversations about more labels – polyamory – lesbian – etc.  She was asking DJ’s opinion about these things.  DJ corrected her on a few items because she knows a thing or two about polyamory thanks to our discussions – thanks to her knowing about who SB is in my life.  And she clearly communicated to her girl friend that she didn’t know what she was – monogamous or poly.  She wasn’t there yet in terms of deciding.  Another proud parenting moment.

“DJ, don’t be so quick to grab labels and put them on yourself. Labels are for jars.  And they can also be situational.  I have seen so many people trap themselves by the label they have put on their chest  and caused such crisis within themselves, that I caution you not to quickly do it.  I have watched women who have gone to college, had a lesbian relationship, think that’s their label, only to fall in love with a man – and be called a fake lesbian like that relationship was meaningless because of the sex of who she ended up with.  I have watched people swear they were poly realize they were truly monogamous – or a monogamous person fall in love with a poly person.  Unexpected and unexplained shit can happen in life, kid, don’t paint yourself into a corner by swearing that right here, right now, you will forever be X.  Because you never know what life will throw at you – and when it does, do you want to enjoy it or fight it?  Let me tell you, fighting it risks killing it. And yeah, you may encounter some hard boundaries – but until you have lived, you won’t know what those hard boundaries are.  So enjoy the girlfriend, enjoy the ride – see how things feel, communicate them, and learn from whatever happens.  Promise me?”

Thankfully she did – and she understood.

And that’s why I love this kid.  Wise beyond her years.  And like me, finds peeling the labels off jars more satisfying than putting them on.

This parenting thing is truly a ride.

What do you think?