Sue will be our illustrious guest blogger in January. In response to my plea for an introduction, here’s what she wrote:

“I can’t thnk of an intro right now because I just saw ‘Enchanted’ and I’m too busy twirling around the living room pretending I’m Giselle to worry about telling you who I am in real life, although if you want, you can read about it over on my blog, Navel Gazing at its Finest, where talking about myself is one of my favorite past-times. Basically I’m a mom of three, wife of one, and not at all sure the kind ladies at Segullah knew what they were getting into when they asked me to guest post this month.”

Welcome! And I surely hope we DON’T know what we’re getting into. It’s so much more fun that way.

At a Saturday night dance the spring I turned fifteen, I somehow ended up talking to THAT guy. You know the one ”“ football player, extremely cute, very popular. Way out of my dating league, not that I was dating. Truth be told, I was so young for my age, and so gullible, so just plain DUMB ”“ that I almost have to wonder why my parents ever let me out of the house.

For some reason I couldn’t fathom, he took a decided interest in me that night. Larry danced with me, told me I was cute, told me he really liked me. I was almost floating. He drove me home – almost all the way to my house, where he stopped the car, took my hand and asked me if I wanted to take a walk with him. We walked down the street and he told me how much he liked me and gave me a kiss (well, more like a SERIES of kisses) and then eventually, veeeery eventually, I went home. I was happy. It seemed far too good to be true.

It was. The next day he wouldn’t call me back. My best friend’s boyfriend Wayne told me that he and Larry had a bet going on to see how many girls he could kiss in one night, and I was girl number five. But Wayne told me I should be proud, because I’d taken a lot longer to give in than some of the other girls, and that “was cool.” But Larry didn’t like me. And he wasn’t going to call.

It had been my first kiss. I was crushed.

When I was in my early twenties, I was involved in an exhausting on-again off-again relationship with a guy who I’ll call Steve (even though he was SO not a Steve). He was wearing me out with his inability to just decide what he wanted already, and one Friday night I’d had enough. I was done. Done, done, done, done, done. DONE.

Our whole crowd, Steve included, went to the lake for a barbecue/bonfire. He was going because I was going and he wanted to show me he was through with me, and I was going because “I’m not gonna not go just because he’s going.” CLEARLY, we were over each other. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

At the lake I spotted a guy I vaguely knew from church, a tall, cute guy with “I can make Steve jealous” written all over him, and I wandered over and plopped down next to him. His name was Mike. I didn’t know much about him except that he was incredibly charming and from Texas. Usually I distrusted guys who were slick, but my heart was already wrapped up in someone else and wasn’t anywhere near being in danger, so I sat and talked to Mike by the fire for a long time.

He’d just lost his father, and so had I. I almost forgot about Steve as we talked about our losses, compared notes and bonded a little. For a few minutes I thought, hey, I could actually be friends with this guy. But a little while later he started the full court press. He told me he thought I was pretty and talented and absolutely fascinating. He loved the song I’d sung in church the last Sunday and wouldn’t you know it – he’d been meaning to ask me out for a long time, because he really liked me, and he wanted nothing more in the world than to go for a walk with me on the beach in the moonlight. He was so transparent he was practically invisible.

Luckily, a minute later I saw Steve stalking away from the group toward his car (in what turned out to be a bit of a jealous rage ”“ oh, the drama”¦) and I excused myself. Mike didn’t care. He found other ways to occupy his time, namely with my best friend Heather.

He kissed her that night, and she let him, and you know, that happens sometimes, and sometimes (whether we like to admit it in the church or not) it’s even fun and harmless. Not this time. Mike went on and on and on about how much he liked her. He’d liked her for a long time. She was exactly the kind of girl he’d always wanted. In fact, he thought she was the type of girl he’d like to marry. So they got together the next day, and the next and the next. Heather was practically flying, she was so happy. When I suggested that perhaps she shouldn’t trust him, she was offended and stopped talking to me for a week.

Not surprisingly, within another week or two, we found out he was doing the same thing at the same time with other girls. I was furious with him. I drove across town, banged on the door of his apartment until he answered, and told him off for a solid twenty minutes while his roommates watched, slack-jawed. We argued. He thought he was fine because he’d only kissed her. It wasn’t like he’d had SEX with her and then broken up with her or something. It was just kissing. It was all in good fun.

Except it wasn’t. He simply couldn’t understand my point. It wasn’t the kissing that was the problem. It had nothing to do with whether or not they’d had sex. It was how he had lied to her, preyed upon her feelings and encouraged them all for his own amusement. He’d made her feel worthless. It was vile. And he was wrong. But he couldn’t see it. In fact, he thought I was very uncool for making such a big deal about it, and he spread the word at church that I was crazy and unstable.

A few weeks later, he was engaged to a girl who he presumably valued a little more. He got married in the temple, and I thought ”“ there’s something wrong with that. I couldn’t understand how someone could treat so many girls so horribly, be so completely lacking in respect and empathy and honesty and still feel good enough about himself to get married in the temple a couple of months later.

Now and then I think about Mike and Larry, and I wonder who they became. Did they grow up and change and become more compassionate, empathetic adults? Or are they still thinking only of what they want, valuing only what directly affects them? Is Larry the dad who defends his son, even though he knows his son is the school bully? Is Mike the guy who cheers his kid on when he’s breaking hearts left and right, because “boys will be boys?” Or did they both grow up and realize that kindness matters?

I look at my adorable son, with his huge green eyes, and long eyelashes, and I can tell he’s going to be a heartbreaker someday. It scares me a little, thinking about how much I want to teach him, and how unequal to that task I feel. I want to teach him empathy. I want to teach him kindness. I hope he’ll understand that dishonesty is more than telling lies, that our actions can make us dishonest, even when our words won’t convict us.

Someday, when he’s sitting in a car with some girl, I hope he’ll be the kind of guy who is kind, and compassionate, and I hope he’ll be careful with her heart, even if he doesn’t love her. Because how he treats that girl will affect more than just the girl. It will affect everyone who tries to love the girl in the future, and it will affect everyone who that girl loves.

Kindness matters. I hope I can help him to understand how much.

December 31, 2007

14 Comments

  1. Dalene

    January 2, 2008

    I have three boys and I know exactly what you mean. In fact I’m kind of obnoxious about it because I figure I have just until they leave home to sink those kind of messages–about being kind and careful–into their hearts.

    There was a girl in our neighborhood who, deliberately but mistakenly asked one of the popular athletes to a girls’ choice dance even though he had a girlfriend. He mistakenly agreed to go in order “not to hurt her feelings.” Then he spent the entire date on the cell phone with his girlfriend. I talked the situation over with my boys, who initially defended his actions because they thought it would hurt her feelings for him to have declined. I pointed out that she was wrong to have asked him, but it still would have been better for him to have declined and hurt her feelings once that to have let her spend her time and her money on someone who really failed to show up for her.

    I don’t know that they agreed with me, but I keep trying because you are exactly right. Kindness does matter.

  2. Justine

    January 2, 2008

    Wow, a couple of Larry’s popped into my head while reading this…

    I like to think about the fact that the Larry’s in my life are just as complicated as I am. I’m sure I’ve hurt people emotionally, and I’m sure I’ve behaved in manipulative ways. But I would hate to be judged by those choices alone. But having been treated badly by some Larry’s, I am so careful about how I let my kids treat the opposite sex. My fifth grader is just entering full blown “sexual tension” in class, and it’s such a great time to hammer out respect and dignity with him.

    But it goes both ways. My daughter also needs to learn respect and dignity. She can be so quick to drop all respect for herself and for others, and be manipulative and crafty to satisfy her own needs. I like the idea of phrasing discussions as honesty.

  3. Sue

    January 2, 2008

    Good point Justine. And I DO hope that both of those boys grew up and changed and learned respect for women, respect for other people’s feelings.

    And of course, girls can by Larrys too. I’ve known more than a few…

  4. cheryl

    January 2, 2008

    This reminds me a little bit of an experience I had as a senior in high school. We were at a water theme park for our senior trip, and several of my friends and I were wearing modest swimsuits. Several other girls (85% of our high school was LDS) were not. Four or Five of our closest guy friends approached us and basically gushed “Thank you so much for being modest!” They then proceeded to ignore us and hang out with the bikini girls all day. And they weren’t even friends with them.

    Hypocrisy and dishonesty (especially along the lines of “Larry” and “Mike”) are just common enough that I don’t think you are wrong to be worried, Sue. But I think your son already has a huge advantage because you care enough to teach him kindness. I hope my boys grow up with empathy and kindness, too. I’ve been hurt enough in my life (with similar stories) that I know I won’t stand for it in my sons.

  5. Kalli

    January 2, 2008

    I think about this subject A LOT!

    I can remember a ton of “Larry’s” and “Mike’s”, some I really liked, others not so much. I look back on a good majority of the boys I kissed and I wonder what I was thinking? I can’t help but hold myself a little bit responsible because it wasn’t like I didn’t know what kind of guys they were or how this was going to end up. I think every girl likes to think she could be the one that changes him!

    The reality is that it’s all part of the growing up process, on both ends. Some guys like that really will never grow up, some take a while to get there but finally do. As for us, we take those heartbreaks and chalk it up to experience that we learn and grow from! I know that all those frogs I kissed in the past helped open my eyes and helped me realize what I had when I finally kissed one who wasn’t a frog!

    I hope my son(s?) are kind and don’t set out to break hearts or set kissing records! Chances are they’ll break a few hearts on the way, but so is life right?

  6. mom2nine

    January 2, 2008

    Let’s hope Steve and Mike don’t have sons in Sarah’s class at school!

  7. Brandie

    January 2, 2008

    Loved the story!
    And now I’m even more stressed out about being a mom. What a responsibility I have!

  8. Heather O.

    January 2, 2008

    Honesty matters, too. My mother beat it into my brain that I should always go out with a boy who asked me, because it was mean to hurt his feelings by saying no. I went out on a lot of lame dates that way, and I eventually came to realize that it’s not very fair to go out with somebody if you really don’t want to, because inevitably you will be having the “I’m not interested” conversation if you don’t like him anyway. I even had somebody tell me, after I told him I wasn’t interested, “Well, when did you start lying to me, then? And do you think it was right of you to go with me to the concert?”

    Although I personally never felt manipulative, he obviously felt manipulated, and I cringe when I think of how the situation went down. Better to have never agreed to the date in the first place.

    There is nothing about dating that is easy, and I cried my eyes out for days after somebody once told me he didn’t love me, but hey, at least I knew exactly where we stood.

    I hope my kids will be forthright, open, honest, and keep their wits about them when they enter the dating pool. And boy, I don’t envy that stage in the least!

  9. Kylie

    January 2, 2008

    My girl (6th grade) has had a boy who has liked her for four years. He’s a cute kid, and we’ve had a hard time figuring out the line between being nice and leading someone on. She doesn’t like him “like that.” But he’s nice. And she wants to be nice. And this is only 6th grade, for heaven’s sakes. I know relationships/dating will get even more complicated with time.

    My second grade son has a crush–on his teacher. So we’re learning about being nice to people we “like” with an adult who understands! My 4th grade son is in love with half the girls at school. He’s a bit more of a handful, and I am very concerned about how I will parent him during the dating years. But I comfort myself with this: I AM NOT ALONE. Of course, I know I have Heavenly Father’s help in all this, but I also have my HUSBAND (who was, after all, a boy). And, unfortunately, he was one of those boys who kissed a lot of girls. Even on one night. But not me. And yes, he’s seen the light and understands why women like me think kissing means something.

  10. Azucar

    January 3, 2008

    I married Larry.

    I am not kidding.

    He reformed and learned his lesson before I married him, but hearing his stories makes me shake my head a little. Now that we have two boys, I am determined that they will not repeat his mistakes. On a related note, I think we need to do a better job of educating our daughters. I had a non-LDS acquaintance who told me that it was easier to get a girl into bed in Utah than in anywhere else–all he had to say was that he loved her.

  11. JD

    January 8, 2008

    So sorry that was your first kiss and so glad that you are teaching your son to be different. I want to protect my daughter from an experience like that.

  12. Emily M.

    January 8, 2008

    Question: my first kiss was not until well into college. And would you rather have had “experience” in that way, or would you rather have stayed in the “VLC” (that would be the “Virgin Lips Club,” for those who did not attend BYU in the early nineties)? Is painful kissing experience better than the shame of no kissing experience at all?

  13. Sue

    January 8, 2008

    Personally, I think it would have been better to have no experience at all than to have a hurtful experience to look back on as my first kiss. It colored my view of boys for a while. I was very suspicious of their motives. I gave a few boys a pretty hard time.

    Luckily, I had other, sweeter experiences after that.

  14. TH

    January 9, 2008

    Maybe that suspicion saved you from Mike and Steve and who knows what else. That painful experience early on may have helped prevent untold heartache in following few years. I am sure the experience was more damaging to Larry in the long run even though it wasn’t painful and even if he still doesn’t know it yet. It sounds a lot like you and your children will learn a lot from that painful experience. I wish there was a better way to learn…

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