Monday, July 8, 2013


Dear Son,

Now that you are heading into 6th Grade, there are some things you should know.

First, while style is not of the deepest importance and may never be your forte, you should at least master Preventative Style.

I bring this up because the last time I asked you to choose your own outfit, you managed to dig up the worst, bottom-of-pants-pile, horrible, teal (teal!), Members Only style, rustling parachute pants I’d gingerly received for you as a hand-me-down and hidden away for a *dire laundry emergency. *

You located them, somehow. Then, as is your custom with leg-coverings, you pulled them up to your chest. And you tucked your shirt into your underwear and pulled that above the waist of those high water pants.

You see?

No, I am afraid you don’t, dear son.

I don’t mean to even try to teach you conformity, just basic clothing safety. You need to learn to ask yourself, “Will this item of clothing (or mode of wearing said item) instantly and inevitably cause people to make fun of me?” Some possible starter red flags might include: teal, overly embellished, ill-fitting, visible underwear.

Why should you care about this? Let’s just say it will ease the next few years of your life.

Actually, I am probably the wrong person to identify fashion red flags:

Figure I – FSM, Junior Sartorialist, not much older than G is right now. NB: You cannot even see that I had rubber bands on the bottoms of the bellbottoms – just to kinda bring ‘em in and then let ‘em flare out again -- and, gosh, I think Roman sandals?

Next, darling, while I do not want to curb your loving nature, now might well be the time to learn that not everybody has your best interests at heart. I got called into a Dread Meeting after you were away at camp with your class because your teacher was concerned about your going around and giving massages to adults you didn’t know. He worried that you might be vulnerable to getting hurt because you have no idea that some people can have bad intentions. He wondered, as I do, how we can protect your sweet heart while giving you some strong boundaries as you head into adolescence.

This is hard to explain, especially to someone honest, literal and pure-intentioned like you. But everyone gets confused about this stuff at first.

In the aforementioned meeting, your teacher told me a story about how he was once in an airport with his young son when his son asked him, “Dad, are any of these people strangers?” It’s so beautiful that there are, for you, no strangers. But it is time to learn to draw the line between who is a good candidate for a massage and who is not. Time to know that no one has the right to touch your private parts or hurt your body in any way. There will come a time for intimacy, but that time is not now, buster.

So, for now I will very simply say: you should know – at least in principle - that there is danger in the world.  The best way to avoid – prevention, again, being the theme - this danger is to reserve your trust for people you know well. Also, to never, ever touch someone you do not know or let them touch you.

Finally, regarding things you should do only in an appropriate fashion to others: courting.

I remember reading somewhere about Social Coaches for this stuff, professionals who offer pointers on just how long one may appropriately look at people one finds attractive, and things to say and do in romantical circumstances. Here, sugar, as at least part of the equation, please think offense prevention, humiliation prevention…

As with the clothing issue, I may not be the smoothest mentor here, but I can say that you should not be following girls (or boys) around at length or staring at their body parts in a noticeable way.

For example, when we are at a party (Why? Why????) and the 6th Grade (going into 7th) girl you are crushing on (Yes, G, we know this) arrives, you should not go stand 11” away from her and talk awkwardly at her while still holding your food plate while food falls off it, while she is talking to three other 6th (7th) grade boys and totally ignoring you.

When you told me, “Mom, I can handle this,” well, I tried to believe you, really I did.

But, um, I am afraid you cannot.

As I have explained, Crushgirl is about a MILLION years older than you. Yes, she, too, is 11. But she is a grade above you and female, ergo, a million years older than you.

She seems to be a super nice kid, who actually sees the wonderful person you are (versus merely tolerating you as some ignoramuses do), but

1.     she likes talking to other people, too, and

2.     in a Zillion years, a 6th grade gal will never “like” a 5th grade boy.

So, to return to our example, when I call you over and

1.     the fellow next to me joins me in advising you that acting like a stalker is bad, and

2.     Ayi E fills you in on how her son never talks to any of the girls and they all crush on HIM…

…To be very clear, we did mean that you should maybe give Crushgirl some space and experiment with being quiet, sure.

What we did not mean was that you should go stand 27” away from Crushgirl and pretend that you are a MIME.

Your (Full Spectrum) Mama


  1. I’m afraid I must disagree on the teal issue. It is a color I fervently adore, regardless of the fashion decade. And yes, I am the fashion disaster formally known as Glamour Don’t. However, I invite you to open your heart to teal, dear FSM. You of the rainforest, you of the ocean – embrace teal! Seals dig it. ;) Mimes dig it. xoxoxoxo

  2. One other angle on the subject: Awkward dress can serve to alert other awkward individuals of your character. Deep tucking/atomic wedgie of shirt into old man pants might be similar to teal plumage on a male bird – a display of compatibility, if you will. I don’t know about you, but to this day, I seek out the schlumpy dresser in the crowd, to sit next to. I know he will not judge me and may have an interesting story to tell.

    1. Hugely important point, Anonymous. And one I am mortified that I, in my own awkwardness, neglected. I agree completely with your notion of "recognizing markers;" unfortunately I think these same things can also make one a target in middle school and high school. NOT that I (see photo) was ever in a position to avoid targethood (even if I'd tried). Probably, G is unavoidably "one of us"
      Love, FSM


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