Abstract Academic: Of love and Sunny D

I work with junior high kids, doing some tutoring and after-school clubs. When some people hear this, they ask me, “Why? Do you also intentionally sprint face-first into walls?”

But I like working with kids, especially when I get to watch them interact socially. It’s like watching my dog try to get a ball out from under a couch. For instance, the other day, one of my girls was trying to get one of my boys to ask her to a “stomp,” which is like a dance, if a dance is a cafeteria where 400 13-year-olds stood in small circles and yelled at each other over loud music while someone piped Axe body spray through the air-conditioning system.

Anyway, this boy was completely clueless. In fact, he just wanted to go to the stomp so he and his friends could play tag in the dark cafeteria.

Seventh-grade boys are still, deep inside themselves, 8 years old. They want nothing more than to sit on the floor of their bedroom, surrounded by Legos and Iron Man action figures, chugging Sunny D and trying to get through the last level of Zelda. In fact, most of us males never progress past this point, as evidenced by the existence of fantasy football leagues and Halo networking parties (amazingly, those are nerdier than they sound).

I can remember being a seventh-grader. I woke up one morning, and my feet were like Buicks. I was suddenly a newborn deer wearing wooden clogs. Hormones were coursing through my body. I wanted to eat everything in the refrigerator. I suddenly didn’t like getting up at 6 a.m. anymore to watch cartoons. Even worse, the girls at school, who before had been repulsive, smelly creatures, were now repulsive, smelly creatures that I desperately wanted to impress. It was a strange and jarring transformation.

Of course, the girls I was trying to impress with my Old Navy Performance Fleece (a gray tech vest that made my already-shapeless torso look even more like a bag of tortilla chips) and Doc Marten sandals (25 lbs. each) knew all about this transformation. They’d already gone through the change a year ago. When I was still running around with Ninja Turtles in my pockets, my female counterparts were already 8 feet tall, planning out their next day’s outfit, reading magazines that didn’t contain articles like “8 Great Ways to Use Police Tape to Play a Trick on Your Little Brother,” applying for student loans, etc.

In fact, I’m convinced we could swap out the U.S. Senate for 100 seventh-grade girls, and things would run about the same. And yes, that is both a compliment to 12-year-old girls and a jab at our government. That’s me being topical.

Presently, I’ve noticed that the girls with whom I work have devoted 95 percent of their brains to boys. Of that 95 percent, 30 percent of the brain activity is given to Justin Bieber. The remaining 5 percent is for drawing things on their arms.

For boys, the brain is divided into just four equal quarters: (1) making funny noises with their mouths, (2) Taco Bell, (3) touching things they’re not supposed to be touching until these things break, and (4) making up stories in which they accomplished superhuman feats of daring. Again, most of my friends have not really matured past this point.

Anyway, this girl did eventually end up getting the boy to ask her to the stomp. I believe the tactic she used was telling him to ask her, or she would hide his backpack in the girls’ bathroom.