Hipster Tween is home from her father’s for a few days (she lives with me during the school year) and she’s been trying to set up a sleepover with one of her friends. C, who is a girl, is currently “5 hours north of Madison”. Hipster Tween, not to be deterred, texted her friend, M, who is a boy. M just sent a screenshot of his text discussion with his mother that said (verbatim): “Boys and girls your age do not do sleepovers. That’s that.”
Hipster Tween is 11. M is either 11 or 12. What on earth does M’s mother imagine they are going to do on a sleepover? Does she have something against watching YouTube video game playthroughs?
Besides that, M is Hipster Tween’s friend. Even if she were 16, friend = friend. I’m not being deliberately naive here, but I respect Hipster Tween’s definitions of her relationships. I trust her. And besides, SHE IS 11.
On the one hand, I’m really peeved at M’s mother for sexualizing Hipster Tween’s relationship with M. I’m disgusted that somebody would presume to choose to whom Hipster Tween would (eventually) be attracted. I’m aware that I’m hypersensitive to the sexualization of children, but I personally think this is crap. When I texted to Hipster Tween that I thought M’s mother’s reaction to the sleepover was stupid, she replied, “it’s like ?? boys are gross no”.
On the other hand, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when M’s mother tries to explain what she meant by the above statement. Is she going to tell M that he can’t have a sleepover with his friend (who happens to be a girl, at least today) because they might have Teh Sex?
I feel that attitudes like M’s mother’s are partly responsible for the demonization of healthy friendships between the sexes. Hipster Tween can’t have a sleepover with her guy friend, who hasn’t even reached puberty, because his mother thinks shenanigans might ensue. If that’s the case, then how does she explain that to her son, for whom that might not even be a concept? She is the one who is sexualizing their relationship, not him. And perhaps now M won’t be able to be the same sort of friend to Hipster Tween because of his mother’s attitude towards a mixed-gender friendship. It’s the Romeo and Juliet Syndrome, and it makes Hipster Tween and M’s friendship seem like something they should be furtive or worried about.
Furthermore, all this could be avoided with some supervision. Sure, have the sleepover, only make sure the door is left open a crack, or a wedge, or check on them every 15 minutes if that’s what you need to do. I live in a 4-room apartment, so leaving the door open even a crack is enough for me to know what’s going on.
But don’t put your presumption on the kids. It makes them guilty while they’re still innocents.
Image: can we have a sleepover? by derekrowley is licensed under the Creative Commons – Attribution license.