Holding Hands: What America Needs Right Now

December 4, 2014 7:43 PM

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I don't know if seventh grade relationships have changed much since I was in middle school in the 1980s. But back then, as we maneuvered around those awkward years of development and floated from group to group looking for our own pack and tried out sports and clubs and navigated changing classes and took foreign language classes and experimented with drama or chorus or band electives, we also started taking notice of the opposite sex. There were dances where we desperately wanted to be noticed nearly as much as we desperately wanted to not be noticed. A slow dance was awkward and jumbled and the two feet of air between you and your partner was charged with the anticipation of this grown-up thing you were doing and you couldn't wait to get back to your group of girlfriends and discuss every minute detail. "Going together" meant not actually going anywhere together, unless you counted walking from homeroom to the cafeteria at lunch or perhaps a group mall trip with friends where you'd cruise the food court and all the guys ended up in the arcade with the girls giggling and watching, maybe going with a safe game like Pac-Man or an attempt at the claw game. Holding hands was the extent of most relationships, with kissing being the goal, but no one quite sure how to get there, especially when so much of your relationship was conducted in the corridors of your middle school. I tended to be the follower girl. The one who would start going with the best friend of the guy my best friend was going with. She was the more confident one getting the more confident guy. Their respective wingmen often getting paired up simply because we'd all be sitting at the same cafeteria table anyway.

I grew up in the south. My parents grew up in Massachusetts. They relocated to North Carolina when I was 5. The entirety of my schooling took place in the un-airconditioned hallways of the Durham County School system. The apartment complex we moved into when we first arrived, and was home until I wa...

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