Single in the Suburbs
By Lauralyn Avallone
I'm teaching a publishing class at a local high school. The main assignment the students are given is to create a school newspaper. In the beginning of class, I was met with the usual defenses - it takes a little time for the kids to adjust to a new teacher and class, and to face what their new, added responsibilities are. Now, mid-way through the semester, after computer crashes and missed deadlines, everything is running (somewhat) smoothly. Being a singles writer for a few years now, of course I feel it's an extremely important and worthwhile contribution to a publication. But who would write it?
There was a student from a previous class I had taught who has a real flair for tongue and cheek dos and don'ts for singles, but he didn't have the time to pull something together in time to meet the deadline. That's when I tuned into another student's conversation.
"He is totally on another level," she said, frustratingly. "I don't even think he really trusts me, even though we've been together for years. He says when I go to college we'll probably break up because I'll meet other people. What's wrong with me meeting other people? I've told him to go back and get his GED, but--" she shrugs. "I don't know; he doesn't even have a job."
This particular student vents about her boyfriend quite a bit, and I thought who better to write a column for the school newspaper about relationships than her? I figure she had plenty of issues to write about and I told her that it's quite therapeutic to put your thoughts onto paper. She agreed to the assignment, took her notebook and went to the computer room.
A few minutes later she came back and plopped herself in a chair, looking lost.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Well, I was going to write about the good and bad things about being in a relationship, but I couldn't think of any good."
Some other students, male, start to chime in:
"Someone you could talk to," one says.
"Someone who makes you laugh," a student chirps.
"Someone you could trust, who supports you," another adds.
"Sex!" a few blurt out.
"Intimacy," I respond, but I wonder if at that age they realize the difference between sex and intimacy. Hell, there are people twice their age that can't differentiate between the two.
"Someone you could spend the rest of your life with," a big-hearted kid said.
"Screw that," she said. "I'm only seventeen; I'm not looking to settle down."
Well, at least she has her priorities straight. What I found really sad about the whole discussion about love was when she said, "People keep saying trust is a good thing about relationships. But you can't just trust someone right away. I mean, you can't really trust anyone at all because you never know what they're really thinking or what they're going to do."
I remember feeling that cynical at seventeen, and twenty-five and just last year. I remember thinking with every relationship I found myself in, is this it or am I going to keep on searching? Most likely keep searching because something always came up either in their personality or actions that would make me shy away from the commitment. Let's face it, commitment, whether you're in high school or a CEO, is not always an easy bargain. And sometimes trust does have to be proven for some people to be able to truly relax. Plenty find themselves stuck in a time warp with someone they've been with for years, but have outgrown. Sadly, people can be spiritually, professionally and emotionally outgrown, just like a beloved old shoe that was once comfortable but now feels tight and constrictive. It's hard to move on, it's scary for some to let go.
"Well, look," I end up telling my student. "If you can't write it, you can't write it. You can try the great things about being single, because it seems like you know there are a lot. Just wait until you're in college, you'll find yourself sitting next to some guy in class who totally sweeps you off your feet. He'll be good-looking and smart and everything that you deserve. You and your current boyfriend are having growing pains. It's tough. Why are you with him, anyway?"
"I don't know," she says pensively.
And with that, the little hand struck the big, black number five and it was time for me to let them go and move on to their next class to continue their education, one that supercedes textbooks.