There is no boy . . . that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education. If I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the President of the United States.
— Michelle Obama
I love these words from our First Lady. I believe they argue in favor of locking my daughter in her room next year instead of sending her to a co-ed middle school. And I like thinking about the boys that young Michelle LaVaughn Robinson sent packing so she could work on her own self, and pursue her dreams. But primarily I love these words because they hit so close to home.
I have always worried entirely too much about who liked me and who thought I was cute. From kindergarten until about ten minutes ago, these have been overarching themes in my ridiculous life. When I was five, I wondered why this boy named Steve chased Tracy and Tammy during recess more than he chased me. At eleven, I let this other boy, Todd, cut in line in front of me every week on pizza day. In seventh grade, I remember walking hallways that were not on the way to my Honors Science class just to catch a glimpse of my crush outside wood shop. And I can’t even begin to quantify how many hours of my high school career were devoted to which boy would accompany me to which dance and what dress I would wear. At the time, it all seemed so fantastically important. I would have defended my behavior as totally normal. I mean so what if I snuck out of the Smithsonian field trip to buy sunglasses from a street vendor with my almost boyfriend? Didn’t everybody?
But looking back, I see the consequences so clearly. I see myself playing dumb, flirting, turning my Biology test paper face down on my desk so no one would see how well I had done. I believed that being brainy made me less interesting to the boys. And truthfully, it probably did. But I wish someone had told me that did not matter at all. I wish someone had told me not to call boys pretending not to know what the Math assignment was, and not to waste my hours dedicating Milli Vanilli songs to them on the radio. Probably lots of people told me to leave the boys alone – my mom, my grandma, my best friend. But I feel like if I had heard those words from a woman like Michelle Obama, maybe, just maybe, I might have listened.
Let’s do right by our girls. They can have their occasional crush, but let’s embolden them to dream bigger, and not let foolish lads distract them from their golden paths. The boys can chase them later if they like, but for now, let’s just get them strong, and wise, and beautiful, and see how fast our girls can run.