“What’s up?” I asked suspiciously.
“Nothing really,” she said.
“Well, something’s up. You’re acting weird.”
The Tortoise took a big sigh and then smiled widely.
“Well, there is this boy…”
Trying to avoid eye contact, I stared piercingly into the mirror. I didn’t want to take the chance that she would stop confiding in me. I also didn’t know whether to be happy or anxious that she was old enough to have crushes.
I smiled nervously and listened.
“…he keeps asking me everyday who I like.”
“So – is he asking you if you like a specific boy? Because maybe his friend likes you and is just afraid to tell you himself.”
“Naw, that’s the weird thing. He just keeps prodding me to tell him who I like. He isn’t suggesting anyone in particular.”
“Ah, well, then my guess is that this boy likes you.”
The Tortoise blushed, looking at her feet.
“What if he doesn’t?”
It took me a minute, but I was suddenly seeing this scenario more clearly. She obviously likes him.
“What do you say then?”
“Nothing, I’m too scared to tell him the truth.”
It is quite a dilemma, no doubt. I remember being thirteen and having crushes. Hell, I remember being 18 and 28 and having crushes. I was always everyone’s friend, but never the girlfriend, mostly because I wasn’t confident enough to let my feelings be known. The Tortoise and I talked for a while about her options. Of course, I suggested that he is just as scared of letting her know he likes her too.
“Oh well,” she sighed, “It’s too bad we don’t have the guy’s perspective sometimes. If only I knew he liked me.”
Later that evening, we were enjoying a rare treat of eating dinner together. There are few evenings during the week that everyone is home at exactly the same time. The atmosphere was light and cheerful, the girls were gushing about their busy week and upcoming events.
And then, there was a slight lull in the conversation.
I don’t know what possessed me, but suddenly I blurted out, “The Tortoise needs some advice.”
Yeah, I’m insensitive like that.
The Tortoise shot me a horrified look across the table, “NO! I’m fine, Dad. Really!”
DW smirked and shook his head, “OK, but I’m always here to help.”
A few more silent seconds slipped by.
“Well, maybe you could help,” she said, “just this one time.”
The Tortoise retold her conflict, this time admitting right out, that the reason she hasn’t told this boy who she likes, is because she is embarrassed to say she likes him.
“Why does he keep asking me that same stupid question, Dad?”
DW’s face was very serious. He put down his fork.
“Because boys are just stupid that way. I can tell you without a doubt, that I think he likes you back but is afraid to say anything until he is sure he won’t be rejected.”
The Tortoise blushed and smiled again. I was relieved that DW had come to the same conclusion that I had earlier.
“Besides,” he added, “even if you find out he doesn’t like you, isn’t that better than not knowing at all?”
“OK – so now what do I do?” she asked.
“You could see if he wants to go to the movies with a group of friends or something,” DW said, “I’ll drive.”
“What?” I gasped. Did he just give her permission to go on a group date?
“Really?” The Tortoise said excitedly, “You would do that for me?”
“Sure, after all, you’re going to be in high school next year.”
High school next year. Wow, this really was happening. My little girl wasn’t so little anymore.
DW could sense my mixed emotions and hesitance.
“Or…” he said smiling, “the next time he asks you that question you could say, ‘Quit asking me Stupid! I like you, so shut up and kiss me already!”
The Hare immediately started making kissy-faces and grasping at the air while The Tortoise burst out in laughter.
“Shut up and kiss me. Shut up and kiss me,” sang The Hare over and over.
The Tortoise kept laughing. It was contagious, and pretty soon DW and I were laughing until I had to wipe happy tears off my face. Finally we all caught our breath and started eating dinner again.
“If it’s okay with you, Dad,” said The Tortoise, “I think I’ll just stick with the movie idea.”