The peer pressure to have a girlfriend

young man listening to music textured

Kshitij, my friend’s son, 15, is in Class 10 at a reputed co-educational public school in Delhi. The other day I got a frantic call from his father. “Abhay, I want you to take my son under your wing, I want his personality to develop. Can you meet me tomorrow,” he requested, “I’ll tell you everything.”

With great trepidation I went to meet the parents. The problem was very different from what I’d imagined. Kshitij’s ‘problem’ was that at 15 he was yet to have a girlfriend. He was shy and introverted and he had confided in his mother that he felt like a misfit in his peer group. I looked at the parents, not knowing how to react. The funny thing about children and their parents today is that sometimes children take growing up and parents their parenthood too seriously.

So while Kshitij felt not having a girlfriend was because of his overtly shy demeanour and that was a problem, the parents added their own anxieties to their son’s.

The father thought his son was going through depression, the mother felt he needed a personality development course to get himself a girlfriend.

When they told me this, all I could do was remember my time as a tenth grader and smile inwardly.

I was an extremely shy boy and I don’t remember ever sharing my growing up angst with my parents. Attraction to girls was natural and we craved their company but never mustered up enough courage. The concept of dating had still not evolved and I lived in a traditional area of Delhi where other boys would make fun if one was seen talking to a girl, and yet we all craved girlfriends.

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My first real encounter with a girl happened when my class teacher got me to sit with this girl called Simi. Why, I was never sure, but I guess the teacher wanted the boys and girls to mix so that the boy-girl awkwardness could reduce. It was electric for a 14-year-old boy. Sitting close, the accidental touch of her breast while copying notes or standing very close near the teacher’s desk was all a part of the Class 10 excitement and it passed off without much thought or emotional damage. I’m not sure I looked at the whole thing in any kind of physical way.

Nothing much happened in that classroom relationship, we were both awkward in our own ways and in Class 11 both of us moved on to different sections. I also moved from traditional West Delhi to a more cosmopolitan South Delhi with my school bus now having a larger English speaking crowd. This helped me gain confidence in my spoken English, which helped me meet my first crush.

I saw her a couple of times in my school bus. Then one day, she stood with a teacher from the junior school waiting for the bus outside the school and accidentally dropped her bag as I passed. Gallantly I picked it up and handed it to her, to be rewarded with a very sweet smile. I was smitten.

Later when I teased her for always standing next to a schoolteacher, she told me that it was her mother. Oops! What a faux pas. Often we would travel back in the school bus and on other days when she wasn’t there I would think about her.

It was nice having her around and I would look forward to the end of each school day so that I could meet her in the bus back home and we would generally talk on myriad topics.

I would look for excuses to go over to her house to be with her. Looking back it seems so foolish, but one Diwali I actually dressed up and drove my dad’s scooter up and down her lane hoping to catch a glimpse of her and maybe get myself invited to her house. However, the effort went in vain. Quite a few times I accompanied her back after school functions that ended late.

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But I could never get around to expressing my feelings to her. This carried on till we left school.

We went our separate ways and much later after we had both married and become parents we met again and hugged.

I wondered if things would have changed if we’d hugged when we were 15.

PS: Kshitij is now sitting next to a girl, Aditi, in his class. He was very excited about her at our last counselling session.

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