Middle School Dating

Before we get to our main article, get excited! Here's a pop quiz for you! Don't worry, it has only 1 question:

What does "dating"/"going out" mean?

a. It's mostly a label - it just expresses that you really like each other.
b. It's when two people who have a "crush" on each other start talking more often, in person, on the phone, in text/social media.
c. It's when two people become an official couple - like "boyfriend and girlfriend," kiss, and go out on dates like the movies or school dances.
d. It's when two people who have romantic feelings for each other begin spending time together with plans to get married and be together forever.

Scroll down for the answer.

ANSWER: I DON’T KNOW! You tell me!

Seriously, please tell me. Write to me on the message board "What is Dating in Middle School?" With your help, maybe I can write a better article in the future!

So. If there isn't even one certain meaning of "going out," the issue becomes confusing before anything even happens! When I was in middle-school, "going out" could mean any or all of these things -- from two people making it public that they especially like each other but who don’t do anything really romantic, to a flirty friendship, all the way to a serious relationship with planned dates outside of school and maybe some kind of physical intimacy, such as kissing or cuddling, and, for a small percentage of middle-schoolers, more serious physical intimacy.

At a time of life when being "normal" seems like the most important thing in the world, a middle-schooler can feel huge pressure to start doing whatever is "normal" in the dating world. You may also be developing "crushes" -- romantic feelings for someone that can be intense -- and not know what to do with those feelings.

Matters of dating and intimacy are sensitive. They are very personal and often something we'd like to keep private. It can be incredibly embarrassing to have these sensitive feelings known or criticized by other people, but at the same time we want to feel accepted and normal, like we have the "right" feelings and behavior. With this emotional storm blowing around inside us, it can be hard to figure out what we need and how to make decisions that work for us, with a minimum of embarrassment!

All of my female friends, including myself, have experienced the pressure, anxiety, excitement and confusion that come with the time of life when people start "going out," usually in middle school. And years later, after high school and college and even having children of their own, my friends still remember difficult moments from middle-school, usually involving a boy.

In the quiz below, you will step into the place of a few of my friends in real stories from their middle-school years (I have changed their names to protect their privacy). While reading the questions, picture yourself into the story and think about what you would do, and then pick the answer that you think is best for you.

I can tell you now: my friends really did some of the things you might think are NOT the best answers, but please try not to judge them: They did the best they could in difficult situations, just like you would, and they have learned a lot from their experiences.

Ready for the quiz?

Meg was super-excited to be invited to a party with all the coolest kids in 7th grade. But when someone yelled, "Let’s play Spin-the-Bottle!" she started to get reeeeally nervous. She felt her heart pounding as she slowly joined the rest of the kids in a circle on the floor. She had never kissed anyone, and was totally embarrassed at the idea of having her first kiss in front of everyone, terrified they’d be able to tell it was her first time. Looking around, she couldn't imagine kissing any of these boys. As someone in the group searches for a bottle for the game, Meg’s mind is racing. Meg should:

Shelby and her friend Jayda go to the roller rink every Friday to hang out and skate. Recently, Jayda started going out with a guy named Chris, and they always try to set her up with Chris's friend, Mike. While Jayda and Chris go off alone, they leave Shelby with Mike, who always tries to get close to her, and Shelby is not interested. This time, while Shelby and Mike are sitting out on the sidewalk, Mike tells her to "look up at all the stars", and as she looks, tries to kiss her neck. Shelby, feeling uncomfortable, thinks of David, her crush: "If David kissed me, I would really like that." She doesn't want this from Mike, but she doesn't want to hurt his feelings or seem uncool. Shelby should:

Sonia, Jess, and Maria are good friends and in 7th grade. Sonia and Jess have each dated one or two people, and have shared stories about their experiences, while Maria has felt more and more insecure and left out of this new dating scene. When Philip, a cute, new 8th grader, starts coming to their school, he is friendly to all three girls, and Maria wonders if this is her chance to get some dating experience! He seems to like all three girls about the same. Maria talks to her friends about how to approach him, but before she does, Jess starts flirting with him and talking about asking him out. Maria doesn't know what to do. Maria should:

Most of your close friends are now "going out" with someone, and you are not. You've had a few crushes, but you aren't really interested in actually dating any of them and you're not sure if you're ready to date in the first place. The other day, your friends say they think it's weird that you're the only one that hasn't dated anyone, and they say you're being childish. You:

At school, a few of the boys have started to casually touch some of the girls, including you -- for example, touching the girls' hair, tickling them, or just sitting or standing close enough to touch the girl on purpose. Some girls seem to enjoy it, and others seem uncomfortable but don't say anything. It makes you uncomfortable to be touched like this. You:

A boy from another school asks you out. You don't want to go out with him, but you don't want to hurt his feelings. You:

In the last question, suppose you answered honestly and said "I'm not interested, but thanks anyway" to the boy that asked you out. He responds by saying that you're mean and immature if you don't go out with him. You:

For the last few weeks at school, one of the boys in your class starts to follow you around, sometimes asking you to go out with him. You keep saying, "No, thanks" but he doesn't get it and keeps it up. It's getting so that you want to hide from him in the hallways and skip classes you have with him. You:

Your friends hear a rumor that a guy in your class, Chris, has a crush on you, and they are really excited about the idea of "setting you up" with him, but you don't really feel ready for that kind of relationship and so far you have just changed the subject when they bring it up. Today at lunch, your friend asks you if she can talk to him to set up a time for the two of you to hang out.

Recently, one of the cutest guys in your grade asks if he can text you, and you give him your number, thinking the two of you will have fun text conversations and maybe you'll hang out. You exchange a few friendly texts about a basketball game coming up, but last night he texted asking you to take sexy picture of yourself with your phone and send it to him. You've heard of people doing this and it makes you really uncomfortable. You:

You have a major crush on Jared, who is in band with you. You've started to text him a lot more and sit next to him during practice or on the bus whenever you can. Today, you decided it would be nice to give him a hug when you saw him, but instead of hugging you back he gently pushed you away, explaining that he would like to be just friends and that you shouldn't text him so often. You turn bright red, embarrassed and disappointed. You:

People in your class are making sexual jokes around you. It makes you uncomfortable, but everyone always laughs and joins in the joking. You:

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