In kindergarten I was too pre-occupied with smelling rubber cement and learning how to write “MER” in blue crayon all over my crafts to pay attention to boys. And now, I feel like I have somehow summed up a lot of questions about the things that go on in my mind sometimes with the beginning of this post…

When I got to first grade the only thing I remember putting a lot of energy into was figuring out what I wanted to bring to show and tell for the week. Turns out, a roomful of 7- year-olds in the early 90’s enjoy things like power rangers, slap bracelets and the newest flavor of lip-smackers.  NOT dead animal skins from my dads hunting days. However, I did have one boy whisper to me on the playground that he liked my raccoon hat and that I was weird. I always tried to sit on the opposite end of the carpet as him from that point on.

In second grade boys angered me. Mostly because poking fun at my name became one of the few communicative vehicles I would experience at the age of 8. No worries though. My sisters and I had no problem beating the crap out of each other to resolve conflict; I just applied the same survival instincts to Travis Johnson. I will never forget chasing him under the monkey bars, pushing him down on the ground and punching him. I’m sure he never will either. Though it stopped the insults, it also sparked a very juvenile attraction. Who knew beating up a boy would make him fall in love. He started leaving me granola bars in my desk on a weekly basis and then collected every piece of banana laffy-taffy he could find and gave them to me on the last day of school. It seemed the more I ignored him, the more he tried to get my attention.

Then third grade rolled around and I found myself with a training bra, a love of Snoop Dogg and several major crushes. Thanks to my incredibly hunky gym teacher, Mr. Webb, at 9-years-old I discovered my attraction to height and the way to my heart: parachute cat and mouse. I still don’t think I’ve ever experienced as much joy as I did on the days when he’d get that huge rainbow-colored parachute out and me and my classmates would chase each other around.  I was a small, cunning and fast little thing back in those days and I held the record for the longest time it took me to be caught. I was extremely proud of this, but terribly arrogant as well. One day Jonathan, a kid with a buzz cut, glasses and obsession with striped shirts picked me to be the mouse. I stood up, threw my shoulders back, smiled and dove under the parachute when the whistle blew. BAM. in less than 15 seconds Jonathan caught me. I was piiiiiiissssssssssed. I think it took me the rest of the school week just to get over the shock of losing my God status in cat and mouse.

After that, Jonathan started writing me notes. And giving me his honey butter at lunch. And sitting next to me during class reading time. And telling me I could copy his math homework. And using my name in every game of M.A.S.H.T. And staring at me in choir. There were days that I liked the attention, but most days I was severely annoyed. In the beginning I thought I could just ignore him, however it was the start of a new school year and I knew I couldn’t endure months of the suffocation. So, I pretended to have a crush on another boy in our class, Jeremiah. Another kid with a buzz cut, glasses and love of stripes. I thought maybe Jonathan would stop bothering me if he saw my attention diverted somewhere other than correcting everyone’s spelling.

Oh Mercedes, you are so very dumb. Pretending to like a boy is bad karma. Because you know what happens? Instead of the boy running from you as most boys do when you show interest without a chase, this one acted like he got a hold of a handle of love potion No. 9. Add the element of competitions: Now I had two nerds following me around, trying to out-do the other and win my affection; I was in over my head. I tried going to my best friends for help, but they didn’t share my worries. Nope. They were actually cultivating relationships. Holding hands, going to co-ed birthday parties and belting out the lyrics to Boyz II Men break-up songs because of legit romantic woes. My only source of advice were the middle schoolers on the bus ride home. Sigh…though I appreciate the clarification of the term “tonsil hockey”, they gave me shit for actual advice. I think they just liked the fact that I willingly subjected myself to their games of truth or dare. FYI: Blue pixie sticks are the worst to snort and there is nothing attractive about looking like you just snorted smurf cocaine. I am also terrified of fake eyeballs due to witnessing one roll down the aisle of the bus.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I had one option: write these boys a letter. I came home one day after school, sat down with my Lisa Frank stationary and laid it out.

Dear Jonathan,

I play a lot of softball and I don’t see myself ever asking you to come to a game. Also, my dad told me I can’t date until I’m 18 and I can’t shave my legs until I’m 15 and I can’t wear make-up until I go to middle school. You also cried when the dogs died in where the red fern grows and spelled chlorophyll wrong on the test I graded. I’m sorry.


Dear Jeremiah, 

I have two sisters that are twins. You have a brother and he’s your twin. I’m really mad at you for taking my feliz navidad solo at Christmas when I got strep throat. I’m sorry.


And there you have it. Classic “it’s me not you”. Actually, not really. But, I eventually got to that point.

5th and 6th grade were pretty non-eventful years. But then 7th grade hit and from that point on, I began honing my friendzoning skills. I took more of a humble approach during that time and pretty much tried to make myself look like a crazy person to get boys to leave me alone. This backfired when the boys that I really did like heard about some of the retarded crap that came out of my mouth. Oh well, their loss. However, I would like to personally apologize to Justin G. I’m sorry I dishonestly friend-zoned you with the explanation of you being “too nice” for me. Truth is, you were too nice, but Nick H. bought me a rose and sang me a song on our field trip to the Fox Theater and I know you know my weakness for music and flowers.

Through the years I have learned that honesty is the best policy and the sooner you make the shift, the better it is for both parties. But the most important of all, is combining the honesty and timing with finesse. Boys oddly have feelings too and we need to try to be as respectful as we can while remaining assertive enough for them to get the picture. Unless they are a douche-bag and say things like “Then why did you come over to my house” after you turned them down repeatedly for sex. Then you just tell them straight to their faces that they are disrespectful jerks.