A couple of weeks ago my little ward took me to her local piscine. She is enviously proficient in the water and took great pleasure in correcting my front crawl (I have the technique of a toddler). I was trying to concentrate on her instructions but the strapping lifeguards patrolling the poolside were proving to be a distraction so she gave up and launched into a synchronised dance whilst I attempted to find a sexy way to tread water. Alas, next to an adolescent aqua nymph, I feared my uncoordinated splashing would do little to impress the finely honed athletes. Finally, after my ward had challenged me to an underwater summersault contest, one of the Olympians blew his whistle and told us to get out of the way of the grown ups doing lengths.
We retreated to the children’s pool and, with our feet firmly on the ground, we relaxed against the side. Suddenly, my ward looked over her shoulders to check the coast was clear, then whispered, ‘I want to ask you something.’ I smiled at her to go on. ‘It’s just that all the boys who like me are the ones that I don’t like. Why is that?’ ‘That is one of life’s greatest mysteries,’ I waved my hand helplessly. ‘The ones you don’t want won’t leave you alone whilst the ones you do will be impossible to get. Always.’ I paused and narrowed my eyes at her, ‘By “like”, you mean like right?’ She nodded and I gasped: I’d always assumed she was the sweet and innocent type.
Of course, it was inevitable that she would be corrupted by the opposite sex eventually and, once I got over the initial shock, I was delighted that she wanted to share her romantic troubles with me. Mind you, as she reeled off the names of all the boys trying to court her, it occurred to me that she really didn’t have much to worry about. Obviously, the one she wanted was a moody bad boy. But it sounded like even he was putty in her hands. ‘If he likes you,’ I advised, ‘then tell him that you like him back.’ She shook her head adamantly. ‘Okay, if you can’t face doing it then get your friend to tell him. That will give him the confidence to approach you. Just be straight with him. No games.’
The following week, she ushered me into her lounge excitedly. ‘He asked me,’ she said, jumping on the spot. I frowned. ‘Jonas?’ she rolled her eyes. I squealed and joined her in the jumping. ‘My friend talked to him in registration and at break time he asked if I would I like to be his girlfriend. Go out with him. Do boys say that in England?’ ‘Sure they do… when they’re fourteen.’ I felt a sudden pang for the days when it was all so simple. ‘Anyway, you said yes, right?’ ‘I said I need time. For thinking.’ I raised my eyebrows, ‘Playing hard to get?’ ‘No. It’s just that there is this other boy…’ Another boy? I sighed and sat down heavily on the sofa. She sat on the armchair beside me. Arno was, by all accounts, less good looking but funnier and he was suddenly making a play for her affections.
When she had finished explaining, I grabbed her by the hand, ‘Now listen to me, I am wise… Okay, I am older than you and I won’t let you make the same mistakes. Last week, when he was “a challenge”, you wanted Jonas. Now he wants you and you’re not sure. This is human nature. But although the grass may suddenly look greener elsewhere it’s not, believe me.’
We decided to resolve the contest by methodically measuring up the credentials of the two suitors. We logged into Facebook. When it came to looks, there was no comparison: obviously Jonas was a tad too young for me - at the moment - but by teenage standards he was seriously hot. I then squinted at Arno's thumbnail. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s a nice lad but funny isn’t everything. I clicked back to the hottie. ‘Go for this one,’ I commanded. She looked at the gelled black hair, blue eyes and dimples. ‘You are right,’ she eventually nodded, ‘I do love Jonas.’ ‘Not love,’ I corrected, ‘like, you like Jonas.’ ‘No,’ she replied firmly, ‘I love him.’ ‘No, like.’ She looked confused, ‘LOVE.’ ‘Fine, you love him,’ I conceded reluctantly, given that she had been considering dumping him only moments earlier I thought her on shaky ground, ‘but you’re not in love with him, not yet.’ She cocked her head, ‘In love?’ I tried to think of a way to explain the difference using rudimentary English and gave up instantly. She’d understand one day.
Going back to FB, I showed her my latest French fancy. ‘He is also good looking,’ she said approvingly. ‘You love him?’ ‘Oh yes,’ I sighed, ‘but there’s no hope, he’s not like that. He’s just for fun.’ ‘You are a bad girl,’ my ward giggled. I didn’t see any point in denying it. ‘Oh, don’t look so worried! I am a bad girl too,’ she tried to make me feel better. ‘And it’s good to be bad,’ she winked at me.