I don’t remember the conversation stipulating this rule. But I was well aware of its existence.
People always assume I must have broken it several times.
In fact, I did not.
Mum and dad only had 3 rules. So it was easy enough to follow them.
- Don’t pierce your nose without my permission (I was told I could get it done when I turned 15, so I had an end goal in sight)
- You must not be home past 11pm
- Boyfriends are not allowed.
I did ask why, of course I did.
The reason made sense, even at the time, and even though it frustrated me to no end.
The reason I was given was, “because it’s important for you to know how to interact with boys, make friendships with boys, and establish non-sexual relationships with boys so they can respect you for the person you are” (or something along those lines, anyway…)
I never broke the rule.
Not unless you counted Max* (name changed to protect non-Max’s identity).
Our “relationship” lasted for 2 weeks, the entire time giving me mass amounts of paranoia that mum would find out.
We simply stood, viced together, him behind me, through every recess and lunch, both looking out onto the basketball court, before I caved one day and blurted out I wasn’t actually allowed to have a boyfriend, and that we should probably just break up.
Although I don’t remember the formalities by which the no-boyfriend rule was placed, I do remember the day mum announced she and dad were lifting it.
It was a nondescript afternoon after school.
I was in year 10.
I was walking up the 3 steps from the loungeroom and she stopped me saying something as casual as, “dad and I have decided that you’re old enough, and if you want to have a boyfriend, that’s ok with us.”
I wasn’t as excited as you’d expect me to be.
You see, just like my friends who had been dating since grade 5 now didn’t know how to act around boys in a non-sexual and non-romantic way, I now didn’t know how to act around boys in such a way.
Yes – I recognise these are broad generalisations.
But for the entire duration of my time at high school, I was the ‘best mate’ girl.
The girl who was allowed in on the ‘boy chat’.
The girl who the boys would talk to about their crush; and who the girls would send in undercover to scope out which one of them would be successful with said crush.
Without sounding like a Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder if this rule had helped or hindered my romantic prospects.
15 years on, and I still can’t decide.
My first boyfriend was at the age of 21.
It ended in a spectacular fashion of shattered hearts, questionable self-worth issues, and tub loads of Ben and Jerrys.
Just as most first relationships do.
And since then, my relationships have been few and far between.
Did this rule allow me to learn to love myself, to learn to be on my own?
Or did it stop me from learning the lessons that we usually learn in the initial romantic relationships we find ourselves in throughout our teen years?
Did the no-boyfriend rule teach me to connect with males on a platonic level?
Perhaps it is just a comfort to me, to blame my lack of love interests on the no-boyfriend policy, instead of taking responsibility for my actions.
What is my desired outcome for the article?
The jury is out.
I am not here to tell you to forbid your daughter from dating in her teens, because it opened my eyes to a world where I knew my value, my worth, and how I should be treated.
These were still lessons I had to learn the hard way.
I am also not encouraging you to push your daughter into dating in her teen years, if this is something that has little interest to her.
I did, now and even at the time, see the value behind the intention of the no-boyfriend rule.
What I am saying, however, is that instead of a blanket rule, let’s open the conversation further.
Let’s talk about what a respectful relationship should look and feel like.
Let us discuss with our daughters the area of grey in relationships, the non-negotiables and the value of compromise.
Let us teach our daughters that a male perspective is often valuable, functional and practical, and there is nothing greater than the love and support of a purely platonic relationship with a male friend.
Talk about the fact that relationships are not, in fact, 50/50, that they are in reality 100/100; each person turning up complete, whole and ready to give.
Let’s discuss the myriad relationships a person can have, open, closed, homosexual, and every shape and size in between.
The goal here is open and honest communication.
The goal here is choosing love.
The goal here is assuring your daughter that she is enough, and if she believes in this from the beginning, the right relationships (romantic and platonic) will find their way to her.
Can this be achieved by a no-boyfriend policy?
The jury is still out.
Written by Bianca Sciessere from The Big Sister Experience