The Mating Circle

Monday, February 28th, 2011

The Assistant Village Idiot describes The Mating Circle, the large collection of teenagers congregating between the doors and the parking lot (at his church):

It is both appalling and charming, really. They can’t seem to help it. They just do this. Like cranes or marmots or Red Handed Howler Monkeys, as soon as they become sexual able, regardless of whether they are conscious of any sexual interest, human children start displaying their genetic fitness and access to resources by leaping around, exposing flesh, banging into each other, and trying to exclude others.

To those who immediately protest that there are other, less primitive qualities being displayed, I roll my eyes. Yes, of course this is an oversimplification, a cynical prism with which to view Princess and Junior. But as we spend our entire conversation about youth discussing them through the prism of encouraging responsibility, and planning for the future, and instilling values — as if they were reasonable creatures instead of those who we would make reasonable — can we just take a moment to drop the polite pretense that we use to try and instruct them and face what we are really up against? They just fall into this frightening behavior and they are completely unaware of it.

There was a South Park episode (Season 6: Episode 10) in which Bebe is the first girl to develop breasts, and suddenly all the boys in the neighborhood are playing outside her house, bashing each other, competing, acting like orangutans — and they have no idea why. They just do. The South Park creators are still politically correct enough to portray Bebe as having considerable insight into what is going on, but this is ludicrous. Anonymous, commenting on my Where Have All The Good Women Gone? post, described a young girl with half a skirt as if she knew what was up. Doubtful.

Think of her as a type of wren. She does this, and she doesn’t know why. This is why girls argue with their mothers — well, some mothers, anyway (I hold the mom in that comment more responsible). The mother looks and says “You are communicating to every male of our species “I want to mate.” The daughter responds in outrage that this is not so, she is just trying to be fashionable, so as not to be unpopular. To her, the general social minimum, set by the other young wrens in the flock, means that she absolutely cannot dress like her mother. She does not see her own mating display, she sees that it is far less than those Other Girls, who she disapproves of as much as you, Mother.

Also boys, crashing into trees for no apparent reason, BTW. Same thing. And it strikes long before actual puberty, when they still find girls icky. Nature prompts them to display pre-heroic behavior as a warmup for horrible societies in which 14 year old boys actually do have to be heroic.

I’m about to bring the water level up to the throat, boys and girls, so those of you young ‘uns who feel you have seen through this and are above it, beware.

The Mating Circle is also a Social Circle, of course, which is what makes it complicated. The social circle aspect pushes you to fit in with your age cohort, which in historical terms is as important as fitting in with your family and the larger society — maybe more. When your life expectancy is 40 and no one has enough to leave an inheritance, the people who you will go into battle with, or work with, or bear your children in the company of, or will still be alive when you take sick at age 25 and your kids are still under 10, are a more precious resource than the parents who are telling you that your skirt is too short or the swimming hole is dangerous. Fit in, but stand out. It’s hard to be young, and parents who see that your biological imperatives have to be modified for a society that requires you to pass algebra don’t simplify it. We battle against mighty forces.

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