When I was 11, I decided I had a crush on Robby B., whom I now suspect I targeted because he was neither popular nor an outcast and therefore might consent to "go with" me. In the style of the age, I asked my best friend to tell him during recess that I liked him. His response, as reported by my courier: She's too smart for me. I felt a pang of embarrassment, then shrugged it off and returned to my game of foursquare. He was right, after all; in fact, my embarrassment was due less to the rejection and more to the feeling of having been exposed for being so eager to have a boyfriend of any sort that I'd deign Robby B.--who wasn't even an Advanced Reader!--worthy of my attention.
I reported the exchange to my mother, who did her best to assume a nonchalant tone as she asked, "How did that make you feel?" "I don't care" was my exact response, I believe--and except for that slice of embarrassment, it was true. Yet I could see the concern in her eyes; I could feel her holding her breath, waiting for me to break down over the shackles of my smart-girl label.