“Hey, how about him?”

I blushed. “No way! He thinks 'Hamlet' is what you eat for Easter dinner!”

“Joe Kimball is really cute.”

“Joe Kimball is a jerk. He thinks he’s so great because he’s captain of the volleyball team, but he called me a dork because I gave ‘Star Wars’ a good review in the school paper.’

They’ve been doing this for weeks now. I sit down with them, and they point out guys who they think are cute or will want to go out with me, and I tell them the same thing I’m telling them now. “Girls, I understand that you want to help, but these guys just don’t interest me.”

“What’s wrong with Jerry Harris?”

“He’s a FRIEND, not my boyfriend! Just because we went to homecoming doesn’t mean we’re dating!”

Patty nudged me and indicated a group of guys who just walked in the door. “What about Eddie and Louie?”

“Eddie’s ok, but he’s a friend, too. We talk about the New York Times in science class when Mr. Peters gets into one of his long lectures about what’s wrong with civilization. Louie scares me, and I don’t think he likes me very much.”

Melissa made a face. “Patty, are you crazy? Louie Murphy doesn’t like anyone! He and his brother slash tires and shoplift from Koy’s Five and Ten all the time! You don’t wanna go out with him!”

I sighed and sipped my milk. These girls are all popular and pretty and I thought they might know something about boys I don’t. I guess I was wrong. They’re nice girls and everything, but all the guys they’ve mentioned are either friends or total idiots or just so boring. If he plays sports, fine. If not, that’s on him. I want someone with a brain that isn’t in his pants. I want a guy I can talk to without feeling awkward.

“Shaun McAllister is nice,” Grace insisted. “He was my lab partner last spring in Chemistry II.”

“I’ve known Shaun McAllister since second grade, and he thinks I have fifteen different screws loose.”

“That’s not true!”

“Most of the boys do.”

“They do not!” protested Patty.

“You just haven’t found the right one yet,” Grace added. “Don’t you ever want to date? Everyone else does. Most of my friends have already had one or two boyfriends.”

“It would be nice, girls, but it’s no big deal if I never go on a date.”

They looked at me like I’d just said they had mushrooms sprouting out of their armpits. “Not want to date?” gasped Patty.

“Don’t you ever want to meet that special guy?” Melissa added.

“Hey, what about romance?” Grace pointed out. “What about love? What about sex?”

I could feel my face getting hotter. “We’re too young for sex.”

“We’re sixteen!” Patty insisted. “I know girls who did it at fourteen!”

“I know girls who did it at thirteen!” Grace chimed in.

I just felt myself turn redder. I finally picked up my tray. “I’ll see you guys later,” I said quickly. “Thanks for letting me join you, but I have to look up something in the library.”

I hurried over to the nearest trash can as the girls all said their goodbyes. The truth is, I’m not ready to date yet. I don’t think I am, anyway. Oh, sure, there are cute guys and guys who are friends, but I’m only sixteen. All the guys I’ve ever met are either idiots who would rather jump into bed and not even try to talk to you, or would rather talk about boring things like wrestling than science fiction or Shakespeare or books.

When I meet the right guy, I’ll date him. I’ll even kiss him. I don’t want to have sex until I’m ready. I know that’s an intimate, special thing, not just something you do with any old person. Most of the kids look at it as freedom. I think the idea of sharing someone else’s bed is sort of weird. Most beds don’t have the room, anyway.

Maybe all the other girls did it at thirteen. I don’t care. I don’t care if I never do it at all. All I want is to find someone for me, when I’m ready.

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