The first time I was assigned a romantic partner based on hair color, I was five. His name was Cody, and we were both blonde. Obviously, it was meant to be. I retaliated by declaring my intention to marry another boy, one with brown hair, and spent the next several years fiercely defending a crush based more on spite than attraction.
The second time I was assigned a romantic partner based on hair color, I was fifteen. His name was Devin, a church friend, and it wasn’t the first time I’d had to convince someone that was all he was. It took me a week to reassure a friend with a crush that she wasn’t getting between anything, and I nearly hated him, I think, by the time she believed I wasn’t in love.
The hair color incident, though, took place several months later, after his romance with my friend had flourished, then immediately crashed and burned, the way long distance relationships between high schoolers, based on a single meeting, tend to do. It was New Year’s Eve, and our church was holding an all-night event with two others. Devin and I were on nursery duty, with a dozen small children, loud and far too energetic at midnight, none of whom we’d met before.
The culprit was a little boy, four or five, very cute.
Not cute enough to pull a stunt like that.
Of course, when he realized that I was fifteen, and Devin still only fourteen, he came to his senses and saw that it would never work—apparently you have to be compatible in age as well as hair color. A narrow escape, but Devin, I nearly kissed you then and there—spite, again. I don’t like being told who I’m allowed to be with, even by preschoolers.
I don’t like to be told what to do in general (a source of great conflict between me and precocious young cousins), but about my love life, happily nonexistent, I get particularly testy.
I recently went with a male friend to Scandinavia, and I cannot count the number of times the following conversation occurred.
“So you’re here with your girlfriend?”
“Oh. Your sister, then.”
At this point the questioner stares at us with an expression of blank confusion, and I take a casual step behind Jamie. When men begin this interrogation, I always get the impression there’s one more question they’re dancing around: “Hey, dude, are we gonna have a problem if I bang this chick against a train station wall and have my way with her?”
It’s not that I’m scared of these men—I have a one inch blade in my pocket, and can use it to kill someone in three different ways. Not that I’ve ever tried. But they’re a nuisance, with all of their assumptions. I am travelling with Jamie, therefore I must in some way belong to him. It is not a problem I expected to encounter outside a work of historical fiction.
So, a note to all those who have ever suggested I am or ought to be dating my friends, whether you are other friends, small children, or creepy Norwegian men: No, he is not my boyfriend. I don’t care how old he is, and I do not care about the color of his hair. No, he is not my brother, or my boyfriend, and no, you cannot be my boyfriend instead.
No, I do not have a boyfriend. No, I do not want one.
Maybe if I dyed my hair purple, there would be no one left to set me up with.