Flames was a big time- pass when we were tweens. The game that collapsed to F=Friend, L=Love, A=Adore,M=Marriage,  E=Enemy, S=sister caught popular frenzy as scores of hormonal teens in 6th  and 7th grade bent over the last pages of their notebooks doing and redoing tally marks with names of their opposite sex as if hoping for a different outcome everytime.

When we were twelve , it was as if a switch had been turned on. Suddenly we discovered BOYS. And I don’t just mean me. Everyone in my 7th standard class was suddenly having a crush, gossiping about someone else’s crush (teasing, we called it) or denying that gossip, while secretely doubting their own intentions. We all had a simultaneous ‘eureka’ moment-our homones seemed to bubble onto the surface as suddenly as boiling milk. It was all harmless fun- the most anyone would do was flirt shamelessly or hold hands in ice-cream parlours (this was before Barista) feeling very very blasphemous all the time. We thought our moms would have killed us if they found out.

Life has come a full circle. Recently at a birthday party, a young man asked my daughter to dance with him. She innocently agreed and they started jiving haltingly on a popular number. Then one of her friends whispered something to her.

‘No! We are just friends!’ my daughter refuted heatedly, throwing a fervent look at me in the corner. I smiled at her and pretended to be oblivious. Relieved, my daughter immediately dropped the boys’ hand and stalked off the dance floor.

I had once resolved that I would never be as removed from my daughter’s life as my Mom was from mine. At my time of course parents never talked about boys except to warn you that they were devils out to destroy your honour. And sex was out of the question- all your hormonal urges were taboo, unclean and impure. Anything but natural.

I had resolved that the moment my daughter and her friends showed first signs of ‘boyfriend awareness’, I would sit her down and explain to her how this was all natural and biological and not confusing. That she should not fight it but be smart about handling it. That having boyfriends was ok as long as you are firm about your limits and your choices. Eventually we would have ‘THE TALK’ too. It was all cool.

So now that her friends were already ‘teasing’ her about a boy, maybe it was time for phase one of ‘boy talk’, right?

There was just one  problem. My daughter, Khushi is just five years old.

My knee-jerk reaction is shock and anger. Comments such as ‘you are too young for this’. ‘When you grow up, I will tell you’, ‘Stay away from boys, you don’t know what they are like’ etc. come to mind. In short, my first reaction was to be my Mom.

I am the 90’s kid, so I have seen the world shift before my eyes like an Transformer alien changing form within seconds. It’s funny how fast things changed. When I was in school none of us had boyfriends.Yet just five years later when I was passing out of college, every 10th grade girl in my school had one or had already broken off with one. Many girls confessed that they really didn’t even like the guy they were dating, but they ‘had to have’ a boyfriend.

Of course I know that Khushi is really too young. She really does not understand any of this and neither does the friend who teased her about ‘being in love’ with the dancing boy. A little probing reveals that they think ‘love’ is restricted to loving your parents and teachers, they don’t like boys and find them annoying and boring. Without any exceptions. In all probability they were just mimicking the actions of older children playing around them and ‘teasing’ each other in the playground. Instinctive as kids are, they had picked up the embarassment and excitement associated with the term ‘boyfriend’, but they had not linked it to the how and why of it. So much for puppy love.

So I had a few more years. I breathed a sigh of relief.

There was just one problem. The ‘older’ kids that Khushi was mimicking, were just eight or nine years old. Some were only seven.

I feel the beginnings of a headache. Suddenly I feel really old.