Middle Schoolers and romance


Ananya Nukala

Admit it, we all love a good romance novel from time to time.

Sara Baudler cuts deep into the middle school hypothalamus (not literally).

A Monday middle school lunch block found me out on the Circle, aptly circling around, looking for interview subjects. I’d gotten the go-ahead on an article addressing something along the lines of “The Obsession with Obsessive Love,” and was using bad journalistic practice by thinking some bright middle schooler, out there, eating lunch, would give me some perfect line about when and how the romanticization of obsessive love begins.

I sat down with a group of three seventh graders: Caroline Christensen ’27, Vivien Guo ’27, and Emma Li ’27. During our conversation, Guo candidly admitted that she “romanticizes romance” and Christensen said that she finds romantic plotlines in short stories and films where characters “magically fall in love” attractive.

Earlier, I had been talking to Talula Seale ’22, who mentioned her frequent reading of romance novels in her Senior speech early in the fall semester, about her thoughts on “obsessive love.” Seale told me she thought people found “obsessive love” appealing because of its “emotional impact—it’s easy to get really invested in a story with higher stakes and more drama.” She also wondered about the “difference between enjoying stories about obsessive love and [wanting] that kind of love in real life.”

Well, while Guo may “romanticize romance,” she is also carefully critical about how relationships are formed and how they function, noting her distaste for dating apps on the basis of not wanting to form a relationship on “superficial” grounds. Christensen told me that she would rather have a close friendship before any relationship, directly in contrast to what she enjoys in romantic entertainment. And Li doesn’t really value romance right now, saying romance is a “problem for future [her].”

I realized, when I left the conversation, that whatever article I was trying to write was shaping up to be a critique of some “society” only tangential to the Castilleja one. I realized that my lovely readers would be able to read the piece and laugh, too, at someone thinking the whole Catherine and Heathcliff thing was the pinnacle of romance. Critical thinking skills, it would appear, are alive and well in the Castilleja community.

As my article was shifting to exploring how middle schoolers considered romance, English teacher Laura Hansen noted how it would be interesting to gain thoughts on romance from people who haven’t been in relationships or those who haven’t been around lots of people in relationships yet. I thought it would be interesting to consider how these thoughts were shaped.

A few days later, I joined four sixth-graders from the class of 2028, Kanak Vanam, Samayra Srihari, Ellery Nunn, and Sophie Guneri, at Break. Nunn stressed the importance of a “balanced relationship,” saying that some of her ideas of what a good relationship looks like come from her brother and his girlfriend, who have very equal roles in their relationship. Vanam is in contrast to Nunn, saying she would like being “in charge” in a relationship because it would allow her to be more in control. Over time, I think, it will be interesting to see if their outlooks shift.

I talked to a couple of eighth graders about their thoughts on romantic entertainment during one Friday break. They told me that they don’t actively seek out romance in books and can oftentimes find romantic plots so forced they result in second-hand embarrassment. In terms of actual romance, the eighth graders didn’t express any interest in being part of a romantic plot involving overthrowing a corrupt government in a dystopian world or gazing longingly at a green dock light; instead, they talked about picnics and movie dates and holding hands.

And so, I’m led to believe that critical consumption exists in the Castilleja middle schooler and that while many of us may fall head over heels for some kinda weird romantic stuff in entertainment, when it comes to real life, our heads are on pretty straight (or…well…).