“Mom! Dad! Mom! Dad! Mom! Dad!” our 16-year-old daughter, Anna, sputtered, while jumping up and down in front of us.
“What is it, Anna!” I shouted, half expecting her hair to be on fire.
“He asked me to hang out! He asked me to hang out! He asked me to hang out!” Anna yelled while fist-pumping into the air.
“Who asked you to, to … to hang out, and what do you mean, ‘hang out’ anyway?”
Still surging with pent up excitement, Anna grabbed the arm of the couch, and repeatedly kicked both feet behind her. “Alden! Alden! Alden asked me to hang out!” she answered between donkey kicks.
We already knew all about Alden. In fact, every day for the last few months, we’d been hearing Anna talk about this boy – how cute he was, how he would come to the Art room to talk to her after school, how great the article was that he wrote for the school newspaper, how he was named Athlete of the Week, how he danced with her at the holiday ball, how he kissed her in the theater costume closet, yada, yada, yada.
“Oh,” my husband chimed in, “you mean he finally asked you out on a real date?”
Oh, Geeze. I wish he hadn’t said that. For the next 20 minutes, our daughter rolled her eyes, tsked, and sighed while trying to explain why he was not her boyfriend and they were certainly not going on a date. “We’re just hanging out!” Anna said with one last spasmodic flail of arms and legs, before running off to get dolled up to meet Alden.
Apparently, teen romance as we know it has changed completely. The terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” are now used sparingly, only when two teenagers are very “serious.” Until then, they are referred to as “talking.” When one talking teen asks his corresponding talking teen to go out with him to a restaurant or movie, this is most definitely not a date. Now, this is called “hanging out.”
But be aware that “hanging out” must not be confused with “hooking up” which, thankfully does not mean what it did back in the eighties. Nowadays “hooking up” is a vague term that can be used to describe anything from a mere peck on the cheek, to — God Forbid — all kinds of other acts in which our teenage daughter will not engage unless she wants to be grounded for life. Also, parents should refrain from referring to kissing as “making out,” “mashing,” “frenching,” or “necking,” which teenagers today consider as antiquated as butterfly clips and Beanie Babies.
Anna eventually reappeared in the family room, all glossed up and ready to go on her non-date with her non-boyfriend. My husband drove her to the base gate, and got out of the car to introduce himself to Alden. After shaking hands, Anna’s father looked the boy directly in the eye for a moment, communicating without the need for words that, regardless of what terms teens are using these days, we’ve all been there, and we know exactly what they’re up to.