Westermarck-ed


When I was a freshman in high school, I had a new crush like every week. Frank, Justin, Jared, a different Justin, Mike, and a million more I can’t remember. The trend continued into my sophomore year as well. My English teacher, whom I adored because she actually encouraged my crushes (for instance, when we were reading Romeo & Juliet, and we read out loud in class, she assigned Luke to Romeo and me to Juliet, knowing that I was into him), told me I was boy crazy.

I had to explain to her that A. there were a million worse things I could be, and B. this was pretty much my first real exposure to boys.

I went to a small Catholic school from grades K-8. So for nine – 9 – years, it was me and the same 27 kids. Me and the same 16 boys for just shy of a decade. In high school… There were over 800 new boys to look at! Of course I was going to be eyeballing someone new every day.

 

So many boys, so little time...

 

Now I know what it really was: I was Westermarcked!

The Westermarck Effect basically states that people who are raised together, particularly during the formative years prior to age five or six, will become desensitived to any kind of attraction to each other. This is why Freud is kind of debunked. The idea that boys want to sleep with their mothers (and girls, their fathers) strikes men and woman as the silliest thing they’ve ever heard. There may be a personality attraction (the reason a lot of guys and gals end up with spouses who are very similar to their opposite sex parent). Any kind of physical attraction, no. This is why, when someone tells me my brother is hot, I throw up in my mouth a little bit.

This is also applicable to non-related people, obviously, like adopted kids. In addition, in peer groups like the kibbutz,  children are raised in a communal peer group based on age. A study of the marriage patterns of these kids later in life revealed that out of the thousands marriages that occurred across the kibbutz system, only fourteen were between kids who were raised in the same peer group. Also, in some traditional Chinese families, young girls will be adopted into households to later be married off to their sons. When they become older and are then of marrying age, the kids are strongly opposed to the union, and those marriages are more likely to end, be childless, or deal with adultery.

On the flip side, blood relatives who were not raised together run the risk of being attracted to each other. Like the episode of Private Practice, where the couple was having a hard time trying to have a child, later to find out that they were brother and sister. Now, that, I can begin to wrap my head around. Long lost father and daughter, one of whom seeks the other one out and they are completely aware of their blood relationship from day one… Just disgusting.

But I digress. Going back to the nine years spent in close proximity to those boys, it basically made them like brothers to me, or at least cousins. We’re talking about every waking moment of those seven hours. So, yes, while that amounts to just under a third of the day in total, when taking into consideration that another third was spent sleeping so doesn’t really count, I was really spending half of my day with them. On the bus, in the classroom, at lunch, on the playground. In a way, it might as well have been an all-girls school.

On that day in ’96, when I first made my way through the hallways in a school where my freshman class alone was almost twice the size of my entire grammar school, how did you expect me NOT to notice every attractive boy that existed? And let’s not get into the budding sexual nature. Catholic repression and brainwashing – it’s a mean thing.

So here I am, finally allowed to wear a skirt short enough that you can actually prove I have kneecaps and not be made to feel like that’s wrong. Finally allowed to wear nail polish in any other color than clear, and lip gloss with shine and color as well. Make-up! Oh, the make-up! I had finally reached a point where I could go out of my way to enhance my assets, and in doing so, was able to acknowledge those of others too. That guy in those jeans, with his great butt. This guy in the fitted tee, showing off his arms. Every corner I turned, every classroom I walked into, there was someone new to look at, an appreciate in all their fine, adorable, sexy, hot, cute glory.

I took one of my old grammar school classmates to the Homecoming dance as my date junior year. Although there was a fleeting attraction to him (he went to a different school, so after two years of not seeing him I realized that he was in no way hard on the eyes – in addition, he didn’t join our class until 3rd or 4th grade), which is what made me invite him in the first place, once the night actually came to be, dancing with him felt like dancing with my cousin at my aunt’s wedding in which we walked the aisle together. Basically, that old Westermarck Effect was still going strong.

So, boy-crazy? Can you really blame a girl? I was in my identity-forming years, and during that time, finding out what I liked (the answer? Pretty much nothing that I encountered there, but that’s not the point) and found attractive. It only made sense that my tastes would change, and my interest be as fleeting at that of a cat: I only had four years to check out over a thousand guys. Boy-crazy? Nay. I prefer multitasking.

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About Melissa Limasse

| Real name - Yeah right | Location – The State of Being | Worth - $2,425,486 | Education – B.A. Sociology and Psychology, A.As. in Criminal Justice | Single, childless, and completely satisfied with both, Ms. Limasse doesn’t fit into the traditional “female” mold. Most people would say she’s intimidating. Anything that she says here she has most likely already said out loud View all posts by Melissa Limasse

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