Tom the Dancing Bug: Twelve-Year-Old Discovers New Gender!



  1. Seriously, what kid is only discovering girls in 8th grade? I was fully aware of girls by middle school, and remember having crushes on girls throughout elementary. This strip seems a little naive, considering I’m sure there we’re kids in my 8th grade class having sex (i mean, not IN class…).

    1. Where did you get “8th grade?” The strip says 7th and 5th. Also, 8th grade is part of middle school, at least in the US.

      1. I’d guess the “twelve years old” bit, translated back into grade level from the poster’s personal experience.

    2. I can say I definitely didn’t ever have any sort of crush before the seventh grade. It’s one of those things which varies a lot among people.

    1. The image WAS linked to the previous comic. I’m not nitpicking, that was an outright error. If that was at all directed at me.

      For some reason this made me think of the Princess Bride wedding scene, “Love, truuuuue love…”

  2. I had crushes on girls in grade school, too. But I didn’t really give a shit about them until around 7th grade. And by 9th grade, they’re all I thought about.

  3. Hmm, I was interested in girls to some degree as early as around second grade. I remember being at the bottom of a jungle gym and being mysteriously intrigued when I looked up and saw a girl wearing underwear with a small hole in it. Nothing showing, but I still had a sense of curiosity about it.

    1. “Curiosity” is different than being “sexualized”.

      Every kid is curious about everything around them. Possessing that hormone-driven gotta-reproduce-with-it is another thing entirely, though. Thanks hormones, for no longer allowing me to just be “curious” about lady parts.

      1. True, although I’m not sure I’d have the same curiosity about a hole in a boy’s underwear… but I’ve never seen a boy wearing a dress. ; )

  4. It just doesn’t matter at what age you notice girls. Different people mature at different rates. What matters is that it is invariably long before they start noticing you.

    1. Keep trying, it’ll happen.


      Your Friendly Neighborhood Republican Committee

      (I’m not a Republican, no worries.)

  5. I bought a ring for a girl (albeit a cheap one) in fourth grade, and was a nervous wreck just before I gave it to her. I’ll never forget that crush.

  6. I remember a deep, shocking “love” for a girl in 2nd grade (so much so that it got me into one of only 2 fights I ever participated in). Caroline, if you’re reading this .. no, never mind. Then it all faded away till about 10th grade. It didn’t help that I went to an all-boys english state school where even being within 2 blocks of the all-girls school 1/2 mile away during school hours was a detention-able offence.

  7. I had a crush on a girl in kindergarten. Was I advanced for my age?

    Then, in first grade, I had a crush on a girl (not the same one as in kindergarten — it was a different school, whole new group of kids), who of course didn’t care for me, while there was a different girl, who I didn’t like, who had a crush on me. It was like a tiny little Archie comic.

  8. I clearly recall the huge crushes I had on girls from Grade 2 on. Of course, charting a kid’s emotional intensity would need several hours per subject kid from a seasoned child psychologist, but I wonder if the conclusion may be reached that kids need a lot of love, and if they feel a dearth of it, they’ll seek it anywhere they can. IE, school, if there’s a shortage at home.

    My mother preserved the evidence of these primary school crushes, in the form of class portraits with the objects of my desire close-cropped for my safe-keeping. Oh, how embarrassing then, and how very bitter-sweet now!

  9. I remember going on a field trip in first grade to the zoo where we were paired with eighth graders. I got paired up with Holly, a really pretty girl (or so I recall) with bright red hair that was braided down the side of her head. Very much an early 80s hairstyle. That was where my interest in girls started and it left a lifelong appeal for redheads and girls with braids.

  10. I was interested in girls when I was 8. This comic is usually cute, but this one was waaay too precious.

  11. Some of my earliest memories are of me masturbating, thinking about girls.

    This is a cool comic, though obviously not universally applicable (as evidenced by my early poon-houndery and the disregard shown by my man-loving brothers).

  12. Gay guys: Did you have crushes on boys, and if so, when did that start? I intuit that the development pattern may be different but have zero evidence.

  13. I meant 7th Grade, not sure why I wrote 8th. I wasn’t trying to nit-pick; sorry if thats how it came across. I still think the comic is funny, for what it’s trying to say, and the way it says it, as Tom the Dancing Bug tends to do. Just thought the idea of a middle schooler being oblivious to girls was a bit antiquated.

    I think I’m rare in that I never had a “ew, yucky girl” phase. I remember having very strong crushes on girls in almost every grade. While i know not all boys were like me, i do feel that, once in middle school, most boys i went to school with were very aware of girls. Kids in 6th already had first kisses, by 7th guys were talking about attending make-out parties, and I know there were at least a few that were sexually active by 8th.

    So, yeah, I still think that the comic is funny and very well made, but the 7th grade setting didn’t ring true to my experience (which is not to say its not true to anybody else) and what the current situation is now.

  14. This one is actually a rerun of a very early Tom the Dancing Bug…couple months ago I was using to search the early TtDB archives at Salon, thought I remembered seeing this before so I went back and checked, if you go down to Dec. 2, 1996 on that page you can see that was when this cartoon was originally published (you can play spot-the-differences with the two versions, looks like Bolling removed the out-of-date knobs on the TV from the original cartoon, and also redrew the girl’s mouth in the upper right panel). This would kinda be out of “continuity” for a current Louis Maltby cartoon, as later strips show him as definitely aware of girls! Anyway, I’m not begrudging the occasional rerun from a harried cartoonist, just thought it was interesting…

  15. I have never related grades to ages. Don’t know why, maybe because we moved around a lot. Anyhow, when I was about five, the girl next door, also five, and I went from friends to a rather acute awareness of sexuality. There was a strong attraction and a clearly shared interest in taking the exploration to some new levels. Unfortunately our concept of cool was not subtle enough nor did we realize until too late that what we were feeling would upset adults, and my mother tuned into the energy. We went several rounds with her trying to find a private place, but she was too good. Finally it all sort of evaporated, and that degree of intensity didn’t return for several years, and never got seriously touchy feely until High School. That first near-affair still makes me think. It could have been nice. We were very intense, and while we didn’t have exact definitions for what was happening, we knew a lot, and the knowing was shared on some interesting levels. The word “crush” does not seem to apply. This was way too specific and shared.

    Anyhow, I found the comic funny, and as I said I do not relate to the age thing much. When it happens is when it is important.

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