"Mom, I lost a bet," my 11-year-old son told me after one of last weekend's playoff football games. "Now I have to tell this girl that I lost in Oreo."
"What do you mean, you lost an Oreo?" I asked him.
"No, I lost IN Oreo," he corrected me. "In, not an."
I was still clueless.
"You go up to a girl and say, 'I lost in Oreo,'" he said. "It's asking her out. But almost everybody says no."
That was my introduction to "Oreo" the game, a phenomenon that has spread through my son's middle school. I since have learned that while it apparently hasn't hit some schools at all, it's also popular at my 9-year-old's elementary school, especially among the girls, and at least two other local schools. At one, teachers are actively trying to get kids to stop playing.
The basic gist is that Oreo is a twist on Rock, Paper, Scissors (you say, 'Or-EE-oh' in the build-up to showing your pick). The loser then has to ask out a girl or boy of the winner's choice. Kids also can use the same system on a variety of bets.
My first thought was that this has the potential to turn cruel, and fast. I pictured the least-liked kid in a class being the frequent target of date requests, as other kids watched and laughed at the scene. Or if a girl really did like a boy, or vice versa, it might hurt to get turned down or only approached because of a dare.
And then there's this: at my son's school, one winner challenged a boy to ask out another boy. There was much snickering about the prospect. The boy didn't do it, but I wonder if there was a gay student listening to all of that -- and seeing that he or she might someday be the brunt of jokes because of sexuality.
The only benefit, I suppose, is that it would be a way for one kid to ask another kid out and then save face if he/she got a no answer, as in, "Oh, I was only asking because I lost in Oreo."
My older son says it's harmless and innocent fun, and nobody is getting picked on. My younger boy says it's just annoying how often the girls play, but it doesn't bother him emotionally. Of course, they're both still too young (thank goodness) to be interested in having a girlfriend. They might feel differently once that becomes important to them.
In general, it just seems like a very bad idea to be messing around with young love. It's already messed up enough, right?
I haven't forbidden my kids from playing this game, because that probably isn't possible. I did explain how people could get hurt and urged them to be very careful if they decide to play, and not to do anything that felt mean-spirited.
To you other parents out there: now you know about Oreo. I wonder if it's one of many games out there that we should be talking to our kids about.
I just know I like the cookie much better.