Late this summer, we reported that 16-year-old Alana Thompson was dating a 20-year-old college student.
But many didn't get the memo until Alana and her much older boyfriend Dralin Carswell went Instagram official.
That public display of their relationship ignited a firestorm of controversy and a backlash.
Alana isn't interested in anyone's criticism, clearly, because she has deleted the photo along with every reply that came with it.
Dralin Carswell is a 20-year-old college student.
Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson is a 16-year-old high school student.
The two reportedly began dating nearly seven months ago.
Weeks before they went public, Dralin and Alana were said to be "attached at the hip" and constantly in each other's company.
While Dralin was reportedly initially slow to come out of his shell, he is "like one of the family" with Alana's loved ones.
Apparently, he has a larger-than-life personality that meshes well with the Shannon family (at least, with those who are in Alana's life).
Alana and Dralin had obvious hints at their romance on social media before this.
But they did not truly go Instagram official until this photo.
Alana even went as far as to proclaim Dralin as her "bae" in the post.
Many of Alana's fans who hadn't kept up with reports on her initially celebrated the relationship news.
It was especially welcome after Alana shared that she struggled to make good friends in school due to her family's fame and infamy.
However, many of those smiles turned into frowns when the four (possibly closer to five) year age gap was discovered.
“This is disgusting. No 20-year-old ADULT have any business 'dating' a 16-year-old CHILD," one commenter declared.
Another declared: “Honey boo boo’s new boyfriend is 20?? Girl is 16. Jail. Jail jail jail."
An additional commenter wrote: “Please stop normalizing this s--t. This ain’t okay,”
Alana deleted the post, as you can see in the screenshot below.
She is not currently sharing any images of Dralin -- at least, not on her public social media.
But though all of those negative comments were purged, it has not changed the worried sentiments behind them.
First of all, we should address the "jail" part of the replies, because a few people seem to be confused.
As in many states (and most countries), 16-year-olds in Georgia are legally allowed to consent to sex as adults would.
Though there are both positive and negative aspects of laws like this, there is no indication that Alana or Dralin have done anything illegal.
Yes, we know that Alana had her birthday on August 28, and was 15 for the majority of this reported relationship.
But we are also aware that many people do not actually have sex with their high school sweethearts, and teens often wait a while before they do.
Some regret waiting as long as they did, some regret not waiting longer, some are happy with their timing. That can be part of life and human development.
And we have to be honest ... there's an ugly familiarity to intense criticisms of a Black guy dating a white girl, even if the focus is not explicitly on race.
That said, it's perfectly acceptable to discuss how age gaps can be wildly problematic, even small ones.
When you're a teenager, four years is a long time. Dralin is an adult who is allowed to vote. Alana is barely old enough to drive a car.
Of course those of us who are grown ups who look at a 20-year-old as basically still a kid and at 16-year-olds as babies are going to find this weird.
We also find ourselves wondering how a 20-year-old man met a high school student to begin with, especially during a pandemic.
Given the reaction that Alana's photo received, it's possible that she will simply never tell us and keep this relationship private.
Despite having numerous questions, we can acknowledge that it's normal for some degree of age gaps to exist.
Protecting minors is important, but the answer would never be to force two high school classmates to break up when one turns 18.
Yes, that has been done, and in some cases, maliciously used to ruin lives of high school students.
Alana and Dralin don't appear to have ever been classmates of any kind, which again leads us to wonder how and where they met.
But Alana's family -- namely Lauryn, her sister who stepped in as her guardian when their mother was no longer fit to parent -- is reportedly good with Dralin.
We have to assume that they know more about this relationship and its impact upon Alana than we do.