…That I was the One Who Got Away
Like most preteen girls who keep diaries, most of my entries were about love. Or rather, boys. There is very little in them about love…or even monogamy. I cast a wide net.
I think at a young age I realized that it was unrealistic to hope for someone smart, funny, handsome and rich. So I narrowed it down to the one criteria that really mattered: cuteness.
This is hardly abnormal. It also persisted into my adult years. I chose my husband based almost solely on looks. His integrity, humor, and creativity were like the little featurettes on a Pixar DVD. Bonus material.
As low as the bar was for choosing my paramours, I did have wildly unrealistic expectations of what comes next. I felt entitled to my fair share of flowers, songs, and “embraces.”
My total misunderstanding of love doesn’t stop me from waxing philosophical about it, then or now.
Feb 21, 1995– Dear Gosh. I need love. Not family love. Fileo (sic). In other words, I need a boyfriend…
[I should point out here that not only did I misspell the Greek word “phileo,” but I hilariously misuse it. Phileo is the ancient Greek term for brotherly love. Eros, is what I was thinking of here, but it would be years before I understood what that meant. Thankfully.]
…Someone who will bring me flowers and take me to dinner.You can only live on one tank of oxygen for so long. Soon you need another tank. It is like that with love. First you can live on just family love. Then you need your second tank, fileo (sic…again) (a boyfriend). Or a baby, they can live on liquid for the first while but then they need solid food, fileo (sic,sic,sic). I NEED A BOYFRIEND.
I am 11 here, and apparently intent on dating a well-paid 30-year-old. I don’t specifically mention his Benz, but I’m pretty sure that’s how we would have traveled to dinner.
Most entries were passionate, pining odes to the boy(s) on whom I had hopeless crushes. Followed, almost immediately by scathing death wishes upon those same ignorant dickheads.
The narrative I would later write for myself has me as a hapless, unlucky-in-love nerd up until high school, when I “got cool” (read: I figured out my hair and got a waistline, and boys figured out that they liked boobs).
Actually though, I started strong.
I had a “boyfriend” before most of my friends. He even spoke to me. Once. To tell me he liked me.
(Note: I’ve changed the names from these entries to maintain some deniability in case any of these guys somehow didn’t know I had a crush on them. I assume most of them did, but I think we’d all like to be able to pretend we have no idea who I’m talking about. They are now named after the male characters from childhood fiction they most resemble.)
May 6, 1993- He likes me! Theodore likes me! He said it to my face! Next thing you know he’ll be asking me out. What a man.
After Theodore, most of my crushes matched the rest of my developing body: uneven, nearsighted, and volatile.
Feb 8, 1994 [ After a week of entries about loving Gilbert]-I CANNOT STAND GILBERT! He is a jock. Today I managed to put his foot in his mouth by stepping on his foot so hard he limped. But if he does it one more time I’ll fix him for good. I want respect and I”m going to get it. So if he wants to see how hard I can hit, HECK, he’s gonna see the hard way. IN BETWEEN HIS EYES.
Feb 9, 1994-I have a split personality. Part of me wants to sock GILBERT and the other wants to kiss him. But he better not mess with me or the NEGATIVE side will take over.
Feb 10, 1994 -MY POSITIVE SIDE TOWARD GILBERT TOOK OVER. YEA.
I should also point out that fourth grade was the beginning of my conflicted body image. Thanks to my steady diet of young adult fiction, I used to fantasize about my “tiny frame” being “scooped up” in an embrace or daring rescue.
That will never happen.
I’ve never been one of those waif-like feather people, or what you would call “tiny.” In high school, I could literally bench press my boyfriend. Actually, my boyfriend plus 14 pounds.
In fourth grade I started toying with feminism, as an alternative to waif-damsel I would never be. Not knowing how to channel my big emotions through my new “tough girl” filter, I did a lot of things that I now understand to be abusive. But this was before the days of “no means no” and on the tail end of the “give them some boxing gloves and let them solve it in the gym” era, thus I have no criminal charges.
A mere two months after my Cybil-meets-“Gilbert” episode, our friends from Alabama came to visit. I had a brief history with the middle son, and his occasional visits were a temporary distraction from my otherwise busy calendar of alternating hate and lust.
April 4, 1994- Oh Lord, Dear Lord. Help me! Have mercy on me! I ache in my heart. I love Andy like NO ONE else. And if I’m correct he loves me. But he’s leaving Wednesday. Today’s Monday. I want to tell him I love him but time is rushing us.
April 5, 1994- Dear Lord, Andy is leaving tomorrow, but I won’t get to see him. Lord, WHY WHY!?! I know you’re in control and you don’t want me to hurt, but Lord, I DO.
April 6, 1994- Today Andy left. But I’m not too sad.
As fickle as most of my emerging adolescent affections were, I was actually pretty loyal to Theodore. I carried the torch for him 2nd through 4th grade, long after we had exchanged the only two words of our entire relationship, the first of which happened somewhere around the end of 2nd grade.
Unfortunately the details of the account are lost to the labor-intensive nature of crafting sentences at age eight. Most of my entries from 2nd grade sound like a transcription of things overhead at a sorority party at 3am.
April 10, 1992 – Guess what. Theodore TALKED to me. But just because Annika is being rude I cannot use the phone. Miss King said I could not use my scissors on the test.
Sadly, there are many more diary entries with the line, in all caps, “HE TALKED TO ME.” I think the last one was in college. I’m not kidding. My freshman year of college, I found a piece of lost mail belonging to my impossibly good-looking crush. I returned it, and he said, “thank you.” And I lost. my. shit.
Anyway, back in 1994, Theodore, like most devastatingly handsome 9-year-olds, went on to garner many admirers. As my writing sped up, I was also able to preserve more details before bedtime.
May 2, 1994-Gosh, lots of people like Theodore. He’s my boyfriend (if he still likes me). Today Abby H. comes up and bragingly says, “Guess what. I’m in love with Theodore. He doesn’t like you anymore!” Two thoughts went through my head. 1) He probably likes me more than YOU 2) So? It’s not like you’re engaged to be married!
For the record, neither I, nor Abby H. ever went on to be engaged to Theodore. Neither do I have any idea who he liked more at the time.
To be continued…