As I’ve said before, I’m not an expert. I don’t have a degree in sex or relationships. Even my psychology ‘degree’ is the minor attachment to my Investigative Forensics Bachelors. So, I thought it only fitting to give you my own experience in love. You’ve read some of my most recent experiences, so let’s start at the beginning!
There’s a feeling your first gives you that is nearly impossible to replace. It’s a feeling like never felt before. It changes by the person, but the name of the feeling stays the same. For me, I was 13. I was young and stupid. Like most “love” stories, it starts at a turning point in life. I’d just transferred schools. Eighth grade was tough, the age of bullying was predominant and as the perpetual new kid, I was skittish. Who do I become at this new place?
He was at this new place, a middle school clichély named after the bum fuck town in which we lived. This curly red-haired boy who gave me the feeling. Now thinking about it, he may have been the first red-head I ever acknowledged. Out west it’s all dark-haired and dark-skinned, like the little Mexican boy who was my first crush and first heartbreak. Here, in the East though, fair skin and hair thrive.
I don’t remember the first time I saw him, but he was a friend of the kids I sat with at lunch, so I imagine it was there. I remember my first lunch; my ‘tour guide’ dropped me off at what could only be described as the misfits’ table. I guess she knew who I was going to be before I did. I’d been assigned and I don’t know how. I never questioned it though. For the first time, I wasn’t teased but welcomed. I never saw any of them as less than what I felt of them: friends. It’d been a while since I had some. Maybe that helped me become susceptible to his charm.
My group of misfits – the homosexual trying hard to be straight and his girlfriend, the black girl with the tattoos who was a few years older, the cute couple that fought all the time, the quiet Mexican girl, and the whiz kid – took me in and made room at an already crowded table. In my mind, I know he is at the table too, but I don’t see him. He wasn’t important then.
No, his importance wasn’t until after Music class days later. It was lunchtime and my insecurities were outstanding. I think I saw his hair first. That damn red hair. I still get a pang in my stomach when I see a man with red hair. I see someone at work with red hair and stare until I’m looked at curiously.
The day I spoke to him there were only a few seconds between seeing him and calling for him. “Hey!” Somehow without his name being spoken, he knew I was calling for him. “Wait at my locker with me?” He gave me a smile, cocky. It was a smile that would pause my heart for years.
“Only if you wait at mine.”
And we did. We waited for each other as we gathered our things. And talked. And that’s all it took. I was hooked. That feeling of that first day was something I yearned for like a crack addict.
The next memory I have of my drug is at the YMCA. Surely if this boy had any qualms about me, the overweight new kid, I would have suspected it here. I think, whether intentionally or not, this day sealed the deal for him. I was the product of a twice-broken home and the decade long ridicule of primary school. My self-esteem was non-existent and I craved the attention of any man that would give it.
My mother was perpetually trying to get me to lose weight. We tried Atkins and Nutri System and Jenny Craig and any other system out there supposed to help us lose it. She blamed my father, but she blamed him for everything so that was nothing new. Truth is we ate like shit. No excuses. You could blame it on our social status and the lack of money after my parents’ divorce, but over a decade and a half later I know there were cheaper healthy alternatives.
Like any other gym membership, we had it and hardly used it, so my memories there are limited. I have two with him though. He was there with two friends. I couldn’t tell you who they were, I don’t remember. I do remember a tall, super scrawny one and shorter averaged sized one. You could think nausea created when I saw him would drive me to hide in the locker room. Cover my rolls and curves with as many clothes as I brought with me. No. I took the challenge of confronting my…what then can only be described as my crush. Those damned teenage emotions got me hard.
Memory is fickle. I took a class when I got my degree in Psychology on Memory & Cognition. Memories we recall are merely memories of the memories. Think of an old book. Every time you read it it’s different. You’re getting the same content, but there may be some detail missed or a crease in the page not there previously. If it’s terribly old, there may be some loose or missing pages.
The events that led to my memory of the YMCA are lost pages and the don’t on the remaining pages had faced, but some recallable content remains. He was dunking me. He was jokingly, playfully trying to drown me. But 13/14-year-old me doesn’t see that. She sees a boy touching her and talking to her and treating her like an equal. This was such new territory that he could have purposefully tried to down me and I probably wouldn’t have cared. The whole not being able to breathe thing would have made me care, but it didn’t escalate to that so…
There’s a lot of phone conversations between him and me after that date and leading into the next memory of him. But things happen between then. I got a boyfriend. The end of middle school marked a dangerous decline in my emotional state and this first boyfriend likely started the hot mess. He was a caramel-skinned sweetheart and breaking his heart is still probably one of the top ten worst things I’ve ever done. I don’t talk to any of my exes, but if I see him in a store (I’ve only seen him once since) I’ll say Hi and smile and our break up has less of an effect on him now than me.
The summer before high school he and I ‘dated’, but what was dating at 14? Parents taking us to the movies, watching Nascar at his house with his parents, going to church on Sunday with his family. Our definition of dating at 14 and dating in our late twenties has evolved. We’re also pre-cellphone popularity age. Shocking, I know. There was once a time when not everyone had a cell phone and if you did there were no apps or internet or texting. It was a Jurassic age, but I digress.
We spent two beautiful months talking on the landline (that’s a house phone, for you GenXers) and on AIM (that was the Facebook Messenger of the millennial age). We talked about everything and without the daily reminder of him, the red-headed boy was off my mind.