That's a stupid question, actually, because of course you do.
Personally, I was something of a crush-slut. I was in love with many, many boys, pretty much from the time I could walk. I fancied boys at school, on tv, from down the block. By the age of 4, my entire goal in life was to be 16.
[Specifically, my goal was to be Liesl from "The Sound of Music" so that I could be 16 going on 17 and dance in a gazebo with a twirly skirt and get kissed in the rain by a handsome Nazi.]
But my first real, amazing crush started when I was about 12 years old, and ended when...well, I'll let you know if it happens.
It is insanely ridiculous, but here I am, miles and years away from high school, and simply remembering him has brought all the awkward anxieties racing back and I'm suddenly cloaked in self-doubt and embarrassment over I don't even know what. But I will tell you, my gut reaction was to feel like I couldn't even write his name because...
...he might find out? His friends will laugh? The teacher will see my note?
Really, there is zero logic at play here.
Ah, adolescence. Will you ever leave me completely?
* * * * * * *
I first met him on a sledding expedition on a fortuitous snow day.
Actually, let me rephrase because that's redundant. All snow days when you're in grade school are fortuitous. Nothing was so sacred and special as an unexpected day off from school, when all your worldly responsibilities shifted. Instead of having to turn in homework and take vocabulary quizzes, suddenly your only accountability was to childhood: throwing snowballs and sledding and drinking cocoa and playing with your friends.
On that particular snow day, my sister's friend's mom agreed to shuttle a bunch of us to the local park. I had agreed to go even though I didn't usually "socialize" with my younger sister and her friend, Lang, in public (because that would have been totally uncool). I certainly did NOT know that Lang would be bringing her brother. Her OLDER brother, and his friends.
In fact, if I had known they were coming, I probably wouldn't have gone. While I would have liked the opportunity to hang out with older boys (as the oldest in the family, I rarely got to hang out with kids older than me, and certainly not BOYS), the thought of spending an afternoon with them may have been too much to handle. Preparations would have involved days of wardrobe planning and at least 42 hours of phone conversations. And instead of wearing the oversized coat and mussed-up hair of a "girl," I would have worn pink lip gloss and blue eyeliner and used mousse to properly scrunch my permed curls like a "teenager."
(By the way? How awesome was 1987?)
So there I was, a dorky little girl hanging out with her silly little sisters, while the boys behaved like boys, i.e., creatures from another planet.
Imagine being a 12-year-old-girl around real, live high-school boys for the first time. Compared to the boys I was dealing with on a daily basis at my school, these boys were practically men. Their voices were changing. They were tall, and had broadening shoulders. They were comparatively (comparatively being the operative word, of course) rugged and athletic. And when I saw him, the one, my Crush, I was instantly smitten. In my eyes, he was the biggest and cutest and most charming of them all. And he was wearing a football jacket. Be still my heart.
Of course, I didn't exchange a single word with him that day. I mean, how could I? I was a goofy-looking pre-teen, and what, exactly, would I have said? Voluntarily speaking to a group of teenaged boys was simply out of the question.
Instead, I did what every pre-teen girl does: I pined.
* * * * * * *
Over the next couple years, Lang's family and my family remained close friends, and seeing each other over holidays and vacations and family gatherings became more and more common. So as these things go, Lang's older brother met one of my girlfriends (who was already in high school) at my family's Christmas party in 1988, and eventually started dating.
Well. That changed everything.
Because when I got to high school a year later, my friend was still dating Lang's brother. And this meant that, through association, I was "allowed" to hang out with her brother and his group of friends, too. Which was a life-altering arrangement. I got to high school and had a whole new group of friends to be part of.
Erm, but I shouldn't make this sound more glamorous that it was. It was still high school, and I was still a freshman, and they were still seniors. I was acknowledged as part of the group, but I was -- at best -- on the periphery.
[As an aside, this situation impacted the rest of my high school experience, and not in a positive way. I abandoned the group of friends I had from middle school in exchange for this newer, older group. A group who never wholly adopted me, and who graduated years before I did. Ultimately, I found myself having a verrrrry small circle of "close" friends.]
For the purposes of this post, though, being on the periphery was just fine with me. Because among other cute boys who were suddenly, if only slightly, flirting with my existence, my Crush was there, too.
He was taller and broader-shouldered than I'd remembered him, and better looking than ever. He was also funny and sweet and terribly popular. And captain of the football team. And while it's not like he went out of his way to say hi to me in the hallways (yeah, no), we started seeing each other at many social gatherings.
Then, for Thanksgiving of my freshman year of high school, we all went away together. My family and Lang's family and various cousins and friends. I brought my friend (still dating Lang's brother), and her brother brought my Crush. I spent the entire time we were away alternating between being giddy, swooning, and trying to play it cool.
It was a great vacation, and I got to spend lots of quality time with my Crush, relishing in how many girls would have killed to be in my position.
You know how it is. You have a crush on someone -- let's just say George Clooney for the sake of argument -- and you think: if only he could get to know the real me. If somehow the planets aligned and then George and I were alone together on a desert island or even in a stuck elevator for a few hours, surely he'd get to see how amazing I am and want to marry me.
And that is precisely what I assumed would happen on this trip. My Crush would get to spend all kinds of quality, private time with me, away from the prying and judgmental eyes of jealous high school girls and dudes who can't take freshman girls seriously. He would find me charming and funny and realize how hot I am. He would be so moved, so delighted by me that he'd spurn society and its "ways" and return to high school with me by his side.
Or at least make out with me.
Except none of that happened. His interest in me was mild and platonic, and instead of whisking me off for handheld walks on the snowy beaches, he and Lang's brother mostly watched football and told jokes about farts.
Later that year, in a strange turn of events, my Crush decided -- much to the entire school's shock -- that he would audition for our big high school musical. He'd never shown any interest in music, much less singing, much much less MUSICAL THEATRE before, but he was serious about it. And I was the only one of his acquaintances who knew much about music. So he asked if he could come over.
To my house.
To my room.
To SING for me.
Invisible Internet Friends. My Crush asking (asking!) to come over to my house to sing for me was the most amazing thing in the whole world. It was the high-school equivalent of George Clooney calling me up right now and asking if I'm free for dinner. You know, so I can give him pointers on directing.
It was an epic moment in my life, that evening when my Crush came to my house to sing. Nothing romantic happened, but it didn't matter. The Love Of My Life had come to my room to hear my thoughts on his performance. And you know? He was good. He was totally charming and cute and bashful because he was inexperienced. But the musical was Little Shop of Horrors, and the lead role is that of Seymour (played in the movie by Rick Moranis) and so my Crush's inexperience totally worked in his favor.
I gave him what little feedback I could muster, because mostly I just wanted to yell I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH every time he sang a new note. Regardless, my feedback notwithstanding, he got the lead.
* * * * * *
Over the next couple years, I remained peripheral to my Crush's circle of friends. He went off to college where he remained active in theatre.
And then we all lost touch. Everyone moved away.
I heard that after he graduated college, my Crush moved to Japan to do some musical there. But I don't know where or for how long or if he liked it.
* * * * * *
A few years after that, in the spring/summer of 1995, I was in the best shape of my life. I was living at home with my parents and going to college locally. One day, I was at a corner gas station, and noticed a super hot guy across the way. I noticed him noticing me, too. So we flirted, if that's even possible at A GAS STATION. And when he eventually had to cross in front of my car, I realized it was him. And he realized it was me.
We spoke. He gave me the requisite "OH MY GOD"s and "You look so good"s that follow when you've gone from being a loopy teenager to being 20. And dropping a good 45 lbs in the process. We chatted briefly about what we were up to. I explained that I was in town, going to school and working. He explained that he'd just moved back, too, and was bartending at a local place.
We should get a drink sometime.
I don't know if I offered or if he did, but the drink was mentioned. Our phone numbers were exchanged.
I called him.
And when he did not call me back, I finally gave up. I'd carried a torch since that snow day as a 12-year-old, harboring vague but undeniable hopes that we'd run into each other again someday and then he would fall in love with me. But if years and pounds and experience and everything in the world being different didn't change his level of interest in me, nothing would.
* * * * * *
And then it got to be more than ten years later, somehow.
A few weeks ago, my sister Sam called me.
"Oh, hey. Guess who just opened up a new restaurant!" She told me there was a big to-do about it in town, and that she and her fiance, Mike, had gone to see the place. And say hi to my Crush.
"He asked about you," she said.
Sam knew I had been in crush-love with him. I think probably everyone did. He'd been at our house and hung out with our family and was one of those guys who touches your life just enough, just for a while. So that when it's decades later and you're going through old photo albums with someone you don't even stop to identify him. Except maybe to say, "Oh, that's just a guy I had a crush on."
Even though you know that when left to yourself, and you look at those photos alone, you do not turn the page too quickly. You touch his face in the photo first, and sigh, and laugh at your own heart's ridiculousness.
I replied to Sam immediately and without hesitation, "Was he wearing a wedding ring?"
No, adolescence. You will never leave me.
* * * * * * * *
So tell me. Who was yours?
He and his restaurant partner apparently posed for this poster for the local public library,
encouraging the community to Read. How cute is THAT?
(He's on the right.)
(Heart you, Google.)