Twenty years later, I still cringe at the memory. Oh, let’s call a spade a spade: it’s memories. I was then as I am now, a hopeless romantic. Only as a sixteen-year-old who’s lived a blessedly sheltered life, I was perhaps a little less prepared for a little thing called “reality.” (If, by “little,” you mean something the scope of the Grand Canyon.)
I was primed for falling in love, steeped in pop songs that crooned Two worlds colliding…and they could never tear us apart. And then it happened. We worked together, and when I heard his voice upon entering the building, my nerves electrified; when his arm brushed mine, I thought I would burst into flame.
Young as I was, I knew better than to call it love, but it was strong. I think he knew the effect he had on me; perhaps it flattered him, or perhaps something about me was more attractive than I ever gave myself credit for. In any case, somehow one evening I was joining a group of them for a movie. Afterward, as I rolled down the window of my little white Escort and prepared to head for home, he loped down the street and leaned on my window frame. “So,” he said. “When we gonna go out, just you and me?”
I thought I might explode with happiness, and then…
Then I opened my mouth. “Whenever I can find the time,” I said.
That little exchange encapsulates all the romantic troubles I ever experienced. What kind of dumb answer is that?
Perhaps you’re not shocked to discover we never went out. And my romantic encounters in high school came to progressively more tragic ends. (Well. Tragic in a high school sense.) But now I recognize my escape. I was feeling wild and reckless, bewitched by freedom and hanging around a much more worldly crowd. Pushed just a breath, my life might have followed a very different trajectory, one that ended in real heartbreak instead of wounded pride that masqueraded as such.
As a mother, I now understand why a young and innocent girl might actually be attractive for the very awkwardness that causes her such agony. The world is even scarier now than it was then, the body and soul even less recognized for their beauty and goodness, and treated with even less respect. I would give a lot to shepherd my children safely through the mine field of young “love,” but I know also that there’s no teacher like an awkward, narrow escape.
I like that you included your awkward response! I think including his reaction would have made the piece even a little stronger, but I like the conclusion you drew that your awkwardness, something that made you a bit uncomfortable, may have saved you from some worse situations.
I hadn’t thought of that…thinking back, frankly, it took some thinking even to remember what he said. 🙂
Why oh why do we always have the perfect line, the perfect comeback, when we play out scenarios in our heads, and yet when we are in the actual moment, all that comes out of our mouths is embarrassing tripe?
I also hope to shepherd my children through the minefield of young love. The trouble is, my daughters are not ME! They are so very different, feeling and reacting is such foreign ways, I have no idea what’s in my teenager’s head. I just hope she has the opportunity to experience some of that puppy love, and even that rejection, while she’s young enough to bounce right back.
I love how you brought your children in at the end. I often cringe at the thought that my children will also have to endure adolescence.
It already feels like my 7-y-o is going through adolescence…for now, I’m on a strict policy of not borrowing trouble. 🙂
I loved this and you had me pulled right in. I’m a total romantic and my heart went “Awwwww” when you told him “Whenever I can find the time”. I have older kids (21 year old daughter) and it’s important for us to tell them our stories especially in their teen (high school) years when they may be feeling out of place. All a mom wants is their child to know how to handle each and every situation but most importantly how to give and receive love with respect.
Thoroughly enjoyed your story!
OMG, I wish I’d have had a comeback like that when I was younger—not that I had any guys asking me out. Loved your last paragrah and the last sentence especially!