I would never, ever be seventeen again, but what a hoot it was to do once. I wanted to try everything, in my relatively sheltered way. I dyed my hair, I traveled a little by myself (well, to see my very best life friend on the East Coast), I smoked a cigarette, I slept with This Boy, who was a little bit of trouble and a lot of intellectually incurious.
It was a rather run-of-the mill summer in a large city that felt like a small town. I saw Batman at the drive-in before I knew how much fun drive-ins could be, and I slow danced to Purple Rain with boys who smelled like Drakkar Noir mixed with Dep hair gel. I started writing a book in a dollar store journal that was a mash-up collage of every Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High and VC Andrews book I’d ever read. I still have it, and it’s just as terrible as you’d expect.
I spent the early part of the summer with my girl friends. Best Friend was in town for the summer and we’d take turns spending Friday nights at someone’s house, watching Dirty Dancing, eating no-bake cookies and doing horrible things to our hair. With lots of Def Leppard in the background, because we were bad ass. You know, in our suburban factory town sort of white girl way.
Around the middle of the summer I was attending what’s easiest to call a mixer, even though I run the risk of making my teenage years look even more like they took place in Mayberry circa 1959. It was a shindig for a youth organization I belonged to, with dresses and a DJ and boys in color-blocked rayon shirts and polka dot socks. During the mixer, the girls I was with began to giggle and make high pitched noises distinct to teenage girls in my geographic area.
“That Boy is going to be here!” one of them whispered to me.
I’d heard of That Boy. Mostly in whispers, with a mix of awe and raw teenage girl lust, the unseen That Boy was legend. Jaded from my experiences with This Boy, I figured That Boy was another doof in stupid socks with good PR. I rolled my eyes and went back to the business of mixing, far too sophisticated and worldly at seventeen to be bothered. Then, of course, I saw That Boy. And he was glorious. All shiny hair and good bones and yes, stupid socks. A group of Other Boys surrounded him, all trying to casually imitate That Boy’s posture and stance. I had a second or two to size him up before the giggling horde surrounding me launched towards the boys in a hurricane of very brightly covered polyester taffeta. I remained calm and kept my taffeta covered ass where it was, aloof and disinterested. I was seventeen.
Later, when the shindig was in full gear and the DJ was playing Jive Bunny, the boy plopped himself next to me and said something hilarious and clever and that was it. I was nips deep in that great destroyer of teenage dignity, that unsophisticated beast of hormones and too many Blume, Andrews and Steele books – the unrequited teenage crush. Not only was That Boy the cutest boy I’d ever seen up close, he was smarter and funnier than any boy I’d ever talked to. (Full disclosure: The sample size of “Boys I’d Talked To” was quite small.) We’d read the same books! (excluding Blume, Andrews and Steel.) We liked the same music! Within minutes, I was the flittery, giggly taffeta mafia I had scoffed at, making me both a hypocrite and possibly a typical teenager. I did not care. Engaging in rapid fire rationalization, I decided patience and faith would ensure that he would one day realize I was the Buttercup to his Dread Pirate Wesley.
Going as crushes are wont to go, he did not come to this realization and I remained more Ducky than Buttercup. We did become great friends, and remain so now, lo these many years later. In retrospect, I probably should have given up on the notion a lot sooner than I did. I think the comfy safety of an unrequited distraction helped me make the transition between sheltered high school kid to slightly less sheltered college gal, in it’s own twisted sort of way.
The summer I was seventeen I slept with a boy and I fell in love with a boy. In a book by any of the big three, those boys would have been the same person.
I’m really glad they weren’t.