At the age of thirteen I was temporarily psychotic. That is to say I came down with my first crush and it was the type of crush that makes you realize why they ever came up with the term crush in the first place. I was in agonizing physical pain. It was absolute mania, I cried, I swooned, I giggled, but most of all I was elated. The world was larger and more alive. It was an innocent school girl version of being on shrooms. I just seemed to feel everything. A sunny day, a barking dog, a taste of spicy mustard, or a sad song; everyday ordinary events were now attached to feelings.
We women have been going publicly psychotic over our feelings for ages. I have yet to see, and I doubt if I ever will, a mass of boys scream and swoon over any girl. Males simply retreat to their room with some visuals and that’s about the end of the story. From Beetle Mania to the hip-swiveling induced hysteria of Elvis, we girls put our passions all out there. The widespread celebrity crushes of my generation were The New Kids on the Block and the Back Street Boys, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t noticed them, but I was still busy pining over George Michael. I followed his career from Wham! and wanted nothing more than to wake him up before I went-went to the ass-shaking, spirit moving sounds of Faith. Sadly, years later he dealt me and the rest of the female species a crushing blow when he announced that he preferred men. (Sniff.)
Now a days it’s Beiber Fever; tiny eight year old girls and, strangely enough, sometimes their mothers too can be found weeping and wailing over this teen age boy. I roll my eyes and shake my head, What is this crap? However, if I think back to the time of my first crush, and many subsequent crushes to follow, those emotions were so raw, so all-encompassing, so damn, well… crushing, I can completely relate to these frantic teenage girls. Had I come of age during the time of YouTube and stumbled upon George Michael kissing Jordan Knight, I too would have pulled my hair out in agony. (please see the poor girl below)
My own personal psychosis struck while at summer camp. The culprit’s name was Jobie Dixon. He was a few years older, tall and dark with piercing eyes. We slow danced to: “Goodnight Sweet Heart” at a fifty’s style sock hop. He guided me around the dance floor in this awkward but very gentle way. I remember my dress that night more clearly then what I wore yesterday: Blue poodle skirt, white blouse, pink ribbon around my pony tail and a pair of black and white saddle oxfords that pinched my feet until I could no longer feel my toes. After “our song” was over he leaned way down to give me a tiny kiss on my blazing hot cheek. I just stood there frozen. . . staring at him. . . until thankfully one of the junior counselors came and led me away by my hand.
We all returned to our cabins and I sat on my bunk barely able to move. . . just staring off into space like a complete head case. My cabin mates had to guide me to my tooth-brush and help me into my pajama’s, mind you I was twelve and sober not twenty-two and hammered. Love drunk I guess? When I finally laid my head down to sleep I slurred: “I think I’m in love.” I was toast. A sickening and sappy hopeless romantic was born.
I came home at the end of the week still drunk on love potion (# 9). It was in this state that I decided to share the news with my grandmother. This was not something I would normally do. I was the type of girl who always seemed to be flooded with emotions; however my family was not the type to discuss feelings at all. I’m not sure what my words were, probably some giddy and girlish rant about Jobie but guarded and somehow toned down. I had learned that restraint was the proper way of expressing myself. My grandmother looked at me and said flatly: “Well, that’s nice but you just remember: boys only want one thing and after that there’s just a lot of pain and hurt. And guess what? It’s always you that ends up getting hurt.” They say coffee won’t sober you up, but those words were like the cops in my review mirror and they have been following me ever since.
Did I mention that I was only twelve? I couldn’t quite imagine what that one thing that boys only wanted was, but I had enough of a general idea that it made me queasy. Phrases like “rain on your parade” or “burst your bubble” come to mind when trying to explain my emotions at that moment, but it was more than that. It was a shrinking of my heart and a sinking of my spirits. Now I was burnt toast. I was a romantic meshed with a cynic.
This, as it turns out, is a pretty confusing predicament for all involved; including the boys. Jobie Dixon didn’t want just one thing, he wanted a few. He wanted to hold my hand, to sit next to me at church, to walk me home from school and “to go steady”. So naturally I tortured him for years, playing games and telling him I was not sure what I wanted. What I wanted was to be loved and to love his tall sweet ass back. But, noooo. That would have been too scary and I was trying to avoid all this pain and hurt my Grandmother spoke about.
I must have had a dyslexic heart because I was always getting it backward! There were guys that showed up on time for dates, listened when I talked, gave me thoughtful little gifts and even wrote me songs, but I convinced myself that eventually these guys would reveal themselves to be the monsters my grandmother alluded to, that deep down they were maniacal assholes that just wanted to hurt me.
Unless of course they really were maniacal assholes; like some guys I have dated who have stood me up, screwed my friends and then stole my money. These guys, I was convinced, really loved me. They just had a funny way of showing it.
Oddly enough, the aim of all my antics was to protect myself, to avoid being the one left with all the pain and hurt. And in the end everyone got hurt. Love: I have had it all screwed up so many times. The only way I ever got it right, or for that matter seen anyone get it right, is by doing the opposite of what I had spent years doing. Instead of building up walls and hardening up hearts, I had to split myself wide open. Only with this risk was there ever any real chance at reward. Sometimes I miss the simpler times of sock hops, boy bands, and the innocence of love drunk hearts but through the years it’s been a sobering experience. A few painful lessons, the right teacher, and even my dyslexic heart learned to read the language of love. If only adults might learn that sometimes it’s wiser to keep their cynicism to themselves, maybe we could avoid crushing a few more hearts.