A friend told me that she liked my writing about meeting my wife, but where was the romance? Where was the grand kiss with the soft violins, on a hilltop in Scotland, at sunset?
Well, first of all, I'll never tell any of you those details. Not unless you buy some awfully nice beer and start a campfire while I'm at your house. And come to think of it, that wouldn't really get you much further in getting me to tell you romantic details about my wife. But it sure would make for a nice evening, wouldn't it? Somebody get working on that.
Anyway, I thought it might be fun to enlighten her just how very wrong she has perceived me by delving just this once into my mis-adventures of young love. And lest you flee in terror: we'll limit our scope to gymnastics of the lips.
Now, since some of the participants in these bumbling attempts at romance actually read this blog (so let that be some sort of recommendation, right? They deserve bumper stickers like those 'This car climbed Mt. Washington') I've decided to simply give them fake names in alphabetical order. Still, you may still recognize yourselves. Sorry about that.
Incidentally, I hope this doesn't come across poorly. I've been guilty of mentioning these women at least one time too often to my wife, who questions my motives in bringing them up at all. I think this is a valid point. I am not writing this entry to build up my shaky ego- but rather, to enlighten our friend as to just how silly a notion hers was. And in the process, perhaps some humor will ensue. Capiche?
Let us, then, let our minds drift back to the eighties. I was skinnier then. And more innocent. And socially.... well, you judge for yourself.
First, I think of Anna. She would be just the first of many long-lasting (and really quite pointless) crushes I would develop over the decades. In her case, we actually did date. Well, sort of. Technically, we only had one date- and that was meeting my Grandma Kristoff for lunch and a trip to the Ross Park Mall. But, y'know- it was a pretty cool mall. ("Still hayseed enough to say look who's in the big town"-J.Mellencamp). We mostly sent letters. Oh, and we did a little dance at a concert once that, looking back, is incredibly embarrassing to remember.
Oh, right- we're talking about k-i-s-s-i-n-g. Well, after asking Anna that night if I might be allowed to touch her lips with my own, I delivered what must surely be the most chaste peck in the history of the world. Oh, and it was my birthday. My SIXTEENTH birthday. Yeah.
And then I think of Beth. She whose good friend who told me she was going to break up with me because though we'd dated for... awhile, and despite the fact that she'd already forced me to watch Dirty Dancing, I had never kissed her. Oh, and did I mention she lived in the middle of a cemetery? Or maybe it was just next to one. I showed her, though- I called her and broke up with her first. This caused her such grief that she came to my grandmother's funeral years later bearing a letter/card of condolence that asked if I wanted to get back together. And it has just come to my mind that she also made me watch Gone With The Wind.
There was Carrie who, though she now has a really great Vespa, never kissed me either. She did shoot me in the eye with a rubber band gun, though. We've discussed this, so I don't mind airing my folly here. Not only did I never kiss her, but when I went away to college, we never actually talked about what was happening. Were we dating? Were we breaking up? Not a discussion. I don't know how long (or if) she waited. But let's talk like adults here- had we really been dating at all? Perhaps not. But until we chatted on Facebook, I carried that guilt around for years. It was pretty light, but I carried it. Perhaps if time hadn't run out, I'd have eventually kissed this Beth. But then again, she liked softball, oldies music, and romance novel. So that's kinda three strikes, you're out. See? She'd appreciate that analogy.
Dana was a junior in college while I was a senior in high school. I don't mind telling you that I went alone to my Senior Prom and was quite confused when she (the girl I was actively dating, remember) met me at the door in a suitable dress- but didn't want to come in. Now, looking back, I can see why a college junior didn't want to come to my prom. Still, I have to ask- why was she there, and in proper attire, then? Did she plan to come in, and backed out at the last minute? I chalked it up to Mars and Venus, and when I got to college myself, somehow still had to end the relationship (remember, I'd been holding hands with Beth all summer and hadn't ended things there, so how was I in fact still dating this Beth at all? I don't know).
I guess what we learn so far, is that I really needed to make my relationships clearer in those years.
This leads inevitably to talking about Caroline, who I clearly gave the wrong impression to. We went to a candlelight vigil to protest the first Iraq war in 1991. I was taken by the moment, and held her hand. Me and my hand-holding. Then we went to a screening of War of the Roses (the sequel to Romancing the Stone, remember?) where she got distinctly the wrong impression of our friendship. I remember the movie more like Kung Fu Panda. You know, the scene where they fight each other, with chopsticks instead of arms and legs? Except that this was under a table, and we just used hands. It was from Caroline that I got the famous (to me) phrase: "Friends can kiss, can't they?" (In response to, "I really just wanted to be friends"). From her I learned how awkward and pointless kissing someone can be if your heart isn't in it. The epilogue with Caroline is that she would later end up the station manager when I DJ'ed at the college radio station, which is how I acquired absolutely horrible shifts like early Friday evening, and how my own show was eventually cancelled. A show that had been running long enough that I'd listened to it on the radio as a younger teenager. That's right: because I didn't kiss her (more), I had killed it. Way to go, me.
Which leads me to Dylan. I met her camping in the woods without a tent. Yes, that's written correctly. I didn't know her before, we went on a trip with some group in college my freshman year, in which our groups were given two clear pieces of plastic about 10'X10' and some rope to make shelter, and stayed out for two nights, climbing rocks in between. We drank hot Tang, and ate ramen noodles, and later that fall the two of us wrestled in the leaves and wrote underneath bridges in chalk. And just once, we kissed while standing on another bridge, surrounded by leaves and serenaded by the babbling brook. Incidentally, she was dating her boyfriend from home throughout- which is kind of appropriate when you think that I was really still dating Beth. Oh the tangled web we weave.
And there was Esther. Perhaps the only relationship where I ever kept adequate distance was with her. Should we date? I didn't care either way, I said nonchalantly, and I meant it. If she wanted to- fine. If not- just as well. (a gambit that paid off, by the way). Esther is most memorable for the time she expressed surprise that I knew the sound of spring peeper frogs. "What did you think that sound was?" I asked. "I don't know... just the Sounds of Nature..." she replied. To a kid who'd been reading Ranger Rick since early childhood, the notion was absolutely ridiculous. But the first night of our little relationship, we sat and conversed (and yes, kissed) on a spot looking directly towards the place where I would later get engaged to the love of my life. Foreshadowing? Perhaps.
And this list doesn't even include those who I waited for, waded for, and otherwise made myself foolish in front of, who never formally expressed any interest in my companionship at all. Or those ill-fated meetings whose near perfect chemistry was derailed by boyfriends at home (who, let's just say as a wacky example, rode motocross) or living in Texas (everyone knows not to mess with Texas). Or listening to Slayer. (actually there was no chemistry there at all, never mind that last one).
I kid, but each one of these was a painful moment at the time, to a greater or lesser degree. But honestly, what other choice do we have? Let's face it- love is a mess, that sometimes has its wonderful moments that pay you back for your tears. Frankly, a painful mess when you come right down to it. Was it meant to be this way? Has it always been? Did it become this way when Eve gave Adam an apple to eat? Or are we missing pieces of each other and until we find the piece that fits, nothing will work right?
Listen to this and think about it.