Monday, July 09, 2007

Dirty Little Secrets #61 - #66

I spent the weekend recalling the days of my misspent youth.

#61) I was a teenage drama queen. Literally, in the sense that I longed to star in the high school musical. I wore pearls. And pleated skirts with cabled tights. My hair and nails were coiffed.

And then there were the boys. From the time I was fourteen, there were always boys. The boy who was a sloppy kisser. The ne'er-do-well turned into successful adult. The skater. The future engineer who was mean to me. The boy who loved me but wasn't good enough for me. The boy who only thought he loved me.

I wandered the hallowed halls of my alma mater clutching love notes, weeping, and peering around corners hoping that my current boy wouldn't catch me holding hands with the boy who would steal me away from him. There was always more than one.

And there was the boy who would break my heart.

#62)The soundtrack to my teenage love affairs was the eternal summer sound of the Grateful Dead.

In the early nineties in Upstate NY we had two choices: top 40 or classic rock. The boys who loved me preferred Pink Floyd to C&C Music Factory, the Dead to Deee-Lite. The boy who wasn't good enough wrote out song lyrics on powder blue lined-notebook paper. Eyes of the World. Looks Like Rain. He took to me to see the Jerry Garcia Band on a school night in November 1991 and held me tight as he sang along to Simple Twist of Fate in my ear.

I knew he wasn't good enough, but it didn't matter. It felt nice to be wanted. My best friend dated the homecoming king, but I was L-O-V-E-D.

The boy and his friends took the best friend and I to see the Dead at Rich Stadium in June of 1992. Mrs. Chicken chaperoned, and I'm not not sure that she had much fun. But it was warm and sunny. The boy and his friends - my friends - took swigs of Mountain Dew and plastic jug vodka while the best friend and I stayed sober. They played Aiko Aiko and Ramble on Rose and Let it Grow - a song the boy and I held dear. We sat under the Coca-Cola sign at opposite end from the stage. Later, the best friend and I climbed to the top and leaned over, watching the drunks stumble on the sidewalk below us. "Hey Bob!" we called, waiting for someone to look up.

By June of 1993, my parents had forbidden me to see the boy who wasn't good enough. There'd been tears. And sneaking around. And other boys. Finally, a week before I would graduate, the best friend, her high school sweetheart and a new group of boys headed west to the see the Dead. Mrs. Chicken declined this time around. But the boy who wasn't good enough was there, waiting for me.

Unfortunately for him, the boy who would break my heart appeared in my kitchen the week before. He scored a ticket to the show, and it was on his lap that I heard Cassidy and Looks Like Rain in the warm dusk under the Coca-Cola sign. The boy who wasn't good enough watched silently, a few rows away.

#63) When I went away to school, I left the boys behind me, with the important exception of the boy who would break my heart. I pretended that the skater, the ne'er-do-well, and the boy who wasn't good enough were unimportant. That they hadn't been my friends, before they were ever my boyfriends. I never called. I never wrote. I never visited. I kept only the best friend in my stable of friends.

I left behind the drama queen in favor of the composed, well-dressed, sophisticated Seven Sisters young woman I thought I'd become.

But I was still a drama queen.

The boy - the new boy - wanted to see other girls, even though I'd be his special girl. The girl he'd share his dreams with. The girl he missed so dearly from far away Syracuse that he'd call and beg me to call him back because he couldn't afford the bill. The boy who said, go. Have fun. Call me and tell me all about the wonderful boys you meet. We'll sow our wild oats and get married in ten years. I'd swoon and tell the girls down the hall how miserable I was and then I'd plan my revenge.

Have fun with boys and tell you all about it? Ok.

#64) In college, I kissed a lot of boys. Well, maybe not a lot. But my fair share. The boy from Amherst who admired my Dead Set poster. The poet. The hockey player. The a capella singer. And the tennis player from Williams. I told the boy who would break my heart all about each one. It didn't matter that I'd done what he asked of me. He broke my heart anyway. I cried for a year, decided I didn't need a boy to be happy, and then met Dirk.

#65) I am not the girl I used to be.

Drama is banished, and Dirk has been the only boy in my life since July 6, 1996. I was just barely an adult when we met, on one of those summer nights so similar to the nights when Days Between washed over my old life and my old friends and my old dreams. It seems a self-indulgent waste to write here of the boys who populated my heart at the tender age of 16, 17 and 18, but I met the man who became my husband when I was two weeks past my twenty-first birthday. They're all the past that I have.

I put away the Dead and learned to love Bruce Springsteen. I learned to drive in the big city and paid for graduate school and drank wine. I watched family members die and my city attacked. I had children and bought houses and raised dogs.

And then I moved home. At first I was afraid that my teenage self would be lurking around every corner. I hid from the best friend, who lives two blocks away and helped me find my dream house. I tip-toed down the aisles of the grocery store, peering around the corner for former classmates the same way that I used to hide from the boys I cheated on.

It took a couple of months to realize that she wasn't there. The drama queen is gone, and in her place is the hardened, sensible, pragmatic wife and mother. Last summer, new in town, I stopped by the house of the boy who wasn't good enough, with Dirk and the kids in tow. He was the same, if slightly worse for the wear of fifteen years of concerts, beer, and bachelorhood. I was not. I made him nervous, this woman with pigtails and sneakers and children, and I realized that as much as I had left behind the people whom I loved, they had left me behind, too.

#66) I have not often appreciated my memories of the past.

This girl who seems so foreign to me now was not all so bad. Granted, I cared too much about my clothes, my hair, my make-up. The boys. The cast list. The grades and the colleges into which I would be accepted.

But I loved to sing and later on I learned to do it because I loved it, not because anyone else was listening. I was a good student and I took that with me to Mt. Holyoke. The best friend is not my friend anymore; she is a part of my family, the person I called at 6 am the day my father died.

This past weekend, at our 4th of July barbecue pork fest, the best friend's husband - that same high school sweetheart - reminded me of the night in June of 1993. "I remember you two with your arms around each other, singing Tennessee Jed like you were howling at the moon."

And suddenly, I remembered too.

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