Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Best of the BLOW OFF: My Very First Blow Off

At 14, I had only recently gotten control of my hair. My once gentle, adorable curls had betrayed me during puberty and transformed into something that closely resembled the demon spawn of a Brillo pad and a mushroom. By freshman year, I had mastered an hours-long routine that made my hair almost pass for normal human tresses. Life was looking up.

Then, like something out of a teen movie, I stumbled into a pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming high school romance with my unattainable crush. The year before, I'd seen him perform as Wiley Post in the high school's production of The Will Rogers Follies. It was Jordan Catalano-level love at first sight.

Wiley had floppy dark blond hair that he tucked behind his ears. He wore a leather jacket and had an endless supply of plaid flannel shirts (it was the '90s, go with it). Somehow we ended up in the same intro to journalism class and I spent weeks staring at the back of his head, listening to him flirt with older girls (did I mention he was a junior?) and turning bright pink if his eyes ever swung in my direction.

I made several sneaky attempts to get close to him — even signing up to do props for the fall musical before learning he hadn't even tried out — and eventually one of them worked. Through a mutual friend, we started talking. And soon, we were "Talking." As in, "Are you guys dating?" "No, we're just talking." Trust me, it's a thing.

Our relationship evolved. I borrowed his flannel (and slept in it several nights in a row), he wrote me notes that referenced True Romance, he walked me to class, I pulled the hall phone into my bedroom and whispered with him until 3:00 AM. I had it bad.

It was terrifying. At 14, I was not very experienced with male attention (see first paragraph: Brillo pad mushroom), certainly not superfine 17 year-old dreamboat attention. And as my trusty bad influence friend pointed out, he and his ex-girlfriend totally had sex and "he'll break up with you if you don't." The only time I'd even kissed a guy was during spin-the-bottle at summer camp.

With all that on my mind, Wiley and I headed for the Christmas Dance. He picked me up in a car I'd never seen before, explaining that it was his older brother's. The night was a sweaty blur. Usually a bit of a wallflower, I was in the thick of the action all night. We slow danced and a moment passed when I was sure he was finally going to kiss me. He didn't.

At the end of the night, we were in my parents' driveway. We talked long enough for my older brother (who'd somehow beat us home after dropping off his own date) to flash the porch lights a few times. There was something like regret on Wiley's face when he said, "I really want to kiss you right now." I took a deep breath; this was it. "But I don't think my girlfriend would like it very much."

I blinked. My first reaction was confusion. Our school was not that big. Surely, some girl would notice her boyfriend escorting me to every class, sitting with me at lunch, zipping me up in his leather jacket when I was cold.

These were the facts: He was dating a 19 year-old. She worked at Subway. We were sitting in her car.

The next day after church, my unwittingly evil mother suggested Subway. I started to beg off, but 1) it was the only vegetarian fastfood option in town and 2) I was a glutton for punishment. So I walked slowly to the counter and ordered a Veggie Delite. I memorized everything about our thoroughly unremarkable sandwich artist: her stringy brown hair, the bored glazed look in her eyes, the discolored tooth that was probably from childhood antibiotics. Somehow she was better than me. And I hated her. For her part, she had no idea who the hell I was and simply asked "Regular?" when I ordered a bag of SunChips.

At school, Wiley and I fell back into our usual pattern. Only now we each had a mission. He was determined to pull me out of my perpetual pout and I was determined to guilt him into being mine alone.

It didn't take long to figure out what she had that I didn't. My friend was right; they were like totally having sex. And as if I didn't know I was in too deep, my older brother's female friends were only too happy to point it out. They'd pull me aside at school and tell me that Wiley was an asshole and that I deserved better. For his part, my brother told my parents that Wiley had a girlfriend, was sexually active and should be shot on sight.

I sat back and let everyone around me debate a decision that I didn't even realize was mine. Wiley was the one with the power. He was the only one who could fix everything and make me happy. But he was burdened with this awful girlfriend. She didn't understand him. She didn't love him as much as me. She was only there because... Because I wasn't enough until I was ready to drop trou.

That's when I realized I wasn't really pissed at her. I was pissed at him.

One day, he tried to get my attention in journalism. I sighed heavily and told him I was busy. He wrote me a note. I rolled my eyes and stuffed it in my bag. When he walked me to class, I didn't take his hand. I just looked at him and said, "You have a girlfriend." It came out like an accusation. He bristled. "Yeah, but I thought we were just going to wait and see what happened?" I looked at him, the boy who's mere glance once made my heart race and my skin flush. "Yeah," I said, "We did."


  1. I wish I could say that we did shoot Wiley on sight, but we didn't. Ah, well.

  2. I'm still dying @ the billo pad and mushroom analogy. That was me, to a T.

  3. At least there's comfort in knowing that he is the type of guy who is now working as a bank manager with a tribal arm tattoo hidden under his ill-fitting Dillard's suit.