Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tales of a Freshman's Crushing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that freshmen, whether in high school or college, are idiots.

I don’t say this to be unkind, but speaking from personal experience as I look back upon my first year in high school, and later, my first year in college, I cannot help but wonder if I suffered some sort of debilitating brain trauma during August of 2001 and August of 2005. In fact, I maintain that one should get a free pass during both of these years, as one cannot be held accountable for all of the imbecilic things one does and/or believes while one is a freshman, even if one should know better.

I started high school with the naïve belief that life would be like the end of a John Hughes film: yes, I was a little bit quirky and stood firmly on the middle rung of the popularity ladder, but I held on fervently to the hope that there was some guy out there who would look at me and see the pretty and witty girl I thought I was deep down—my own personal Blane McDonnaugh or Jake Ryan.

I thought I’d found him before school had even started. We met at the senior-freshman swim party (because having freshman girls parade around in their bikinis in front of senior boys is always an excellent plan): I was hanging out in the pool with a couple of my girlfriends, and this cute senior boy swam over and stunned us with his suave opening line of “Hey…what are you guys, freshman?”

Sidebar: This query informed another hilarious encounter months later, when my friends and I were trick-or-treating. We rang the doorbell of a house near our school, and another popular senior answered. As he handed us our miniature Snickers bars, he asked, “So…what are you guys?” To which, I replied, “Freshmen.” I’m fairly certain the answer he was looking for was “a princess.”

Later, I realized what a stupid question this was, as the average class size at my school hovered around eighty-five, and by the time you got to your senior year, you’d been in school with most of the class your entire academic life; ergo, if he didn’t know us, then obviously we were freshman. But in that moment, I was simply starstruck that this senior, who was president of Student Council and a football player besides, had chosen to strike up a conversation with me, the only girl at the party in a one-piece.

Sidebar: My mother had made the proclamation that summer that two-pieces were no longer decent on my increasingly curvaceous figure. It was to be an edict that was rescinded and reinforced several times over the coming years.

When school started, I got a thrill every time I would see my Big Man on Campus in the hallway. He walked past my locker every morning and would flirtily trip me when he passed by on the stairs. He called me by my last name, which made me feel older and cool. We chatted on AIM and he occasionally called me at home, and we engaged in brief conversations that left me out of breath, as I usually conducted them while pacing the floor.

Of course, there was drama. Big hinted at asking me to Homecoming, but then didn’t follow through (not that my mom would have let me go with him anyway—I think she was seriously perturbed by the fact that an eighteen year old was expressing interest in her “caboose”). Plus, Big was walking a fine line between cute potential boyfriend and stalker—he once called my mom’s cell phone while we were on a trip because he wanted to talk to me. My first words to him when she handed me the phone were “How in the hell did you get this number?!” It turns out that my mom left it on our answering machine, but it was still a little creepy that he actually used it.

But what really put me on the edge were all of the rumors. Big had allegedly been driving Meg, another freshman, home with some regularity. He confessed to me one night that they had kissed, though he insisted that it “just happened” and he didn’t really like her, which sent me into a journalistic frenzy (“That’s B.S.! How can you kiss someone if you don’t like them?” Oh, poor, innocent, little E…you had so much to learn about the world), though clearly it didn’t affect me too much, as I was still pining after him for weeks afterwards.

Sidebar: Later on in the year, the rumor mill was still churning out juicy gossip—apparently, Big and Meg did a little more than just kiss, something that earned Meg the nickname “Pop Rocks.” At the time, I wasn’t clear on what that actually meant, but I knew enough to know that I couldn’t compete with a girl who used candy as a prop during hook-ups.

My crush on Big gradually subsided as I found other, cuter, senior boys on whom to fixate. My friends and I devised clever codenames for the objects of our obsession, such as “Skittles,” “M&Ms,” “Zippers” and “Buttons.”

Sidebar: I said it once, I’ll say it again: freshmen are idiots.

However, Big was to come back into my life and onto my radar during fall finals. At this point, I had fully embraced the fact that I have not a single athletic bone in my body, and (thankfully) had decided to pursue theater as an extracurricular instead. I had been in a couple of musicals in middle school, and that fall had received rave reviews in the walk-on role of “Friend of Jeannine” in Ordinary People.

Auditions for the winter play, Kaufman and Hart’s You Can’t Take it With You, took place during finals week, and I’ll give you one guess as to who else showed up to read for a part. Big had done a couple of musicals in the past, so it’s possible this wasn’t solely a ploy to torture me, but in the end, I was cast opposite Big as Alice, the fiancée of his character, Tony.

At first, I was over the moon—it wasn’t very often that a freshman was given a lead in a play. Then, I remembered that this meant I was going to have to kiss him.

Not only was I going to have to kiss Big, and kiss him more than once in the coming weeks, but it was going to be my first kiss (a fact in which he relished—at our read through over Christmas break, he sat uncomfortably close to me, eager to get started so that we could “make out.”). First kisses are awkward to begin with, but getting your first kiss from a guy you kind of loathe, in front of about fifteen of your peers and teachers? Über-awkward.

I survived, though my nascent acting skills couldn’t completely obscure the immense lack of chemistry between the two of us. He continued to terrorize me for the rest of the year, but in May, Big graduated and went off to college in Chicago, and I never had to see him again. He does pop back into my life every once in awhile, aided by that great enabler of cyber-stalking, Facebook. The last time we spoke, he was trying to get me to drive up to Waco and visit him. He generously offered to sleep in his king-sized bed alone, so that I could have the couch.

He remains fascinated by inappropriately-aged women to this day.


  1. "At the time, I wasn’t clear on what that actually meant, but I knew enough to know that I couldn’t compete with a girl who used candy as a prop during hook-ups."

    Seriously one of the funniest lines I have ever read.

  2. E,

    He's clearly a winner in the game of life...


  3. As far as funny lines go, the whole post is a gem. It's a perfect vignette, and a perfect example of how crazy high school will always be.

    "He remains fascinated by inappropriately-aged women to this day."

    New favorite word: imbecilic.

    It fits.

  4. I wish I could pick a favorite line from this post, E... but I can't.

    And I wish it weren't so horribly accurate... but it is.

    But seriously, if you ever give up on finding Jake Ryan, I will come find you and kick it back into you. Aside from the two first names, one of them being Ryan, and the four letter first name; all three of which seem to follow me around like flies follow a garbage truck.

    Well done, E.