If I could go back and slap myself in the eighth grade, I would, like more than once.
The second half of my eighth grade year started with me swearing off boys, especially ones named Jack*. I was a new me and I had pulled a Felicity to prove it. My once long thick hair was now cut to a simple bob. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to style it and half the time it looked like I was wearing some sort of helmet. Nonetheless, I felt pretty accomplished with my new look. I knew I had changed my feelings for Jack when one of my close friends, Jenny* started dating him after winter break.
It was new territory for me, finally not being jealous of one of Jack’s girlfriends. It made me feel like I had gotten over him. Once Jack and Jenny got together, I started to realize there were other boys at my school. The ones that I had been ignoring for months because I was preoccupied with being the president of Jack’s fan club. One in particular, Mike* had always hung around my group of friends because he had a similar undying crush on Dina*.
Dina was my next-door neighbor and on/off best friend. Our friendship could be rocky at times, but it was usually petty stuff that was quickly resolved within a day or two. One famously stupid fight was during a sleepover at my house years earlier. I had just discovered the greatness of No Doubt and was obsessed with listening to Tragic Kingdom over and over again. She found this boring (I don’t blame her) and quickly went back to her house. Sleep-OVER. I can’t even remember what she wanted to do, but it clearly wasn’t listening to the same CD on constant repeat. Dina wasn’t really interested in Mike’s funny charm and overall cuteness.
I started to have a crush on him soon after he started messaging me on AOL Instant Messenger (yup, you read that right). Before texting, AIMing, was made perfectly to chat with cute classmates and even total strangers. If there was one invention I loved more as an awkward pre-teen, it was AIM. I wasn’t my awkward stammering self around boys because I could actually think before I typed. They weren’t faced with my cheeks turning a bright shade of red in an attempt to make dreaded eye contact with them. It was awesome, and my online persona was way more confident than the real me. One afternoon, Mike seemed to be typing in a more flirtatious manner. He talked about my “pretty eyes” and how he loved my new haircut. At the end of the conversation he asked me to be his girlfriend. Stunned, I quickly said yes. It was a dream come true or so I thought.
The next day at school, all my friends were excited to finally see me with a boyfriend. It had literally been years since I had one and it was quite possible that I knew even less about boys that I did in the sixth grade. At lunch, things got hard when people demanded that we do the same things that all couples do after eating. The typical couple embraced each other, with the boyfriend usually standing awkwardly behind the girlfriend holding on to her hips.
Not wanting to break some sort of junior high tradition, Mike and I cuddled for the most painful ten minutes ever. I could feel his warm breath near my ear, as he tried to carry on conversation. I stared straight ahead, panicked, as my friends observed us in our unnatural habitat. Who thought of this way of showing that you were boyfriend and girlfriend? What happened to good old holding hands? I felt trapped and actually couldn’t wait to go to history class after lunch. It was tough to say, but I still wasn’t ready for the pressures of having a boyfriend.
Right before last period, I had made a decision. The thought of having to participate in the rituals mirrored from the more popular crowd was not going to work for me. I couldn’t stand telling Mike to his face, so instead, begged my friend Cas* to deliver the bad news. She was a pretty frank person, she quickly told poor Mike that we were over. It seemed brutal, as she recounted the disappointment in his face during after-school volleyball practice. Our love lasted less than one day. It took awhile for me to even look Mike in the eyes after that. Eventually, we both moved on.
For months, all I wanted was a boyfriend. I flooded my journal with dreams and desires of finding the right guy, but in the end I wasn’t ready. Of course, I didn’t really learn my lesson from this and moved on to other crushes. Even returning to the worst one I could ever have because no matter what he did to hurt me, Jack was my end game. Yup, I was that stupid.