Thursday, February 10, 2005


Love's Labour Lost and Found (A Random Anecdote)

Okay, all kidding aside, it's kind of hard to write about my college romances, probably because they really weren't all that long ago, and some moments are still kind of awkward and painful for me to relate.

Also, the sheer lack of college romance may have something to do with it.

If you must know, fully two-thirds of my time at college was a bit like a sit-com where all the jokes hinge on the main character's disastrous liaisons, romantic near-misses and utter inability to get with the program in the "college is a time of wild sexual adventures" department.

Perhaps it's best if we move through these years via a series of character portraits:

Betty: I had kind of a low-level crush on Betty when I first met her in French class. We hung out a lot, watched TV together, went on road trips, even lived together at one point. And absolutely nothing happened EVER, except the night I walked her home from a party and she stumbled drunkenly on the sidewalk and I reached out to steady her--and accidentally made the briefest nanosecond contact with her right boob. But that hardly counts. Eventually, she just ended up in the sister-I-never-had compartment of my heart, which means that we were utterly devoted to each other, when we weren't busy pissing one another off. The plot twist: When my best friend from high school came to visit me, the thunderbolt struck them both, they fell madly in love and got married and have two kids now. And what did I get for all of that? That's right: a frickin' boob touch!

Veronica: I had kind of a low-level crush on Veronica when I first met her in this funky Honors program thing we were in. (Incidentally, this was the same day I met Betty.) Veronica didn't spend as much time with me as Betty, but when she did, she was always willing to bandy about a topic that was very much on my mind: sex. The problem was, Veronica was actually having sex with, oh, quite a lot of partners. Whereas I...was not, so our relationship was a bit uneven. On the bright side, Veronica actually let me kiss her once or twice, for which I remember feeling deep appreciation. The plot twist: Veronica once promised that, if I was completely unable to get laid during my college career, she would "step in and help me out." Boy, what a pal!

Sabrina: She claimed to be a witch, as in a worshiper of the goddess Diana. Cool, I thought, when she told me. However, I was not the least bit attracted to Sabrina, but not because of her religious preference. And not because she had extremely hairy legs (over which she insisted on wearing black panty hose with numerous runs in them, which caused all the hair to stick out in strange tufts). And it certainly wasn't because of her tendency to announce the onset of her period with the ringing cry, "There's sooooo much blood!" It was more what you might call an accumulation of traits that made me think we weren't compatible. But then one day she revealed that, via secret incantations in her room, she had placed a love spell on me (prime ingredient of the spell: menstrual fluid!) and that terrible things would befall me if I resisted. I said I'd take my chances. The plot twist: Not too much later, Sabrina was in a car accident just outside the dorm. It was a minor fender-bender and Sabrina didn't even go to the hospital. But a day later, she claimed to have amnesia, a very specific kind of amnesia that knocked all memory of me out of her head. Just to make the point, every time I saw her in the dorm, she'd come over with a quizzical look and ask, "Do I know you?" I think she was just embarrassed over the whole love spell thing and came up with a creative way of blowing me off. It worked for me.

Medusa: Veronica and I both knew Medusa from the Honors program thing we were involved in. Medusa wore very heavy makeup and had very long hair. I mean freakishly long, down to her shoelaces long. Medusa had a boyfriend who was a senior and who spent long hours working on some ill-defined project over in the communications building, which gave her a lot of free, lonely evenings. One night she invited me to her room, ostensibly to work on an honors project together. Instead, she made a clumsy pass at me, and suddenly her hair was in my eyes, my mouth, enveloping me, suffocating me. The plot twist: Then there was a knock at the door and it was the boyfriend, who gave me the stink-eye as I made good my escape. I was so flustered, I went straight to Veronica's to tell her about it. "Sounds like things got pretty hairy there," she deadpanned.

Mindy: A sweet, utterly gorgeous young woman with whom a few (not a lot, but enough) sparks flew upon our first meeting, so much so that I asked her out almost immediately and she accepted just as quickly. A few days before Spring Break, we went out, enjoyed dinner and a movie and a goodnight clinch with enough heat that I knew there'd be a second date, at least. The plot twist: When I went home for Spring Break, my mom informed me that one of my best childhood pals had killed himself. I was beyond devastated. When I got back after the break, I was exhausted and depressed and kept myself to myself. When I finally came out of it, it was almost the end of the year and Mindy was already dating someone else. Shit.

Gina: Yes, THAT Gina. The one from high school. We ended up going to college about four hours away from each other. One day, she called me out of the blue. A friend in her dorm was driving to the big city west of my college and she thought she might hitch a ride, pay a visit. She arrived early Friday night and found me and my roommate and a couple friends drinking screwdrivers and watching some home video I'd taken on my travels (I had just spent a semester in England). The evening is a blur (the screwdrivers may have had something to do with it), but I remember suddenly finding myself alone in the room with Gina (my friends had long since left and my roommate was up in his room, calling his girlfriend, who lived out of town). Next thing I know, Gina and I are going at it like we're 16 again, only sloppy-drunk. She breathes three vodka-laced words in my ear--"I want you"--and heads upstairs to my bedroom to wait for me. I'm reeling, for a lot of reasons. I thought I was over this girl. Wasn't I? We had our moment in the summer sun, years ago. No, no, this was a mistake. And yet, here's me, heading for the stairs. It was like one of those dreams where things are happening to you, but you're powerless to prevent it. The plot twist: Thank goodness I had taken the precaution of drinking as much as I did, because when I got to the top of the darkened stairwell, I became so disoriented that I ended up staggering into my roommate's room, uttered the words, "Ready when you are, baby!" then passed out on his bed. I woke up the next morning, dignity intact (well, aside from thereafter being known as the guy who got lost in his own apartment). Anyway, I showered, vomited (these actions were not sequential, but simultaneous), and later had a little about-last-night talk with Gina and we parted as friends. I saw her maybe once after that, when she visited my family in New Hampshire and somehow ended up canoodling with my Big Brother (let's let THAT image sink in for a moment). But I barely noticed at the time, because I was too busy spending my off hours with...

Gretchen: Oh man, there are still days I thank God for Gretchen (Veronica does too, since Gretchen's presence relieved Veronica from a certain promise to me). She was an absolutely charming woman of German descent who, for a time anyway, thought I was just the cat's meow. For reasons that frequently escape me, she was utterly devoted to me, and her devotion put an end to my sit-com lifestyle. I pretty much lived at her house my last year of college (much to the chagrin of her housemates, especially after I caused the washing machine to emit a black, black smoke). The plot twist: So it's kind of odd that, the summer we graduated, I couldn't get away from her fast enough. I took a summer internship at a publishing company in the south and that was the beginning of the end for Gretchen. I spent most of that summer trying to understand why I suddenly wanted to be a free agent again. Part of it was that Gretchen was ready to find an apartment and live together with a very clear view towards marriage (not immediately, but someday). Writing to a friend about my feelings at the time, I said this:

Re: my break-up with Gretchen. It's too easy to say I reverted to type and became a classic commitment-phobic male. The truth is, I'm at a point in my life where I need to commit myself to something else. I've been making some strides in my aspirations as a writer, but I have a very strong gut sense that I need to have a few wilderness years, making my way and paying my dues. Only once I've proven myself (to myself if no one else) only once I begin my career (and this internship hardly counts) do I feel like I can turn my attention to something as serious making plans to spend a future with someone.

Wow. That sounded a lot more convincing 15 years ago than it does right now. See, what I didn't know then was that, even as I wrote those words, I had already met THE love of my life.

But first, I had to survive the Season of the Crazy Women...

Those are awesome. One of my best cCollege experiences was being an RA in an Honors Dorm, for 3 years. Those smart kids are crazy.
Very very funny.

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