Wednesday, February 09, 2005


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

Patty was a freshman when I was a senior but because I had started school at a fairly young age (I entered kindergarten at 4 and just went from there), there ended up being about 18 months difference in our ages, which was about the difference between myself and Gina (and every other girl in my class). I knew her a little bit from drama club, and now here she was in the girls' chorus of the school musical.

We started talking in the early evenings before rehearsal. I lived a long way from school, and my mom (who had the car) has started working in the evenings (later, she'd get some time off to help with the musical's costumes), so I just hung around at school from the time class was over until rehearsal began. Patty, on the other hand, lived within walking distance of school, and one night she showed up early. We were the only two people in the cafeteria, and she seemed a little nervous (it wasn't til much later that I learned it was nervous excitement from being alone with me, if you can believe it) so I started making smart remarks about the adults running the play, she laughed, and we were off to the races.

Once she knew I spent almost every afternoon by myself at school, she began showing up earlier and earlier. I welcomed the company. She was a sweet, sweet girl, with curly blond hair and sea-green eyes. She was shy at first, but when she warmed up and started talking, I think we were both surprised to find out how much we had in common (I remember well her astonishment at realizing how close we were in age. I had already forgotten how, as a freshman, I had thought the seniors were so much older. She felt the same way too, so learning how old I was made her feel much more comfortable around me, one of the few times my age was ever a social advantage).

After a month or so of this, I was down in the cafeteria one Friday evening Patty. At first I didn't think much of it, and then as darkness settled in, I began to worry. There had been some kind of mugging near our school a few weeks earlier. I didn't remember all the details, and didn't really care because I lived the next town over. But Patty...she walked here. How could I have been so stupid? What if something had happened to her? It was winter, it was cold, it was dark. I wasn't sure how far away Patty lived, but I knew the general direction, and it went through a part of town that suddenly was seeming downright sinister. I've always had an overactive imagination when it comes to picturing people I care about in danger (remember my dream about Robin falling off the World Trade Center?), so in very short order I had worked myself into a lather. I "borrowed" a flashlight from the stage office--a big metal one like police use because they double as cudgels--and had my winter coat on, prepared to head off into the snow...

...and here comes Patty through the door, with several members of the girls' chorus. It had been someone's birthday and they had all gone to a party after school, then come back for rehearsal.

She stopped talking to her friends right away when she saw me. "Where are you going?" she asked.

And there I am: Nanook of the North, bundled up for an expedition, ready to deal out some flashlight-handle justice in the name of this defenseless girl...who was at a birthday party. I felt silly, of course. But more relieved than anything. I'd like to tell you I uttered something dead romantic, but in the event I mumbled something about not seeing her and getting kinda worried and sorta thinking about going looking for her. Yeah, I was embarrassed.

Over time, I have come to realize that my "type" of woman, if I have one, is someone who, to varying degrees, finds the idea of a guy being worried about her to be a big turn-on. If you overdo it, you come off as being possessive, or a stalker (not that I'm speaking from experience), but I guess if the feeling is sincere enough, it pushes some serious buttons.

It certainly did in Patty's case. She lit up like a Christmas tree, gave me a smile I can still see with my eyes closed, and wrapped her arms around me, right there in front of the girls' chorus.

In short order, Patty and I started "going out"--I gave her my school ring and everything. I was pretty happy about these developments, but I think it's fair to say that Gina had a problem with it. It's probably not even stretching the truth to suggest that it drove Gina up the ever-loving wall. I don't remember feeling any satisfaction about that, although I suppose there was a certain poetic justice to it all, after the way I'd been treated when we got back to school.

But, Sensitive Guy that I was, I at last came to the conclusion that she'd had her chance. And now...well, it was time to move on. And so I did.

For the next few months, things were great, greater than great. I thought of Patty then--and sometimes think of her still--as my first love, not because I was delusional and had forgotten, oh, Liz, Maryanne, Robin and Gina, but because this was how I had always imagined love would be. That is, this pure, uncomplicated relationship where you both feel the same way about each other at the same time (for more than a couple weeks in summer, I mean), where issues of confidence and propriety become inconsequential. All that, plus a good healthy dose of hot-n-heavy teen lust.

Patty and I were inseparable. I barely remember graduating from high school because I spent most of that spring figuring out how to get over to Patty's house, or how to get her over to mine, how to sneak her out of study hall and into the student government room (to which I still had a key, from when I was a class president), where to meet her before, during or after the weekend dances. Every ounce of my being seemed bent upon the task of spending as much time as I could with her. And she was the same way. Looking back, I'm a little appalled at how single-minded I was. Granted, I had good reason because Patty was a little hottie back then, far more of one than I had any right to expect or deserve, I thought.

Well, given our mutual obsession, it's no wonder our parents--specifically our moms--got involved. And that's when it all started going sour.

To give a balanced picture, I have to say that I wasn't too thrilled when my mom started finding excuses for me not to see Patty. We had a few arguments about it and that wasn't pretty. I realize now that she was trying to be the voice of reason (seeing as how I didn't have one of my own at that time). I was going off to college in a few months; Patty had three more years of high school. You could see where she was going with this: a long-term, long-distance relationship was just not going to make sense. I understood it; I just wasn't happy about it--nor happy with my mom for pointing it out.

But my mom's intervention was nothing--NOTHING--like what Patty experienced from her mom.

Her mom was...what's the word? Oh yes--NUTS. I'm convinced the woman was functionally insane. I later found out that when she first heard Patty had a crush on me (way back in the drama club play days), she would encourage Patty to walk over to school early to see me. Would sometimes even drop her off. After we started dating, she would pump Patty for absolutely every painstaking detail of every time we spent together. Patty ended up telling her stuff about us that I STILL wouldn't want MY mother to know about. It all sounded pretty goddamn creepy to me, this old woman (Patty was the youngest of 7 kids, and a pretty big surprise, if you know what I mean) living vicariously through her 16-year-old daughter.

I wasn't the only one who thought the woman was creepy. I remember driving home one night after our families had spent the day together, my mom was really quiet. I knew she and Patty's mom had chatted, but she wouldn't say what they discussed. All my mom would say was, "Be careful around that poor girl's mother."

And I began to see why my mom might want to warn me. When Patty's mom wasn't egging Patty on and pumping her for juicy details, she would turn around and lay the Catholic-mom-keep-your-virtue-guilt-trip on her. Psychologists have a term for this, you know: it's called crazy-making behavior. And after a while, I guess it did make Patty crazy, in a way.

For starters, out of nowhere, she started flying into these insane jealous rages about my time pursuing Gina. Never mind that she and I were history by the time Patty and I started dating. The problem, see, was that my mom and Gina's mom were still friends, and sometimes Gina would tag along if her mom came to our house to visit. Just knowing Gina and I were in the same house together when she wasn't there was enough to send Patty into these crazy rages that were positively frightening (and she was much smaller than I). It got to the point where I found myself ignoring Gina as completely as I could, and not just in class, but whenever I saw her, which was more than rude; it was unworthy of me (and of her). And yet, I was so committed to maintaining Patty's increasingly delicate emotional equilibrium that I hardly knew what else to do.

Except for one thing.

So, one night late in August, a few weeks before I was to head off to college some 500 miles away, we had yet another stupid little argument, only this one ballooned into an ugly blow-out in my driveway. We said some awful things to one another (I might have said something about her being as crazy as her mother, for example) before she hurled my class ring at me and got in her car. With gravel flying from under the spinning wheels, Patty reversed out of the driveway--and my life.

Although it seemed like ages, it had been almost exactly a year ago that I had come to end of my idyllic summer with Gina and would embark on THAT wild emotional ride. And now here I was, at the end of another summer, alone and confused and annoyed and frustrated and just at the end of my rope.

But as my thoughts turned to the great new adventure I was about to begin, I was in a more philosophical frame of mind. On the one hand, I was now not going to be to Patty what that College Guy had been to Gina, and that in itself seemed like some kind of moral victory.

On the other hand, I was grateful for my experience with Gina and Patty. I thought: My God, what one can learn in a year about the minds and bodies of women. It had been by turns sad and wonderful, and while I could have done without the crazier parts, on the whole I felt somehow that every moment of my experience in the past year would ultimately serve some greater good. Or at least some personal good. Either way.

And on the third hand, I was now a free agent. College--and college women--beckoned. I think don't think it's telling tales out of school to say that part of me (not saying which part) was looking forward to the immediate future as the...heh heh heh...Season of Sowing My Wild...BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA ...ahuhahuhA-HA-HA-HA-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAHAAAAA

(gasp) Oh God, heh-heh-heh, I'm so sorry. Hahahahaha. I just couldn't type that last part and keep a straight face. Because, see, I already know the punchline to this joke...

Wonderful telling.
I was so glad when Gina got hers!
She thought you would be here 'guy to fall back on' forever.
Poor Patty. I'm so thankful I have normal parents!

Horny College Bound Boy.........sowing of wild oats......
Hmmmmmm - I have an idea of what the punchline might be.
Can't wait to see if I am right.

I just read your Childhood dating saga in basically one sitting.( I had to get up briefly).

There's not going to be a graphic version for the college years is there?
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