Gabe – Circa The Early 80s
Gabe was my boyfriend before I knew what a boyfriend was. I was in my late 6’s and early 7’s. He was a year older then me, which was a big deal at the time. He was small for his age and bossy, but funny. Once he said “I got bit by a red ant,” and Wayne Goldberg was like “Did you die?” We laughed really hard about that. He picked me first to be on his team for games like tag, and when I got called “out” he would always make an exception. When it rained we played hide and seek in his basement. We hid in the closet together, turned off the lights and kissed. I remember being able to see the whites of his tiny teeth. When he got the chicken pox my mom let us hang out, hoping I would get the chicken pox too so I could just get them over with. We sat on his driveway and traded Star Wars cards. He gave me Princess Leia and the Ewoks (obviously). His house smelled like suntan lotion. His family took limos to the airport. He was the first friend I ever had who was always on my side. This was before he realized that it wasn’t cool to like girls, which shortly followed. His family moved away to another neighborhood very close to mine, but to keep hanging out after the move we somehow realized was too intense. We stopped playing together and I took to dance routines in the backyard while he took to BMXing with the boys. In high school he asked me if I remembered when we used to kiss in the closet, and I lied and said “no.” He said “I knew you would say you that.” I don’t know why I lied about it. It just came out of my mouth that way before I could stop it.
Eric – Summer of 1987
At camp every girl had a boyfriend. It didn’t matter how old you were or what you looked like. It was just a thing that went down. We called it “going out.” I thought Eric was cute and for weeks I would stare at him during “line-up.” Line-up was when the camp gathered once in the morning and once at night to go over things. It was like a community meeting. For weeks Eric and I would look at each other and then look away. It was the first time I ever participated in this kind of mating ritual. Look at him, look away, look at him again. It made my heart stop and start over and over and I realized I loved that feeling. From the moment I woke up it was the first thing I thought about. Whenever there was a chance of any kind of interaction with the boys, during meals or just walking to the next activity, I would look for him to make eye contact and get that feeling. It made me feel high. Then one day he asked me out, or a friend of his asked me out for him, which was a popular way to do it at the time. I said yes. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with him once we were “going out.” I had never thought that far about it and I was scared shitless. The minute I realized I had to talk to him, the exciting feeling I had went away. It was like poof, instead of turning into a pumpkin at midnight, I just turned back into a regular girl with underdeveloped hormones who loved candy and stickers, not boys. We walked around the lake together while people were watching. I had a necklace made of seashells on and the whole time I just played with the necklace and looked down at my feet. I don’t remember saying one word to him. “Going out” actually sucked. When we got back from walking around the lake I told my friend to tell him that I didn’t want to “go out” anymore. I’m pretty sure he was upset, but I felt relieved.
Toby – 4th Grade, 1988
I was best friends with two girls: Tiffany and Stacy. We were all in the same class. Two boys, also in our class, Loren and Jeff, lived in my neighborhood. Jeff liked Tiffany and Loren liked Stacy. The boy who liked me was Toby. Toby had red hair and did not live in my neighborhood. He didn’t even live in Woodbury, but Syosset, right next to the school. Toby was a grade older than me and wrote me little notes everyday. It was overwhelming but he was cute and popular and was actually a grade older. One time his note said, “I really like your ponytail today,” when my hair was actually in a French braid. He would always add a PS at the end that asked questions such as “PS do you like Def Leppard?” And he’d write it in the Def Leppard font. His head would pop up in the small square window on the door of my classroom, which, according to one of his notes, meant I was supposed to ask if I could use the bathroom and then meet him in the hall. At first I found this exciting but after the 3rd or 4th time, not so much. The other boys, Loren and Jeff, were a little scared of Toby but since we were all best friends, they’d be forced to hang out. Everyone got quiet when Toby was around because he was older and would curse a lot and say words like “pussy.” Once we all went to the movies and Toby was throwing popcorn and acting a little too wild, but then he calmed down. It actually turned out to be a fun night. I feel like we saw that movie “Hiding Out” with Jon Cryer but I could be wrong. After the movie Jeff’s mom picked us up and we all went back to Jeff’s house. I remember thinking that Jeff and his mother looked a lot like ALF. We played spin the bottle and I made the mistake of kissing Toby on the lips. After that night all he wanted to do was kiss me on the lips. In school, every hour, he would pop his head into the small window and I’d see his orange spiky hair bobbing, motioning for me to come out. I would ignore it. I didn’t feel good about this but I also didn’t want to get in trouble and I didn’t want to kiss either. Kissing got boring fast and I felt really, really overwhelmed. I dumped Toby and he was FURIOUS and started being really mean to me during school days. I felt really upset and cried because he was being so mean and getting some older girls to be mean to me as well. When he heard I cried he wrote me a note that said “I’m sorry and I’d really like to be friends, maybe even get back together one day.” I said that sounded like a good idea even though I had no intention of that ever happening. I did however, consider revisiting Toby in Junior High when I realized how cool he was, but by then it was too late.