13-Year Old Me Just Spontaneously High-Fived Somebody…

Column: Love Drunk or Hungover

By: Scott L. Clark, guest columnist

…but he has absolutely no idea why.

Anyone that knew me as a kid would tell you that I’ve always liked girls. You know how most little boys go through that “cootie” phase where girls are yucky? Yeah, never happened to me. My first crush was a girl named Sarah, and we were 5 or 6 years old. I remember her vividly. She was cute with blonde, curly hair, and I would fantasize about walking her home and (of course) holding her hand while we crossed the street. That Halloween, we were at school in costumes. She had dressed up like a princess, complete with a cone-shaped hat and a little wisp of fabric attached to the top hanging down; my Mom had dressed me up like a Rubix cube (to this day, my mother is the most creative person I know). I also remember that Sara hated my guts.

Yes, despite my admiration of Sara, she wouldn’t give me the time of day. When we were to pick a partner to take trick-or-treating, my gaze fell on her and she shook her head “no” and begged me to not pick her. Of course I did anyway, and she immediately burst into tears. Completely defeated, I picked a different friend and sadly went from house to house with a vampire instead of the princess of my dreams. It was the first rejection of many, but one that I’ll never forget.

But I’m not writing today to tell you about what a ladies man I was in kindergarten. Fast-forward to fifth grade when I met whom we’ll call “Cecelia” for anonymity’s sake (I’ve been listening to a lot Simon and Garfunkel, apparently). Cecelia was the most beautiful thing my 10-year old eyes had ever seen, and was the worst crush of my life. Where most of the girls in my school were cheeky, fake or obnoxious, she was shy and demure. I was fascinated by her. This was puppy love at its finest, back at the age when things like sex and drama didn’t get in the way of pure infatuation.

I was also scared to death of her. Now I know what you’re thinking: Why is Casa Nova, Jr. scared of a girl? It’s important to understand that the school I attended from 5th grade until my senior year was a Baptist parochial school that forbade dating of any kind. In that culture, dating was for the sole purpose of finding a spouse and was not allowed until after graduation. That being said, admitting to “liking” someone was like committing social suicide, even in my elementary years. The other kids would tease like crazy and make dealing with the teachers and pastoral staff not worth taking the chance of talking to a girl extensively for fear of getting in trouble.

Although I rarely got the nerve to talk to Cecelia, that didn’t stop me from doing all I could to make her aware of my crush. My second year at that school, I decided I wanted to buy her a Christmas present. My mom took me to the mall where I bought a heart-shaped necklace and had her initial engraved on it. I then wrapped it in shiny, red wrapping paper with a multi-layered bow on top. I’ll never forget the next day at school as I carried that box around in my pocket all day waiting for any window of opportunity to give her the present while being noticed by as few people as possible. No longer able to contain my excitement, I walked over to Cecelia while she was walking down the hall with one of her friends. I pulled the box out of my pocket, handed it to her and merely said “Merry Christmas” with a sheepish grin on my face. Although I can’t remember the look on her face, I’ll never forget her friend’s reaction, who immediately covered her face with both of her hands, giggling before spinning around and running away. My face must have turned three shades of red and I slinked away completely embarrassed. And wow, did the kids ever make fun of me after that for years.

My crush continued for several years, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I didn’t even have a an actual one-on-one conversation with her until well into our high school years. The closest I ever got to a date with Cecelia was having her over to our house the watch the Super Bowl the year the Packers lost to the Broncos. The ride back to her house with my parents was embarrassing as my Mom and step-dad were enjoying teasing me as I tried to do the best I could to impress the shy girl sitting in the back seat with me.

So what’s my point to all of this, you ask? Fast-forward to present day and the advent of Facebook. Not only have I been able to reconnect with my sister, but I also recently found Cecelia on there as well. She’s been married for almost ten years and has four beautiful children. I couldn’t be happier for her.

The best part was finally being able to have a normal conversation with her, albeit via Facebook messaging. We chatted about school memories, our families, and yes, my unfortunate obsession with her as a child. My mind was blown when she told me what 13-year old me would have given anything to hear: she liked me back then, too! Had we been allowed to date, she totally would have. Not only that, but she still has the necklace. I can’t even begin to describe how learning this made my year. Even though we’re both in our thirties and happily married to the loves of our lives, the thought of what could have been back in the day is enough for me.

That doesn’t mean that there’s not a bit of regret, though. I’m not saying that I regret not being with her today (I love my wife and am completely happy). But I feel like I missed out on memorable experiences, not only because of the restraints from my school, but also because I was incredibly nervous for some reason. I know it sounds crazy for a married guy to give advice to single people about dating, but I’m doing it any way. Don’t let silly things like nerves or what people think of you keep you from taking a chance with someone. I can guarantee that you’ll regret it one day if you don’t at least give it a shot. Who cares if it doesn’t work out in the end? You’ll still have some amazing time together to build some great memories. Plus, you never know…you could be passing up on your soul mate. Is it worth the risk?

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~ by Scott L. Clark on April 11, 2011.

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