Friday, September 21, 2012

My First Heartbreak

(That's right, my YA thriller was just released!)
I'm part of "Epic Firsts" on Epic Reads, and they wanted us to blog about one of our personal "firsts." 
In the spirit of full disclosure in the public humiliation arena, here's what I wrote...
So I was what you might call a late bloomer, at least as far as my little corner of Rhode Island was concerned. Most of my classmates started going out with boys in the sixth grade. Not really dating, per se; mostly, they’d go to the movies or roller skating (frequently under parental supervision) and hold hands. But they were definitely considered couples by the rest of us, and we spent a serious chunk of recess and lunch periods discussing the trials and tribulations of Liana and Scott, Brad and Jessica, and all the other mini-marriages that popped up and dissolved around us with the frequency and rapidity of soda pop bubbles.

Not me. Partly because my mother insisted on cutting my hair herself (yes, by using a bowl) well into junior high school while simultaneously forbidding even a trace of makeup (not even mascara, to make my thin, blondish lashes look like they actually existed) to touch my face. And, to be honest, also because I was kind of a total geek, and everyone who had grown up with me knew it.

Then, in tenth grade, I switched schools.

This was my chance to reinvent myself, and I seized the opportunity. I blew all my babysitting and lawn-mowing money on a new wardrobe, then threw massive tantrums until my mother finally caved on the makeup thing. In fact, I was so persuasive (and such a pain in the butt), that she even went so far as to let me get a perm. (Okay, I know that doesn’t sound very attractive, but this was Rhode Island in the eighties. You’ll have to trust me when I say it was all the rage.)

Day One, I was pumped. And with good reason, as it turned out—I was switching into a tiny private school where most of the kids had been together practically since birth. They were completely starved for new people to talk to/look at/date.

I quickly set my sights on a senior. (Ambitious, but go big or go home, right?) His name (which has been changed to protect the relatively innocent) was Mark, and he was a slightly swarthier version of Tom Cruise in Top Gun, complete with the buzz cut and tinted aviator glasses. He liked cool bands (U2, UB40) and was knowledgeable about artsy movies that I’d never even heard of. We were in jazz band together (because it was obviously impossible for me to shed all my geekiness in one fell swoop); I played the clarinet, and he was the drummer.

And by the end of the first week, he’d asked me out.

I was completely elated. And terrified, because now I had to somehow convince my parents to let me make the quantum leap from makeup to dating. This, I knew, was not going to be easy.

But they turned out to be surprisingly amenable to the idea. With one caveat: we were only allowed to date in my house, under their supervision, for the first month. Which, of course, was pretty much a fate worse than death.

Mark was surprisingly sweet about it when I worked up the courage to tell him. He had a younger sister, so he totally got it. He’d do the same thing if he was a dad.

So that Friday, Mark drove me home from school in his beater Tercel and ate dinner with my entire family. He was funny and charming, and I could tell that my parents were entranced by him. So much so that they said it was okay for us to watch a movie—BY OURSELVES, no less—in the TV room.

We were halfway through a Fellini movie (that was boring me to tears, frankly, but I pretended to be enthralled), when my father abruptly slammed open the door and demanded to speak with us downstairs.

You see, innocently enough, we’d turned off the lights. (Mark claimed that watching Fellini in a brightly lit room was like eating caviar off a Ritz cracker, to which I nodded sagely while mentally making a note to check on why, precisely, that would be a bad thing.) But honestly, we had only been holding hands. Mark was so into Fellini that when I tried to talk to him during the film, he shushed me. We hadn’t exchanged so much as a chaste kiss yet.

Unfortunately, my father didn’t buy that for a minute. He proceeded to spend the next half hour lecturing Mark about how, for his day job, he worked with pregnant teenagers, while I sat there praying for an earthquake to swallow our house whole or some other major act of God to intervene.

Mark listened politely as the vein on my father’s forehead pulsed like a beacon. At the end, they shook hands, and Mark drove away. I then spent an hour screaming at my father that he was trying to ruin my life and ensure that I remain a social pariah forever. I stormed to my bedroom, locked myself in, and spent the rest of the weekend calling Mark’s house (life before cell phones; he never answered), sobbing uncontrollably, and giving my parents the silent treatment.

On Monday morning, I saw Mark across the courtyard before morning assembly. I rushed over with my little prepared speech, but only made it halfway there before I realized that (a) he was bending down to kiss that gorgeous girl who sat in front of me in chemistry class, and (b) everyone was whispering and staring at me.

I slowed to a walk, and my newly acquired friend, Terry, ran over, grabbed my arm, and informed me in a hushed whisper that news of my “insane” parents was all over school. Plus, Mark was telling everyone that crazy didn’t fall far from the tree, and that he wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near me again, in case my dad decided to go after him with a hatchet. Oh, and he’d also mentioned that he hated perms.

I was totally devastated. I cried for days—not only because I’d pretty much already been picking out our china settings, but also because it was so unbelievably humiliating. And of course, I was convinced that not only had I been in love with Mark, but that I’d never, ever love anyone like that again.

I ended up learning a few things from that experience:

  1. I’d probably spend most of high school grounded if I didn’t get my parents to chill out and trust me a little.

  1. Terry was a true friend, and someone I’m still close with all these years later.

  1. Mark was kind of a jerk. And you know what? He friended me on Facebook recently, and he’s still single after all these years. Quite frequently, the cute boys in high school don’t age all that well. (That’s important to know, believe me.)

And that’s the story of my first heartbreak.

1 comment:

Anita Grace Howard said...

Michelle, ouch! I had an over protective dad, too. Little did he know he was giving me great angsty fodder for one day when I wrote YA. Ha!

And so true about the cute boys. So very true. ;)