During a sleepover halfway through my freshman year of high school, one of my friends said she’d sing “God Bless America” if I were ever to get married.
My first instinct was to giggle, but I held back, knowing deep down that her comment wasn’t intended to be funny or inspire a round of jokes.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, no offense Laura, but you haven’t exactly had the greatest luck with guys,” she replied. “I read somewhere that the average person has 7 relationships before finding the one. You better start crackin.'”
This shouldn’t have been all that surprising since I was only 14 years old, but by that point, much of my social circle had started dating and fooling around, making me feel like a late bloomer/perpetual ugly duckling/pale-faced ginger destined to be alone forever. I look back on these concerns now and laugh, as it breaks my heart to see girls peak in their early teens, but at the time, I believed I would be stuck in my undesirable, unlovable state forever while my happily attached friends pranced around campus without me.
A couple of days later, my parents and I drove from the bay area to Los Angeles to visit my sister, and during the 8-hour drive down south, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my friend had implied. After turning off our new built-in TV I’d recently been so excited about, I said I was going to try to nap in the backseat.
“I haven’t heard a peep out of you this entire drive,” my dad said from behind the wheel. “What’s going on?”
Pulling off the blanket I’d been using to hide my face, I said, “What if I’m going to be alone forever? What if no one ever wants to marry me?”
“Are you being serious?” he went on, “Of course you’re going to get hitched someday. I have no doubt in my mind that you’re going to end up with someone great.”
“My friend said I don’t have a good chance of getting married because I haven’t dated anyone yet.”
“You’re 14, Laura,” my mom said. “You’re not supposed to have a boyfriend yet. Besides, you wouldn’t be allowed to have one, either.”
And you know what? My mom was right, and I’m pretty sure I can say the same for my dad, but as more and more of my friends began having relationships and seeing boys, I spent more time alone, wondering why it was taking so long for me to finally get my turn. When we’d all go on Boardwalk excursions during the summer, I constantly kept my eyes peeled for appealing teenage boys, hoping they’d return my smile or surreptitiously follow me and my friends around the amusement park all day (if that’s not creepy, I don’t know what is!). The summer I turned 15, I vowed to get my belly button pierced, certain that would make me a magnet for tall, lanky young men in our area. I got the piercing all right, but no boyfriend. Before I knew it, my sixteenth birthday had arrived, and unlike all my friends (with the exception of Lauren, who ironically became the wildest of the pack post-high school), I had never been in love or gone beyond “finger grazing” or hand-holding, which I’d been bullied into by an aggressive 13-year-old a year earlier (those, ladies and gentlemen, are stories for another day).
Almost everyday at school, I’d pass fellow classmates making out, groping each other, or engaging in another form of occasionally obnoxious PDA. It all made me uncomfortable, even though I wanted some of it for myself.
At the end of sophomore year, one of the track coaches remarked that she’d witnessed me experience the “magical time” that happens for every high school student before reaching upperclassman status. Sometime between sophomore and junior year, she said, people start to grow into themselves, form an identity, solidify plans for the future, and feel confident about their direction. I’d hit the “magical” period spring of sophomore year, so when I had a boyfriend less than a year later, I wasn’t all that surprised. It was always going to happen for me, I just had to wait until I cleaned up my act and revisited my self-esteem to finally get what I wanted.
Though some have argued otherwise, he was a great first boyfriend, if anything because he had excellent timing as well as a flair for grand gestures. We became official on January 25, 2005, on my half-birthday to be exact, and because we’d never dated anyone before, we stuck to hand holding and hugs until Valentine’s Day, which was conveniently 3 weeks later. That was when I finally abandoned the NBK club, and the moment I crossed over, I celebrated inside that I hadn’t missed the boat and wasn’t going to end up like lonely sadsack Drew Barrymore after all. Though it felt like forever to wait 16 and a half years to kiss somebody, I knew as soon as it happened that the uncertain, seemingly brutal wait had been worthwhile.
That was eight years ago tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, which unfortunately stopped being awesome for me eight years ago. I guess you can’t really top a night in which your first kiss, V-Day, and “I love you” declaration happen. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it really did feel like a movie, and though I don’t expect my life to play out like a romantic comedy, I do appreciate the occasional over-the-top, flowery, outrageous experience.
A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance acknowledged this about me, stating, “The average person on the street needs to be up here,” he went on, leveling his hand with his shoulder. “You, however, need to be all the way up here. You need extreme highs to be satisfied.”
He lifted his hand above his head and I laughed, knowing all too well he’d made an accurate observation. Did it still stand, though? As I ease into a more normal, stable, less-dramatic life, I’m not so sure.
The Valentine’s Day following my first “real” one was pretty unmemorable, as my former flame and I were no longer an item. A year later, we’d long since rekindled our flame, which was months away from going out whether we liked it or not. I bypassed the holiday for the next two years, but during my last year of college, a guy I’d been casually seeing suggested we get together. Granted, this individual made the remark at 2 a.m. two nights earlier, but because I sought more from our thing than he did, I kept him in mind all day and even went so far as to text message him in the early evening to hang out.
I drove down the street to Fry’s to pick up cookie dough, intent on putting my hidden baking skills to good use and offering him a box of warm homemade chocolate chip cookies, the only thing I’d ever been able to make. Unfortunately, Fry’s was all out of my favorite brand of dough, and the product I settled on ending up being a bad investment. The cookies were terrible, but the guy for which I’d baked them never knew that. After taste-testing the cookies and being utterly repulsed, I went down for a nap in my room, turning on my “Meet the Spartans” DVD to have something funny to fall asleep to. Several hours later, I awoke to a text message from the aforementioned dude, who claimed to have been sleeping all day and missed my request to hang out.
“raincheck?!” he wrote back.
“Def,” I typed into my BlackBerry, concluding the note with a silly smiley face emoticon, which marked our final exchange for two weeks, when I’d unsuccessfully reach out to him after a night on the town.
It would be almost a month before he’d talk to me again. The silent period crushed and disappointed me, but now the whole debacle, which I blew up and obsessed about worse than Pat obsesses over his wife in “Silver Linings Playbook,” feels so trivial and laughable, even though I haven’t exactly been swept off my feet since then (with the exception of fleeting, spontaneous moments that were only good for tiny windows of time, gotta remember that certain experiences are best with a short lifespan). A year later, my awesome roommate Anna made me a giant chocolate brownie, and last year, I went out to the bars with Hillary (I think).
No plans for tomorrow, other than to work out in the morning and order Chinese on Seamless in the evening. It’ll be just another day as it’s been the past seven years, but no matter how the rest of my Valentine’s Days play out, at least I’ll have had one perfect one. Though I wouldn’t have said this at 16.5, I wish that Valentine’s Day had come a little later in life. Maybe I’ll have a similar experience again someday. Maybe.