Friday, February 5, 2016

Love Vignette 1: The Strategic Valentine


I fully intended to be here more often, but I'm not. Alas, the real world and the realities of preparing to marry (namely the building the relationship part, not wedding plans in the least) have sucked me dry of late--of time, not of inspiration. There are so many thoughts I have and so many things that I want to write. So, at this hour, I am sacrificing sleep in favor of my favorite art form...

...yes, even more favorite than music, somehow...

But I can't bring myself to write anything of substance about the state of the world, about politics, about Black Lives Matter, about mass incarceration, about the Flint water crisis, about ISIS, about the refugee crisis...about the various topics that are important to me and swimming around my head right now.

So instead, I will ease myself back into blogging by posting these little Love Vignettes.

I've started easing my fiancé in by telling him stories about guys I've crushed on over the years--one, to assure him he's got no competition. But also to give him a sense of why and how I love. And in telling him these stories, it's reminded me of some of my favorite stories of childhood crushes. Some of the stories are cute. So, in honor of Valentine's Day approaching and my the impending 31st anniversary of my circling the sun (aA), I'm going to share with you some Love Vignettes.

In no particular order.

This one, for Valentine's Day - The Strategic Valentine.

Before I would fall in love for the first time, I had crushes pretty much every year of kindergarten and elementary school. I had my first crush when I was five years old in kindergarten. His name was Terry. I liked him simply because he was cute. With each year, I would fall in like with a boy for a slightly more nuanced reason. By first grade, though, I hadn't gotten that far.

By the first grade, Terry went to another school. Our kindergarten was district-wide, so all of the kindergarteners of the five elementary school district attended school in one building, Thurston Early Childhood Development Center (Thurston ECDC). Graduating from kindergarten meant going to a new school. So it was in Ms. Miller's first grade class that I would meet my next crush, Darryl.

My like for Darryl would begin a years-long preference for husky or chubby men--one that has not borne out in my present relationship, but that's a different story.

Darryl was a husky little boy. Looking back, he probably was prescribed a steroid inhaler for asthma. Or maybe he was just husky. He was in good company, because I was a chubby little girl. I liked him because he was bigger than the other boys. Bigger and a little bit brusk.

I don't think there was very much more to it than that.

Heaven for me was this one time when we were on a field trip to the Henry Ford Museum, which we lovingly called Greenfield Village, though we never spent time in the actual village, and I got to sit next to him on the bus. And we fell asleep on each other! When he woke me as we arrived to Greenfield Village, I tried to act like I was annoyed with him so he wouldn't guess that I reveled in every minute we lay on each other.

Yes, I was six.

Love as a child can be real and complex, but there is something about being a child that makes it forbidden to be out in the open. It would have mortified me for anyone, especially Darryl, to know. I kept it to myself. Most days it was easy. It wasn't like I swooned from afar. It was enough that I knew that I liked him, it was my own little secret, and I was satisfied with that. I didn't have to do anything with that, we didn't have to become an item, nothing like that. It was what it was.

That is, until Valentine's day.

As an almost 8 year old in the second grade, Darryl was still in my class. I realized that Valentine's Day may blow my cover. I don't know if a note went home with all of the kids, but all of our parents bought valentines enough for the whole class and addressed them to the whole class. The best valentines of elementary school were those that included a sucker or some other sizable piece of candy along with them. Or one of those boxes of chalky Valentine's candy. The message was dispensable.

I was advanced enough at that age to help my mother write out the valentines and assemble them. Or maybe I volunteered to help, because I had to do damage control. Darryl couldn't know that I liked him. Therefore, I had to make sure he didn't get a valentine from me that said something like, "I love you," or, "I like you," or something obvious. I didn't want it to be a thing.

So, I poured over the stack of valentines that my mother bought and found one that I thought was pretty generic and innocent such that no one would have any suspicion about my intent. I felt proud of myself and relieved that my secret was safe with me.

Then I got to school. I passed the valentine's out to my friends in class. I got to his desk and put his valentine down and said nothing. As I walked away, I heard him laugh.

"Hey, this is cool! I like this! Hey, look!" he beckoned to his friend sitting next to him. Shoot, shoot, had backfired. What happened? Who would have thought he'd pay any attention to a valentine with a dolphin on it?

"Look at this. It says, 'I flip over you!' Isn't that cool? I flip over you."

I buried my head in the desk, mortified, wishing he'd stop reading it aloud.

My valentine to Darryl that I hand picked precisely so he'd have no idea that I liked him ended up being his favorite out of the 20-some kids in class. Probably because it was the only valentine so painstakingly chosen.

But, little did I know, he would never know that I liked him. He'd have no idea. A smart boy would begin to suspect it after he noticed a girl made effort to sit next to him on the bus so she could press her legs next to him and lie on him.

But no, he was an average boy, and average boys have no clue about those things.

I moved on to a boy named Michael in the third grade, who I liked not only for his looks, but because he was smart (I was getting there!). But not again until Kenneth in the fifth grade would I be so mortified at the possibility of someone knowing that I liked a boy.

...though I would continue to keep crushes secret until I was 25 years old.