Love, lust and the teenage mind. Yep, I was a hot mess back in high school. I remember it vividly. Although I considered myself a goober, I sort of fit into almost every social group – including the “sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, and dickheads.” For some reason, they all kind of liked me—at least enough to acknowledge me in the hallways—but not enough to hang out with me after school. As a result, I was lonely during my high school days. To compensate, I immersed myself in a definitive image of the girl of my dreams. I was waiting for my Disney princess to rescue me. (1)
Then Kelly walked into French class.
From the second the teacher introduced her, I was mesmerized. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen—dirty blonde hair, brown eyes, and a killer smile. Instantly, I was madly-in-like with her. Yep. This was The One. This was the girl I’d been dreaming about. I’d convinced myself that she was the Disney princess I’d been waiting for.
Our classroom was shaped in a U figure. Of course, Kelly was seated directly opposite me. Like a typical teenage boy, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Surprisingly, she looked back—all the time in fact—always through the corner of her eye. I was giddy, confused, excited and eventually depressed. Slowly, my fantasy image of Kelly blurred. Who WAS this girl? What was she thinking about when she looked at me? I analyzed my thoughts and finalized two logical conclusions of what she was thinking:
Why the %$#@! is this goober staring at me?
Damn, this dude is hot. I wish he’d grow some balls and ask me out.
Over the course of the school year, I became obsessed with Kelly. Unfortunately, I was too insecure and shy to say one word to her. During this time, I continued to build on the false image in my immature mind. Although she was beautiful, intelligent, outgoing, high-class, and way out of my reach, I realized I didn’t know a thing about her. After all, she was a member of the Keyettes—aka The Club of Hot Girls That Don’t Date Goober Guys.
Around this time, I started to teach myself how to play the guitar. I sucked big time. But that didn’t stop me from expressing my blurry, infatuated image of Kelly with a tune I wrote called “Thinking of You.” I wanted to become the cool pop-star-who-gets-the-girl like Michael Skye in the TV movie “Sooner or Later.” I wrote the lyrics on a sheet of notebook paper and gave it to a mutual friend, Doreen. Enthusiastically, Doreen wasted no time and gave the lyrics to Kelly. Once again, I was giddy, confused, excited and then depressed—expecting some sort of reaction from Kelly that never came. Damn, that teenage mind of mine.
Because my “Thinking of You” stunt failed to get attention, a friend dared me to take out an ad in the “Growler,” the high school newspaper. My hand-written ad plainly said:
Kelly – I’m STILL Thinking of You
Looking back, I don’t know WTF I was thinking. I realize now that it was highly unlikely that Kelly would’ve read the “Growler,” seen my ad, suddenly realized it was about her, busted into French class and, in slow motion, run into my open arms to thank me for expressing my admiration of her to the entire school.
The next year, we didn’t share a class together, but I felt privileged that she walked by me every morning as I waited for first period. Occasionally, we shared polite greetings, but we never had any meaningful conversation. Because I still couldn’t define or understand my crazy infatuation, I summed up my blurry image of Kelly through the Billboard hits at the time: “Somebody’s Baby,” by Jackson Browne, “Every Woman in the World,” by Air Supply, and “Step by Step” by Eddie Rabbit. To this day, I think of Kelly every time I hear them.
Like all crushes, my blurry image of Kelly faded and my crazed crush went away. I graduated high school, got a job, got married and raised a family. By the time my kids were teenagers, I smugly told them the story of Kelly with a sense of pride. Instead of being amused, my kids were terrified.
“You STALKED her, dad! S-T-A-L-K-E-D her!” By today’s standards, that may be true. But for me, it was purely an innocent crush—a blurry image of love, lust and the teenage mind. Nevertheless, I took my kid’s advice, sought her out on Facebook, and wrote her a sincere apology:
Hi, Kelly, I’m sure you remember me. … I want to apologize to you, after all these years, for having such a mad crush on you in HS. I’m sure I made you uncomfortable and embarrassed; that was certainly not my intention. A few years ago, I told my kids about it, and one of my sons told me I probably scarred you for life! Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, I apologize for being so immature.
To my surprise, Kelly wrote back:
Yes, I remember you fondly and am actually very flattered to learn of the crush. I had a feeling back then, but never really believed it.
Damn was I relieved! But at the same time, I was a bit befuddled that my crazy crush wasn’t obvious. After all, at the end of the school year, I signed My Crush on her photo in everyone’s yearbook!
Over the years, my blurry image of love, lust and the teenage mind evolved into a seasoned image of experience and maturity. Kelly summed it up perfectly in a recent conversation:
If we only had the courage, strength, wisdom, etc., that only comes with life experience, difficulties, heartache, loss, grief … who knows where we’d all be today or how our lives would have progressed.
Thank you, Kelly, for your Solomon-esque words. And thank you for forgiving me and my blurry image of love, lust, and the teenage mind.
I am finally at peace.
(1) First paragraph quote from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Written, produced and directed by John Hughes: 1986 Paramount Pictures.