Boyfriends | Part 2 of 3
As boyfriends go, grades 5 to 7 were my Golden Girl Years. Artie was it. I felt a little attraction toward him—especially when he gave me gifts. But it was miniscule compared to his pursuit of me which included regular pleas for me to ‘help’ him with his homework.
Artie was my only designated boyfriend before I went to college at age 16. In fact, I arrived at college without having had one single date. This doesn’t mean I was oblivious to boys. Here’s my annotated true confessions list of boys who made my heart beat a little faster from age 11 or 12 to age 16. What you see is what you get.
My Adolescent Roll Call of Boyfriends
~One of my many (handsome) male cousins
A 2-day attraction at a family reunion. Brief, sweet, wordless. Our backs touched as we sat on the grass, back to back. Just a little electricity. Nothing more happened.
~A church and school friend who rode the school bus with me every day
He always had a special smile for me as he got on or off the bus. It gave me a thrill. I had a shy smile for him, too. Nothing more happened.
~A school friend in 9th grade
He and I took piano lessons; we were in a recital together. We were on the honor roll and in Beta Club together. He was shy and studious. I don’t remember seeing him talk with any of the other girls. He smiled at me a lot, and even talked with me sometimes. Usually about music. I had hopes. But nothing more happened.
~A church and high school friend, a couple of years older than I
Another musician. He sang; sometimes I accompanied him on the piano. He never had a girlfriend, but he liked girls and was easy to talk to. I liked the way he put his arm around his mother.
One day he told me that I needed to shave under my arms. I went home and did it. He also told me I needed to pluck the hairs from between my eyebrows. I went home and did it. Another day he told me I needed to shave my legs. I went home and did it.
He became a hair stylist. He was sort of like a big brother—but my heart also beat a little faster around him. Nothing more happened.
~A church friend, the older half-brother of my singing friend
He was 10 years older than I. Very mature, very handsome—with dark brown eyes like his brother’s. He was in college, played the guitar and sang. He liked having me help him read guitar music—or figure out the right chords for a melody.
My heart beat very hard when I was around him—but this was never going to happen. This was the first time I’d ever maneuvered to be in the same place and the same room with another boy or man. My first infatuation. Nothing more happened.
~An 18-year old army recruit, introduced to me on purpose, at church
Friends tried to help me with my social life. I think Mother colluded. They set up a lovely lunch one Sunday afternoon with my family at their home on the river.
I was all thumbs, attracted to the idea of having a grown-up boyfriend, but clueless about how to behave (everyone was watching us). I think he was clueless, too. We sat on the floating dock. Later that day we held hands. Awkwardly. No electricity for me. My friends and family teased me about him.
One day he showed up unannounced on the front porch. The doorbell rang. Sister #2 answered the door. I heard his voice and my heart sank. I was hoping never to see him again. Even though I felt guilty about it, I was desperate. So I sent Sister #2 back to the front door to tell him I didn’t want to see him again. She complied, and he complied.
I felt sorry for him, and relieved to have him out of my life. It just didn’t feel right–even though I loved the idea of having a ‘man’ in my life. He never did anything improper. He just wasn’t for me. And nothing more happened.
Nothing More Happened?
I never ever want to relive my junior and senior high school years. For many reasons, including the following.
I changed schools three times. One year in the public 8th grade school; two years in a brand new 9th – 10th grade school, and two years in Savannah’s largest high school. Making friends was always difficult for me, given my personality and the long distance from our rural home on the river to downtown Savannah. I felt rootless and unknown by most of my classmates.
No matter which school I was in, the Good Girl Rules were still in force. Separated from the world meant separated from almost all major social events of the school year, as well as parties, dances and movies. The impact of this separation became heavier with each new school year.
Even though I worked hard at being ‘normal,’ I knew I was not. It’s one thing to talk about boyfriends. It’s another to actually have any. In fact, the boyfriend thing was symbolic for me—confirming my non-status in junior and senior high school.
I longed for just one of my male classmates to pick me out as special. This felt worse than being the last girl chosen for a sports team. It took a great effort to pretend I was happy—especially when I got asked whether I had a date yet for an upcoming event. I pretended I didn’t care that much—I already have other plans for that evening! Besides, I don’t really want to go. Silly old prom.
I lived in a pseudo-religious bubble cage controlled by my father and affirmed every Sunday by my conservative church family—where my father was the pastor. I was a good girl who rarely made social history. No pictures of me in the yearbooks at dances or playing competitive sports. Being on the honor roll and getting honors when I graduated didn’t count.
No one hated me. In fact, I was well-liked. But only a handful of my classmates knew me well. That was because they lived in the same pseudo-religious bubble. But that didn’t mean we ever talked about it. No way. We were all into protecting ourselves by protecting our families.
By the time I graduated from high school I believed no man in his right mind would ever want to marry me. I was also afraid of my own voice. I lived a tightly scripted life. Control was my only way of staying sane—making sure I didn’t stumble or look ignorant, even though I desperately longed for something else.
To be continued. . . .Part 3 coming next week. Observations about Parts 1 and 2, and an unexpected connection.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 June 2014