As I mentioned yesterday, I have recently reunited with my 8th grade crush via the wonders of harmless Internet stalking. It's not as if the discovery of him on Facebook was much of a revelation, we have plenty of mutual friends and I generally see him once every couple of years through various meetings of the friends-from-high-school group. But seeing his profile there reminded me for the first time in ages what a very big deal he was to my silly 13 year old self in that he was not only my 8th grade crush, but my very first teenage crush as well, one that would last for an embarrassingly long time even as he rotated through a cast of actual girlfriends including a close friend of mine (which stung and represented the ultimate high school injustice). Even as I met and liked other boys, my crush on this one was a reliable constant in the otherwise bewildering flurry of shifting teenage hormones and allegiances.
He was new to town, although I forget why. His father taught at one of the bazillion colleges in our area, so maybe they had moved to the area as a result of a new teaching position. I only had one class with him: French II. Thanks to the wonders of alphabetical seating charts we sat next to one another. At first I found him unremarkable. I had yet to develop my penchant for brooding, quiet, mysterious dark-haired men, so this strange new kid who didn't say much didn't impress nearly as much as the cute blond kid in class who was brash and outgoing and rumored to be a tennis phenom.
I was 12 years old, about to turn 13. In classic ugly duckling turns swan tradition, I had dropped 10 pounds, had my braces removed and had grown my hair out over the summer. While I wasn't yet a complete Betty, boys were starting to take notice, yet I was still too shy to really do anything about that. When it came to boys, I vacillated between wanting to be noticed and liked, and terrified of what that might result in. I had yet to be kissed and to my knowledge, yet to be considered fully crush-worthy by anyone. While I was jealous of the girls in my class who made out with their boyfriends at their lockers and secretly wanted to one of them, asexuality offered a safe cover from actually having to decipher the perplexing lingua franca of the average 13 year old boy and the inherent risks of throwing myself at its mercy.
It was for this reason that I largely ignored the newcomer in French class for the first several weeks of school. Until two events of note occurred. 1.) I realized that my French teacher was an idiot and totally unworthy of my attention; 2.) The newcomer next to me started talking to me.
I wish I could remember what those early conversations evolved around. I think it was mostly topics such as who was lamer and why hadn't he returned the pen I lent him last week--typical fodder for French class banter. But the thing was, he was flirting with me, and I had never been flirted with. Or if I had, I had never really enjoyed it. Add to that the fact that he delivered all of his barbs in perfect deadpan, and I was hooked. My first official crush was born.
Because he was new to the area, he didn't have that many friends at school. Which to my grownup self would suggest that I should have befriended him immediately. But I didn't due to my shyness. Instead, I regarded him as something of a secret. To me, he was this awesomely funny, smart, sarcastic, adorable new boy and I was the brilliant girl who had discovered him first. I imagine its the same feeling that Anna Wintour has when she discoverers a hot new fashion talent.
Unfortunately, this didn't last long. Eventually, the most popular girl on our class snatched him up and made him her boyfriend. This girl lived in a semi-posh part of town, always had the best clothes and had tons of minions always following her around dying to do her bidding. I had never much liked her, and after she started dating my secret boy discovery, I loathed her with a passion.
The crush continued as a near constant presence through high school graduation, despite my better judgment. He was always around in some way, whether in classes or theatre company (we were both techies) or through friends. By high school the secret of his fabulousness was out and he was rarely ever without a girlfriend. He even dated a friend of mine for a while, which was completely painful to watch, even though by then it was obvious that any interest he ever had in me was strictly confined to 8th grade French class. And once he started getting some, he became unbearably cocky. Still, the crush lived on, morphing from innocent-coming-of-age-experience to painful-phase-you-read-about-in-a-Judy-Blume-book.
I still seem him every once in a while through reunions of various high school friends. He continues to be funny, smart and cute--the classic trifecta that always gets me into trouble. Yet still, I've had better.
While my adult self has cultivated and dropped countless flirtations, suitors and a smattering of actual boyfriends, there's something nice about keeping tabs on the boy who introduced my stomach to the concept of butterflies. It's kind of nice to know that there are men out there who are interested in being affiliated with you in some way, even if they did know you when you wore cable-knit sweaters from the Limited, pegged jeans, and feathered bangs.