When: 3rd Grade on the playground
The third grade was a tough year for me. While other kids were playing sports and making a lot of friends; I was the girl who had about two friends, collected mice as a hobby, and sported braces and an eyepatch before either were cool. I didn’t even have the advantage of being especially smart. I was just kind of there, in my Amy Grant t-shirt and knock off Umbros that were purchased at The Sam’s Club.
Recess though, was the one time of day when I really felt like I belonged. Everyone had their place. The punks would play dodgeball. The girl athletes ran around the track. The “cool” boys and girls would play basketball. And the rest of us? We played tetherball. And HE was the king of tetherball.
His name was Ben. Unlike the other boys, he had no real interest in real sports. The other kids made fun of him. He couldn’t pronounce his “r’s” and like me, he didn’t have many friends. He called himself “Benny Boy,” so quite naturally the kids called him “Jenny Girl.” They would taunt him as he made his way over to the girls eagerly awaiting him at the tetherball court… “Where’s your purse, Jenny Girl?” But he didn’t seem to care.
I don’t know if it was confidence in being different, or his mad tetherball skills, but I fell hard, or whatever was equivalent to that in the third grade.
I made it my goal to be good at tetherball. I convinced my dad to put a tether ball pole in my backyard so I could practice. I spent every afternoon practicing my moves so that I could impress him. I suspect that the other tetherball girls did too, because there was quite a bit of competition.
I should probably mention that this was the time of my life when the term “going together” became quite relevant. Granted, it was only relevant for about 3 years, but that’s beside the point. Left and right, my peers were talking about “going with someone.” I was quite behind the times, but I finally realized that “going together” didn’t mean that you were actually going to a location with someone. In reality, it didn’t mean much at all- but it was what you did when you had mutual crushes.
I wanted more than anything to “go” with Ben. Sure, he was nice enough to me. He even came over to my house to play a few times after school, but that was probably because both of our mothers recognized that we both needed more friends. Still, he never asked me to “go” anywhere with him… and it hurt.
I remember waiting until my parent’s were asleep, and writing him a love letter that was never sent. A letter, that I suspect, is now in a memory box of sorts in my parent’s attic. I remember the day that we were both placed in the “Stegosaurus” group for our class show, and I was ecstatic that we would be wearing matching shirts. I also have a very vague (and embarrassing) memory of secretly flashing him my “tee tee” under my desk in class. How’s that for playing it cool? (What?? I’m a sexual being!)
I’ll admit that I don’t remember exactly what happened to my feelings for Ben. I suspect that when fourth grade rolled around, we were placed in different classes and so I no longer had the chance to see him and yearn for him every day.
Later in high school, it became very apparent that he was a little… well, light in his loafers. We remained friends through my senior year, and I don’t think he ever asked a single girl to “go” with him, which makes me feel a little better.
Not too long ago, I looked Ben up on FaceBook and he is living happily as a chef with his boyfriend. Good for him.
The lesson is one that I should have learned ages ago. Don’t go after gay guys. Don’t go after gay guys. Don’t go after gay guys.
I never learn.