My first real boyfriend in high school was Chris Humberger. Chris was tall, blond and athletic. He had acne and clear braces that made it so he spit when he talked. Chris was a wrestler, which I found totally boring and slightly embarrassing to watch, but apparently he was pretty good at it. (I only went to one of his matches and got so overwhelmed thinking about cauliflower ears and ringworm that I had to leave after the first round). I mostly just went out with him because I needed someone to stand next to at football games. At the time Chris seemed good natured and sincere. We met in Latin class. He was a star student and would raise his hand for to participate in every pronunciation exercise, even though the Latin language actually made him spit more than usual. He was the kind of guy that would spend his lunch hour arguing with the teacher about one missed question on his quiz. While the rest of us were asleep at our desks, Chris was frantically taking notes on the slideshow of vases showing Achilles playing a harp with Apollo. I was impressed with his ambition and figured a guy this smart and concerned about his grades so he must be decent. We started “going out” on a Wednesday. He asked me out half way through Latin class in a note that said, “Will you go out with me?” in Latin. It took me the rest of the class period to decipher it. There was no “going steady” equivalent in the appendix of our Latin textbook. On Friday of that week I stood next to Chris at the football game and felt like a million bucks. I wasn’t part of the popular crowd, per se, but I had a boyfriend and that made it so that I was allowed to stand behind the popular crowd section at the game. I was popular by proxy and having a boyfriend instantly improved my stock. On the walk home from the game Chris took our 3 day relationship to the next level. He stopped midway through the back yard of one of the houses in the neighborhood surrounding the football stadium, grabbed my arm and turned me toward him and, with more confidence then the average 16 year old, he leaned in, said, “I love you” and kissed me. It wasn’t my first kiss, but I’m pretty sure if it was being filmed for a romantic comedy, it would have looked like it. That was the moment that I realized that this guy wasn’t just aggressive when complaining our his grades to our 4 foot tall, 90 lb Latin teacher or when wearing an ill fitted uni-tard on the wrestling mat. What I’m saying is that there was a lot of tongue action people, more than I bargained for and, to be honest, more than I ever wanted to experience again. But I would experience it again and again over the next 2 months.
Like any teenager in the early 90’s, I spent a lot of time on the phone. This was pre-facebook, pre-texting; people had to have actual voice-on-voice conversations. I believe it was even before email…man I’m old. Anyway, the expectation of couples at that time was that they could not get enough phone time. My coupled-girlfriends would meet at my locker before first period with bags under their eyes and drooping looking bangs and sigh, and tell me, “I snuck out of bed at midnight and talked on the phone with Joe until 4 am” or the really lucky girls with their own “teenage” phone line would say, “I stayed up until 3 am talking with Steve about how unappreciated the tailback is on our football team. He really is a key part of the team, Laurie.” “Yes, yes, I know.” I would say, “I’m on the sidelines standing next to MY boyfriend, watching him play, he’s very important.”
Chris and I didn’t have the same phone-time experience that my friends did because, well, he was supremely boring and so, I lied. I lied all the time. After about 15 minutes of stagnant conversation about our Latin teacher or how excited I was for the next football game, I would give my older sister the hand signal and she would yell, “Time to get off the phone.” “My parents are very strict about phone time,” I would tell him, “see you in the morning.” “I love you,” he would say. “Love you too.” I lied again.
My first real makeout session with Chris happened the same night that he told me he loved me. It wasn’t fun. He was pushy and bossy and, I would find out later, blabby to his guy friends about it. Maybe that’s how all 16 year old guys are. But the problem was that my best friend was dating his best friend, so everything he said about me funneled back to me in an embarrassing version of the telephone game. “Chris told Gabe who told me that you have a bra with 4 hooks on it, Laurie.” My friend Megan would tell me. “He was thinking next time you should wear one that’s a little easier for him to get in to.” Ha! Yeah right, like that’s going to happen, I thought. That’s when I invested in my first corset. I could kill a good 15 minutes of our frantic make-out sessions with the 20 hooks on the back of that bad-boy. In his sexist voice Chris would ask me why I on earth I would need to wear such a large bra under my Lions Football t-shirt. It’s for back support, I would tell him, these boobs are heavy. This only intrigued him more.
I broke up with Chris after about two months to go out with a guy that I actually did call at midnight and talk to until 3 am. A guy that I made me laugh. Later, when I would make a list of the things I was “looking for” in a guy, funny would be at the top.
When I think about this “first relationship” experience of mine, what I find the most disturbing isn’t the fact that Chris told me him loved me in order to get a little action. Or that he went after that “action” with the drive of a beagle that just spotted a squirrel; I think that’s probably standard form for 16 year old boys. What bothers me is my role in it. Why did I keep kissing someone that I didn’t want to kiss? Why did I stay on the phone with someone I found so boring (on the plus side I did have lovely toe nails and a very clean bedroom for those two months). Why did I pin myself up in a bra so tight I could barely breath in order to keep his hands off me rather than just telling him that I wasn’t in to it? As and adult I know that I would never tolerate those things, why did I tolerate them as a teenager. And, honestly, these weren’t questions I even asked myself prior to learning that I was going to have a daughter. I’m not naïve, I realize that the there is a strong possibility that G will have her fair share of run-ins with 16 year old boys in her day and what she does is her business. But my hope is that she will have the strength and confidence to say what she needs and wants from the very start. How you do that is beyond me. I’m open to suggestions. Right now I’m just counting on open communication and a very involved Papa.