Reuniting after 52 Years with My First Crush
It seems that whether you have a crackerjack long term memory or not, most vividly remember their very first intense crush when they were young. Whether it was in elementary, middle school, or high school, everyone succumbed to that feeling at some point in their lives. I have written about my numerous celebrity crushes, but I have never written about my first intense, and ultimately devastating crush when I was a mere 10 years old.
I was reminded of it just recently when I bumped into the middle aged grown up version of my childhood crush on the beach where I vacation. It’s not unusual for me to see loads of people from my school years on this beach as it is the preferred beach spot of people hailing from the section of Philadelphia where I grew up. Being here in the summers keeps me in touch with my roots because keep in mind, I have been gone from the area where I grew up for almost forty years. (Including college, grad school and my move to Texas.)
I breathlessly caught up with this former crush, and then later, back with my group of friends, I immediately relayed all the embarrassing details of my ridiculous behavior at the time. We all have stories to tell in this realm.
It was weird that I even recognized him, because he looks absolutely nothing like what he did back in the sixties and early seventies, when he was my clean-cut boy ideal. He is not on social media, so it is not that I could have stalked him, but his brother had put a photo of him up on FB a few years ago, and that was the first and only time I saw what he looks like in our current middle aged era. I was walking with a girlfriend who has stayed in the area and has seen him all along when we spotted him; (with his lovely wife who was friendly despite my crush admission) and after I told my friend who I was walking with who I thought it was, she confirmed before we approached. These are photos we snapped at our little beach reunion and you can see what he looks like today – hardly like the clean-cut boy I was crazy about because he has a whole different look and vibe. (He was a true gentleman-always was-keep reading!- in letting me take these as his wife explained he hates photos on social media.)
It was in fifth grade when RG was in my class and he was my idea of a cutie pie. He was a class leader, athletic and popular, and lots of us lemmings followed one another in crushing on him. In sixth grade, we were no longer in the same class, but he was a school leader, and since he was on the school’s track team and I was recruited for that team by our PE teacher, I decided to join just to see RG on a regular basis. Sure enough, we got to know each other better as a result of going to track meets.
He was certainly big man on campus, but unfortunately, he already had a girlfriend, in the elementary school version of what having a girlfriend meant. It was the mid sixties and she was Doris Day with her pretty blonde hair, and he was most definitely Rock Hudson to many of us. Here’s what he looked like from the track team photo back in the day (top person, not cut-off person.)
I will never forget my stupidity and ridiculousness at the lengths that I went to in order to get RG to notice me. I am certain I made enough of a pest of myself that he knew I was obviously besotted with him. One thing about him though which I admire and respect to this day; he never was a snob, and was too much of a gentleman to reject me outright. He was not a boy who would act mean, call names, or make someone feel bad. There were plenty of those types when I was growing up, so it was lucky I picked a gentleman.
In fact, I remember that one of my good friends, who also had a deep crush on RG, invited him to her birthday party, and was so nervous and unsure whether he would come. She waited with baited breath to get his RSVP, and celebrated big time when the news was that he was coming. We were beside ourselves with excitement to actually socialize with this guy at her party. My long term memory is savant-like — it is vivid and memories from long, long ago play like movies in my mind. I vividly recall his dress up attire, all natty with perfect combed hair, and a beautifully wrapped gift. (This was sixth grade, in 1966). He was such a sweet gentleman to put up with us dorks at the birthday party, as there were no other super cool or popular kids there, but he remained throughout the party.
I did several things that I am truly ashamed of in the course of this year-and-a-half crush. One was something most of us did — we used to call it “phoney phone calls” and we would call someone (WAY, WAY before Caller ID or identification of the call was possible) just to hear their voice and then hang up. Several of us girls walked by his house on several occasions too, hoping to get a glimpse of him.
Perhaps the worst and most dorky, stupid thing I did was put a heart on the back of my loose leaf binder that year (we used the old blue canvas three ringed binders) and wrote “I Love RG” in the heart. Since we did not carry backpacks, and carried our binders like a shield in front of our chest, I was walking around with a billboard declaring my love. (Check out Patty Duke Show on You Tube for school hallway scenes so you can see how we did this if you are not familiar. Linked this one, where Patty has a crush on her French teacher – now those teacher crushes are a whole other story!) Lots of girls wrote like this on their binders about one of the Beatles, (I LOVE PAUL etc) which was much more benign, but immature little me had to put a real person on it, embarrassing him and me. I scratched through it eventually, and I think I even broke the binder on purpose to get another one after my crush remained unrequited even after the billboard advertisement.
Demure was not a concept I was familiar with at this time of my life. “In your face” was more my style. Poor guy. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
I gave up my crush eventually, and bless RG’s heart, he tried valiantly to remain cordial to me through the rest of our schooling. He was always a school leader, high profile, and remained in my periphery through high school, though I no longer carried a torch for him. (I had my share of boyfriends from middle school on, including a steady in high school.)
He signed my high school yearbook in the most lovely manner, acknowledging the many years we had known each other (see below) and completely ignoring my stalker past. (Again, a complete gentleman!) I also saw him when I was a Phillies Girl in the early 1980’s and he attended a Phillies game- I went up to him and introduced myself. I last saw him at our 20th reunion, and we chatted like old friends. (It’s always momentous to see your “first big crush” so it is a bit different than reuniting with just anyone.)
Yearbook photo and message above – Name obliterated to protect the innocent.
Still, we are at 45 years post our High School graduation, so I hadn’t seen him in 25 years. I moved away from my hometown 36 years ago, so it is not likely we would intersect because he stayed local to the Philadelphia area. For our big beach reunion, I would have wanted to look my most gorgeous possible, but that was not to be as I had loads of white sunblock slathered on my face, my hair tightly pulled back, and big sunglasses on my face. It took him a minute to make the connection, but when he did we were glad to chatter briefly and reminisce about the track team and our PE teacher and slightly catch up. “Your kids live in Texas, I mean after college?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied, “they are Texans born and raised! Yet they love Margate too.” (Margate is the beach we were at.) NOTE: I am totally considered a foreigner at this beach being from Houston, Texas!
Did he remember what a silly crushing dork I was? Only he knows that answer.
As you can imagine, seeing him again, probably 52 years past since my crush on him, was significant, and brought back a flood of memories that I poured into this blog.
I know many of you don’t have these vivid long term memories like I do, but I bet if you think back, you can remember the name of your first crush and exactly what they looked like at the time. Let me hear from you!