I recently celebrated a birthday, my forty-first to be exact. For some reason, this one has hit me harder than the “Big 4-0.” Perhaps now it’s because I have to actually admit that I’m not just forty, but I’m actually IN my forties! Whatever the reason, lately, I find myself in a constant state of nostalgia.
In this day and age, it’s easy to be nostalgic – just turn on your computer. You can Facebook or Google anyone or anything. Nostalgia aside, it also satisfies that voyeuristic side of us. Looking at a Facebook profile is like peeping through their open window. Juicy, isn’t it? But I digress.
On Facebook alone, there’s a dozen dedicated pages to my high school and its various reunions. A reunion, for any given graduating year, is happening at any given time, at any given local tavern. I went to the first couple of gatherings, and while it was a blast, it became overwhelming somehow. It was almost like being fifteen again - complete with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. I’ve since bowed out of the last few reunions. I remain contented to see how so-and-so turned out from the comfort of home with the click of a mouse.
I see my teenage daughters living out those years now in all its angst and glory. Hours in front of either the mirror or a computer, their lives spent in total dedication and anticipation of Boys, Boys, Boys! While, way back when, I was consumed with doodling the names of my suitors in my notebook, today’s technology allows my girls to digitally enhance camera phone photos on their laptops. Texting and instant messaging replaces those long phone conversations... you know, the ones where you just about fell asleep mid-sentence with the receiver in your hand. The mode of expression may be different, but the sentiment is the same: First loves, first heartbreaks, and memories that will remain forever.
My older girl seems to be content to spend a few months here and there with one boy at a time. She’s more reserved about her feelings and seems to have a “take it or leave it” attitude where boys are concerned. I watch her with her boyfriend and am in awe of her unflappable composure. She is the dictionary definition of “cool.” She is simply herself, completely relaxed and if inwardly she is unnerved, you’d never know it. If I could go back in time, I’d like to be her. She’s my teenage hero!
My younger girl (sigh...) could actually be me reincarnated. She feels it deep down to her toes. She is dramatic and impassioned. Easily wounded, I frequently find evidence of her heartbreak in the form gut-wrenching song lyrics quoted in Facebook status updates. I’m sure she is convinced that every boy she dates is “the one,” just like I was. Whether she gave the boy-du-jour, one week, or one month of her time, be sure, she gave him her all. Her heart goes quickly from on her sleeve to under his feet, therefore, every ending is tragic. And, like me, she’ll never take the advice I received from my own mother and give a little less, remain a bit mysterious, give the boys something to work for. No. A true romantic puts it all on the line, all the time, every time.
The high-school sweetheart: A right of passage for all adolescents. Victor was mine for most of junior year and half of senior year. Oh, I thought for sure we’d be together forever. I remember having a lot of fun with him and really enjoying his company. He was the first boy I wanted to speak with for hours on end. He was the one for whom I willingly ditched my girlfriends so that we could have some more time together. Victor was the reason why I begged for a later curfew. His upcoming birthday was the reason why I took the second after-school job babysitting for two brats that I couldn’t stand, for all of $2.00 an hour. I have vivid memories of stashing that money in a small, beat-up, brown envelope in the back of my sock drawer. Between babysitting money and tips from the coffee shop, my first after-school job, I proudly walked into the most expensive men’s store in my neighborhood and bought him that leather bomber jacket. I loved seeing him in school getting compliments on that jacket. I can still see his curly, chocolate colored locks graze the back of the collar. I remember the feeling of butterflies dancing in my stomach when I saw him smile over at me and tell whoever was asking, “My girlfriend bought it for me.”
Then there was the giddiness of receiving the gold double-heart ring for our “anniversary.” Mine was really nice, too. It had a diamond chip in the center. No one else had that. Engraved on the left, his initial. On the right, mine.
I so regret marching to his house on that cold winter day with the express intent of throwing it back at him because he broke up with me. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?" Ha! She’s got nothing on a freshly dumped, teenage Brooklyn girl. Still, I should have saved my first piece of jewelry from my first love. Actually, I never made that mistake again. When I went home and told my grandmother what I'd done she set me straight, "Never, ever give jewelry back! His punishment is to know both you AND his hard-earned money are gone now!"
When we broke up, I thought I’d die, until of course, I met Paul, Mike, Steven and, oh God, what’s his name? The names and dates all seem to blend into obscurity, barely worthy of even a curiosity, but Victor, I always wondered about. Teenage drama aside, I liked him. He was a nice boy and my memories of him are all good. I always thought of him fondly through the years.
Every woman wonders about that “one” from her youth. Whatever became of him? Did he marry? Is he rich? Is he still handsome? Twenty years ago we didn’t think we’d have any of those answers. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, those answers are now at our fingertips. I found his wife on Facebook. Joanne went to our high school as well, and she and I were friends. Joanne and Victor got together long after high school was over and Victor and I were ancient history by then. They fell in love, married and like most of us from the old neighborhood, moved away from Brooklyn in search of someplace quieter.
Now, I get to chat with Joanne on-line, hear all about her life with Victor, and see their family pictures. God bless him, he hasn’t aged a day. He still has a boyish twinkle in his hazel eyes, has all his hair and none of it even grayed. I see his smile in those pictures. It’s the smile that made my sixteen-year old heart leap. Now it brings my forty-one year old heart peace. He’s happy, well, content. My own lingering teenage angst put to rest. Answered questions.
Of all the boys that come and go, every girl’s first true love is the one she'll forever hold in her heart with warmth and affection. Something was different about him. He’s the one that made her realize the others were just crushes and that this was much more. And when it was over, she now had a frame of reference for the next boy that came along. She knew what to look for – what to feel for. He’s the one that caused an awakening of new senses. He's the one, who at the ripe old age of forty-one, the mention of his name can still stir up a smile and perhaps, even a blush.
In the warmth of the summer of their lives, I watch my girls flit from boy to boy and I wonder, who will be their Victor?