Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Judy Blume Thoughts: Seventh-Grade Crushes

It seems my body knew better than I did what it was able to do yesterday because I could hardly stay awake. In fact, I ended up taking a nap before I could get any work done. But I did get most of what I needed to do done. I still need to think of an incredibly witty and clever title for something, but that usually requires filling my head with ideas and then not thinking about it for a while until something pops up.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume anthology is now on sale. You might find it on the "new in hardcover non-fiction" table at the front of the bookstore (I saw it there at one store). It has a lot of essays by some of the top authors of women's fiction (most of them apparently named Megan) and, well, me. I wrote my essay on the book Deenie (the one about the pretty girl whose mother wants her to be a model, and then she's diagnosed with scoliosis and has to wear a back brace), though not from the point of view of the title character (the title of my essay is "Freaks, Geeks, and Adolescent Revenge Fantasies," which should give you a hint of the tone).

The book takes place in seventh grade, and for me that was a pivotal year as it was when I started the pattern of the crush from afar. I'd liked boys before that. I think starting in about kindergarten I picked a boy out of each class that I decided I liked. Not that I ever did anything about it or cared much how he reacted to me. But in seventh grade, I got hit hard with the first full impact of a true adolescent crush. He was an eighth-grader (ooh, an older man!), and I'm not really sure what about him caught my eye. We were in the same gym class (along with about eighty other people), and there was something about him that pulled all my strings and pushed all my buttons. First, I went into fact-finding mode. It was fairly easy on our relatively small campus (two grades, two-hundred students in each grade) to figure out his schedule. I finally learned his name when we had a sub in gym class who called roll instead of just having us line up in squads where the teacher could tell at a glance if someone was absent. After that, I kept finding little hints that maybe we were meant to be, like finding his name on the check-out card of a library book I was checking out, or the fact that my mother ended up sitting next to his stepmother at a military wives coffee party (from that I got all sorts of info about his family).

By the end of the school year, I had a dossier on this guy worthy of the CIA, but I never once spoke to him, that I can recall. I didn't even try. I never used all that information. I think I liked the idea of having a crush more than I really wanted him to be my boyfriend. I did occasionally daydream about ways I might meet him, but when I had opportunities, I did absolutely nothing about it. I was more likely to run the other way than to actually speak to him. It didn't help that most of those opportunities were in gym class, where I was horribly uncoordinated and untalented, not to mention hot and sweaty. I also avoided talking about him to anyone other than my mom until I finally felt like I'd grown close enough to a friend to open up -- and then she blabbed to our other friends and even pointed and said, "There he is!" once when he walked by. I was mortified, and possibly even scarred for life because I'm still a little reluctant to admit to having feelings for someone. Unfortunately, that reluctance extended to the object of those feelings. I thought it would be the worst possible thing for him to know I liked him. I guess I just assumed that instead of being flattered or intrigued, he'd be horrified, or else he'd use that knowledge as a weapon to hurt me, the way my girlfriends did (adolescent girls are EVIL).

I've only recently realized that there was another guy I also liked during that time, and really liked in a way that must have scared me. I actually knew him, as he was in most of my classes and we were often assigned to the same groups. He was a little weird, but he was smart and funny, and as I discovered when we had to write Christmas plays and then perform them in English class, quite talented. He was in my group, and I'd written a fifteen-minute adaptation of A Christmas Carol. He played Scrooge, and he was absolutely brilliant, much to everyone's surprise. The thing was, I guess I didn't understand my own emotions because I interpreted the mixed-up way he made me feel as intense dislike. I hated that he was in my group for the play. I made sure all my friends knew I thought he was weird. I tormented him horribly. I basically didn't know how to deal with him. It was just in thinking about seventh grade in the past couple of days that I came to the conclusion that I must have liked this guy but was too immature to know what was going on.

Yeah, I do still do the crush from afar thing (my anchorman), and while I may get shy and awkward around someone I'm attracted to, at least I now know that I am attracted rather than interpreting the feelings as strong dislike.

And, since I'm baring my soul, here's the infamous seventh-grade class photo:

Maybe I wasn't wrong to be worried that a guy wouldn't be flattered by knowing I liked him. Please compare to any of the current photos on my web site for proof that I did eventually improve.

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