Okay, so I left the awkwardness of sixth grade behind when my family moved yet again. It wasn’t easy though. It took finding a terrific new best friend and developing my first unrequited crush to get past it.
In our new town, things were much different. It was a very small town in southeastern Ohio. We’d gone from farm country to coal country. I was out-of-place yet again but somehow it was easier to assimilate there.
I’m not sure what sparked my friendship with Sheley but I seem to remember us hanging out at a football game and finding each other funny. We just got each other, the way you do with someone destined to be your life-long friend. Having a new BFF certainly gave me a boost of confidence. I still was in an awkward period physically but intellectually I was having the time of my life hanging out with this smart and funny girl.
Then my romantic rebirth occurred. I developed a crush on Herb Rose. He carried a briefcase. He was all elbows and knees and yet I adored him. I confided my affection to Sheley, who promptly laughed her ass off at me. But after she recovered her composure, she supported me as best she could.
I began taking care of my appearance, something my mom had given up on. She noticed my transformation and said she knew it must have something to do with a boy but was grateful that I was smelling and looking better. The horror of the awkward phase is forever documented in my seventh grade picture. I thought I had destroyed all copies but Sheley has one and it has appeared on her Facebook page. Sigh. Nothing like old friends!
Back to Herb. I guess you could say he was just too much of a dork to notice me. Eventually, I gave up on him but only after Sheley saved me from sending him a humiliating love note declaring my affection. This would become something of a theme in our friendship–my impetuous wish to declare myself to all my crushes and her sage advice to please, please don’t do it.
Seventh grade came to an end with a class trip to a small amusement park in the area. The way a boy let you know he thought you were cute was by asking you to go with him on the trip and spend the day with him. A nice, ginger-haired boy named Mark Workman asked me and I was flattered and embarrassed all at the same time. In a move that I am proud of to this day, I told him I couldn’t because I had planned the day with my friends and didn’t want to let them down. Choosing my girls over a potential boyfriend! But I agreed to go on the Haunted House ride with him. This was the “romantic” ride because it was enclosed, dark and had chances for the girl to squeal and cower in the boy’s arms.
Unfortunately it was the end of the school year and there wasn’t time for much to develop with Mark. When eighth grade began, he and I apparently had lost interest in each other. By then I was firmly besotted with a boy who lived in the same rural area as Sheley and I did. Shawn Randolph was a year younger than I was but that didn’t keep me from loving him. And like my earlier love, Charlie Brown, he had a bit of a block head. I don’t know what it is about a big head on a boy but it was like catnip to me.
Shawn and I had assigned seats together on the school bus, a forty-five minute ride in heaven or hell, depending on his mood. Some days he would lavish me with attention and try to cop a feel. Other days he’d either totally ignore me or ridicule me. In retrospect I can see he probably liked me a lot but his status as a cool seventh grader could not be compromised by going with a slighty chunky smart girl, even is she was a year older. Now I can look back and laugh and shrug but I can tell you I cried many a tear over that boy.
And so we come to the end of junior high, probably the last of any innocent love in my life. From here on out it’s more complicated and looking back, I wish that my choice of boyfriend had so little real impact on my life.
Up next: The High School Years