One of my best friends in junior high, however, was cool. (Or, at least he thought he was. And that's half the battle.) At the time, the television show Happy Days was popular. My friend thought of himself as Fonzie. There were some similarities. Even though we were only in the seventh grade, my friend had his own motorcycle, and had been riding motorcycles for several years. He was good looking, confident, and liked to go steady with girls. In his mind, he was Fonzie.
I, on the other hand, had no delusions of Fonzie-ness. I didn't ride a motorcycle. I wasn't confident. I was too scared to talk to girls, let alone go steady with one. I was more than happy to play the role of Richie Cunningham to his Fonzie.
|This is me in junior high. (Definitely not Fonzie.)|
One of "Fonzie's" few weaknesses was that he struggled with his classwork. I, on the other hand, did good in school. (Or should that be "did well in school?" It's been so long ago that I don't know for sure.)
Anyway, as we entered junior high, Fonzie talked me into taking every class with him, one of the reasons being that he would have me there to help him with his school work. It was a good arrangement: I helped him with his homework, and he let me hang out with him.
Fonzie liked the girls. He usually went for girls a year or two older than us. (Why? Well, ninth grade girls were more likely to be developed in the chestral region than girls our age, so they were more likely to catch his eye.) Despite being a lowly seventh grader, he had a fair amount of success with the older girls. But, just because he wasn't looking at the girls our age didn't mean the girls our age weren't looking at him.
There was one girl in particular who took an interest in Fonzie. For the purposes of this story, and to continue the 70s television show theme, I'll call her "Sabrina." (Sabrina was the "smart" one on Charlie's Angels.) "Sabrina" was in a lot of the same classes as us, and it was obvious, even to someone as inept at reading social cues as I was, that she liked Fonzie.
Fonzie knew this, too, and he used it to his advantage. He would often "let" Sabrina help him with his homework. At first I liked this, because it meant less homework for me. But, after a while, it started to bother me. Fonzie had no interest in Sabrina other than as help for his homework. He was just using her.
You can probably guess what happened. Before long, I developed a crush on Sabrina. And it wasn't a little crush. It was a big, think-about-her-and-my-stomach-twirls-to-the-point-that-I-can't-eat type of crush. It was a see-her-and-parts-of-my-body-get-all-tingly type of crush. I had liked girls before her, but nothing to this level.
So, what did I do about it? Nothing, of course. (There are reasons I became a 40 year old virgin.) I didn't do anything because I knew she liked Fonzie. Even though I knew Fonzie had no interest in her. Oh, I would see her frequently, because we would both be hanging around with Fonzie. We would occasionally talk, but I never let her know my feelings for her.
This went on for most of seventh and eighth grades. While I was in eighth grade, the J. Geils Band released a song called "Love Stinks." It begins with the lyrics: "You love her. But she loves him. And he loves somebody else. You just can't win." At the time I thought J. Geils had a direct insight into my soul. (The song peaked at #38 on the charts in April of 1980, although I find it very hard to believe there were 37 songs that week that were better.)
When ninth grade came around I didn't see Sabrina much, because I didn't have any classes with her. Eventually, I started to get over her. (Even though, to paraphrase a line from the show Friends, I was never under her.) I hardly saw her at all during high school. After a while, I moved on to unrequited crushes on other girls. (I wouldn't find out there was any other kind of love besides 'unrequited' for another 25 years.)
But, whenever I think of my first real crush, I remember Sabrina. And, whenever I hear "Love Stinks" I remember her, too. But luckily, even though it was later in life than most, I found out that the J. Geils Band isn't right about everything. Love doesn't really stink. (It just did in junior high.)
Edited from a post originally published on 4/29/2012.