In third grade, I had a boyfriend named James. James had red hair and lived three blocks away from me. We sat next to each other at recess when our friends played truth or dare, and we always walked with Will and Erin on our way to art class because they were the only other couple in the third grade.
During the summer after third grade, James went on a family vacation to Hawaii and I was not jealous. Not going to Hawaii meant that I got to play “Old Nanny” with my brother and sister in our backyard all summer long. “Old Nanny” is a horrible, horrible game that we kids invented ourselves and it’s not relevant to this story at all, but here are the rules in case you were wondering:
- One person is the Old Nanny.
- The other two people swing on the swing set.
- The Old Nanny closes her eyes (because she is old and blind) and walks in front of the swing set in a straight line WITHOUT LOOKING.
- The two swingers try to kick the Old Nanny until Old Nanny is kicked so hard that she falls on the ground.
- The Old Nanny loses when she gets kicked to the ground.
So much better than Hawaii.
Anyway, one day we were playing this stupid game and it was my turn to be the Old Nanny. I was about half way across the swing set when I peeked open my eyes for, like, half a second (because it’s SCARY to walk in front of two swinging people who are TRYING to KICK you) and I happened to see James biking up to my fence.
I immediately abandoned my siblings and ran up to the fence – now this is when I want you to picture Darla and Alfalfa from The Little Rascals, because that is basically what I imagine we looked like – and James/Alfalfa said “I just got back from Hawaii and I bought you this bracelet. It’s Hawaiian.” Then he reached over the fence, tied it onto my wrist, swiftly pecked me on the lips (my first kiss!!!!!) and biked away.
Man, was that the most romantic 30 seconds of my life or what.
Fast-forward to the first day of fourth grade and James comes over to my desk at snack time and tells me that we cannot be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore. It is just too much for him. I go home and take off his stupid Hawaiian bracelet and put it at the very bottom of my jewelry box.
The next twelve years of my life, I go through multiple boyfriends and multiple pieces of jewelry. There was Nick and Kevin and Tom and Chris and Mike and Alex and Seamus and blah blah blah. And obviously none of these boyfriends worked out because I was young and “boyfriends” were basically just people who carried your books in the hallway and sometimes you may have gone to get ice cream together after school if your mom said it was okay.
But as I got older, and these relationships still didn’t work out, it got sad and confusing. It got sad because these “boyfriends” didn’t want to be with me and it got confusing because I didn’t know why they didn’t want to be with me.
The shitty part is when you lay in bed for three days straight and listen to the same sad, romantic song on repeat over and over again (I’m looking at you, Adele) and your eyes are so puffy from crying you can barely see straight. But then there’s something comforting or good about that day that you get up and get dressed, put your makeup on, do your hair, and sit in your car, attempting to pull yourself together before stepping back into the real world. It takes a lot of time and energy to rework your life in such a way that you can let someone else be part of it.
My relationship with James ended the same as all the other ones, except it was my first experience with rejection—the first time in my life that I had to learn how to transition into something better and more beautiful. And as most of you probably know, it’s really fucking difficult to deconstruct and pick up the pieces of something you put your heart into. Maybe that’s why, thirteen years later, I still have that stupid Hawaiian bracelet at the bottom of my jewelry box.