In the course of growing up, we often innocently do the most absurd things. I have a number of cringe-worthy moments in my life that cause me to look back and say, “Dear God, why didn’t you stop me?”
Mostly, I try not to look back, preferring to keep those things hidden away, only to be pondered in the depths of the midnight hours, after some horrifying nightmare distorts my mind and disallows all thoughts of pleasantness.
Or sometimes, they come up when I’ve had too much wine.
Such was the case when I recently went on a date with hubby. It was not your typical date. He was 6000 miles away, in a country whose name I cannot accurately pronounce. Our face-to-face communication was accomplished through a virtual venue, but the wine was real.
Hubby took advantage of me that night, encouraging me to pour another glass of wine, and reveal long-forgotten details of my life. How many boys did I kiss before I met him? (I was a kissing fool) Who was the worst kisser? (It’s a tie betwixt Clark and Steve) Who was the best kisser? (I’m never so tipsy that I forget the proper response is hubby!)
“Have some more wine,” he suggested, “and tell me about that time with your principal.”
“I can’t! It’s too humiliating!”
“Open another bottle,” he coaxed, “and tell it from the beginning.”
I was twelve years old when I entered the seventh grade, and developed my first teacher crush. He wasn’t particularly attractive, and his necktie never quite reached the full length of his protruding belly. In retrospect, I think it wasn’t a crush on the man himself, but rather it was my first crush on words. There was something about the way our list of prepositions rolled off his tongue that made my young loins quiver. He would chant relative pronouns: who, whom, whose, that, which. Only he would play with the words, and use facial expressions to convey, “Who, whom, who’s that witch?”
I giggled hysterically every time.
His name was Clayton. I had never known a Clayton, and it sounded impossibly romantic! I liked the way the syllables clicked over my tongue. Although, I never dared utter his first name unless I was alone in the privacy of my sparkly, purple bedroom.
The fact that he was married meant nothing to me. His wife might get hit by a bus, or fall over a cliff. At the very least, by the time I was old enough to marry, she would be close to 35 and ready to drop dead from old age. Then I would swoop in with marvelous, carefully formulated sentences, making him see that I was the perfect replacement for his dearly departed wife. We would grow old together, reciting synonyms, coordinating conjunctions, and discussing the merits of the Oxford comma. I still blush when I recall the imagined joy of our grammatical conjugation.
Two years later, Clayton garnered the position of high school principal. My crush had waned in favor of the history teacher and his ability to make the details of the Civil War jump from the text and into my imagination. Plus, he was considerably cuter.
During my sophomore year, I experienced a great deal of anguish, for I was transferring from my small, beloved school. In a moment of fervor and grief, I determined that Clayton should know the details of my admiration for him. I chose my best stationery and penned a fourteen page letter. The words flowed effortlessly as I recalled the passion I had experienced under his tutelage. I assured him that I would always remember him with fondness, as he was my first crush.
The letter was sealed with tears, and hand delivered to his office. There, I sat across from the great and lovely god of grammar while he opened my letter. He glanced over the first few pages, and then tucked it back into the envelope. Ever so graciously he inquired, “Would you prefer that I read this after you’ve gone?”
I wanted to scream, “No! No! Don’t ever read it!!” Instead, I nodded my head, thanked him for his time, and fled down the hallway. I pressed my face against the cool metal of my locker, hoping the burning would stop before anyone noticed.
Thirty years later, he and his wife probably still share an occasional laugh over my youthful indiscretion. But I will forever cringe and ask, “Dear God! Why didn’t you stop me?!”
(This article originally appeared in newspapers on January 16, 2013)