The crush

In fourth grade, I had a crush on a boy named Cale. Not Kale like the cabbage, but Cale with a C. His real name was Garth Caleb, but maybe he heard too many Garth Brooks jokes and decided to shorten his middle name.

Whatever the reason, he had nice brown eyes and came from Canada, and foreign sounded interesting. His dad had once owned the Smokies baseball team, so his whole family was hot stuff, and this boy knew it.

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, our teachers encouraged us to hand out valentines to everyone in the class. I was super excited when I sifted through my pile and found Cale’s, a piece of red rectangular cardboard with those perforated edges to simplify the process of sharing your deepest love for someone. I imagined him feeling queasy as he signed his name to a revealing valentine sporting Michael Jordan dunking a basketball. No other valentine mattered.

Then I read the dialogue bubble above Michael’s head. “You’re cool,” it said. And underneath it, in Cale’s own handwriting, a blunt “I wish.” I hope his mom found out and gave him a good spanking. I told myself that Cale was a stupid name anyway.

Now fast forward 16 years or so to a few weeks ago when I had dinner with a good friend from elementary school. As she caught me up on everyone’s lives, I found out that Cale is now a professional baseball player with a wife and a little girl. He’s also Mormon. “Well that wouldn’t have worked,” I told her.

Our conversation got me thinking about other crushes I’ve had and how stupid many of them were. Like the one from kindergarten that I’ve mentioned on this blog before – the one I had on a boy named Will who was pudgy and curled his lip up like Elvis on picture day. He’s the one I drew the dinosaur picture for, even though I vehemently denied putting it in his cubby. Why didn’t I like the cute boy from church instead? (Who, incidentally, was the one who revealed me as artist of the full-page brontosaurus. I guess my name at the bottom gave it away.)

Then there was the double crush in first grade. There was Zach, the hyper one, and Scott, the strong silent type. They fought over me on the playground one day while my teacher watched, amused. All I remember is sitting on a bench while each of them brought me some token of their affection. Zach brought rocks; Scott brought flowers. I chose Zach because he was cuter, but then he went to a different school the next year and I was subject to mean looks from Scott until middle school.

In third grade, I liked a boy named Daniel who told me I looked pretty in my favorite green shirt. But that never progressed past the classroom, probably because I could only wear that shirt so many days out of the week.

In fifth grade, I was dealing with remnants of my unrequited love for Cale, and going to camp where he got to square dance with the pretty popular girl didn’t help. (I had to dance with a girl because we outnumbered the boys.)

But, eventually that passed and by sixth grade I had a handsome science teacher, also my first male teacher. I decided older men were better. His name was Mr. Hawkins and he taught Hunter’s Safety. How manly. He probably just felt sorry for me with my new braces and body wave.

The following year, I was at a different school and liked a boy named Phillip. I always tried to position myself in the hallway as he passed by, but nothing ever came of it and a few years later he ended up getting yelled at by Sarah B. in driver’s ed for staring at her too much.

In high school, I was inconsistent and liked boys who were preppy, punky, class clowns and jocks. One of the longest crushes I had was on a boy named B.J. who bought me a carnation on Friendship Friday and winked at me. Sometimes I wonder if it was a dare because he pretty much ignored me after that, even when I turned around in my seat in health class and tried to give him my page of doodles. He actually changed seats. Jerk. My friend Danny drew me a picture on my graphing calculator to make me feel better.

When I worked at the movie theatre later in high school, I had a crush on a boy named Cohan – actually his last name. He seemed like a good Christian guy, but told me he always spent Halloween praying, which didn’t sound as fun to me as dressing up for the annual AMC Halloween party like I had done the day he told me that. When I finally told him I liked him, tired of waiting around for him to do it first, he returned the feelings, but said he didn’t have money for a girlfriend. Lame excuse, I thought. Is he calling me expensive? He’s still single.

Although my crushes rarely liked me back, there were the guys who liked me but who I didn’t like. Take a guy named Eric, for example. We were in fourth grade together and I got the feeling he was happy to have me as a dance partner in gym, but I thought he was immature because he pulled a toy car out of his pocket and made car noises while rolling it across the gym floor when he was supposed to be learning the dance formation. Why couldn’t I ever have a decent dance partner?

Or the scrawny guy on my bus in high school whose name escapes me. He thought he was the cat’s meow and always tried to strike up a conversation with me, probably because I was the only one who only slightly ignored him. He was socially awkward and funny looking, but walked around like he was an Abercrombie model. One day after school, I saw him out of the window by our front door. He was walking down the street shortly after we got home and pulled his shirt off as he passed our house, then looked toward the window. I gagged and went to my room. I hope he didn’t turn into one of those kids who was always overlooked and resorted to campus bomb threats. That would make me feel bad.

Then there was John in college who came along right after a breakup. I told him I didn’t want to date anyone and that I would be leaving soon to study abroad, but he made things weird for me anyway by telling his parents we were dating before we all met for dinner one evening. John was a gift guy and on multiple occasions gave me things I didn’t want, like an enormous stuffed dog for Valentine’s Day. It took up half of my closet, so I gave it to Goodwill and hoped he didn’t shop there. I eventually made him cry by calling him a baby for whining about my lack of attention – again, NOT dating – but then my conscience kicked in and I tried to be nice again.

My lists don’t include the few people I actually dated since this entry is just about crushes, but to end on a high note, I will make an exception and talk about the absolute biggest crush I ever had. It started five years ago on the steps of the International Students Office in a small farm town in Australia. His name was Peter. 🙂

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