Desperado: A Seventh Grade Love Story


I’ve had a valentine for over 25 years: so many years that we don’t even get each other cards anymore.
Actually, that’s not true.
He bought me two cards back in 2011 that he totally forgot about and that I found about five months later in the office drawer, unsigned. He told me to just leave them there and he could use them the next year.
They’re still there.
He thinks it’s hilarious.
And because I’m lucky enough to have a valentine who for over 25 years tells me he loves me daily — not just on February 14th — I kind of do, too. Besides, the fabulous dinner he always cooks for me (and the entire kitchen he cleans up by himself) makes up for a $4.00 card in my book any day.

I know I’ve told you a few times that my husband was my first real boyfriend and that I didn’t meet him until I was in college. Many, many times over the past 25 years both he and I have thanked our lucky stars we found each other when we did because we both were painfully terrible at the whole flirting and ‘putting yourself out there’ thing. (He will deny that he ever said that if asked, by the way, and hoodwink you into thinking he was a play-ah. He was not.)

When I was a little girl, I loved romance.
I loved the idea of true and unending love.
I spent countless hours putting myself in imaginary romantic situations with both imaginary and real suitors (and yes, I am talking about Scott Baio).
I read every single one of the Sweet Dreams teen romance novels that were published between 1981 and 1987.
There were about 100 of them.
.
But despite all of the dreaming, I never had a real boyfriend until I was 19, although I desperately wanted one.
Truth be told, I wouldn’t have known what to do with one if I’d had one, but at the time I just felt unlucky and like my life was devastatingly tragic.
Yesterday I found an old diary I’d kept my seventh grade year (1982). And by ‘kept’ I mean that there are a total of seven entries in the 12 month period.
Fittingly for what I just told you, it was a “Sweet Dreams” Diary.
Not only is the diary filled with lined pages ready to accept all the “Dreams, Daydreams, Feelings and Thoughts” of the adolescent girl who at the time was living vicariously through the dreams, feelings and thoughts of the hopeless romantic protagonists of the novels bearing the same name, it also contains photos of some of the unnaturally adorable girls on the book covers as well as super nauseating quotes.
When I opened my diary it happened to open right up to this Valentine’s post, which proves once and for all that my heart had room for more than a 21-year-old Italian boy from Brooklyn.


Three things I want you to please notice:

1. The use of not only two colors of writing instruments, but the mix of fonts. Cursive and printing. I was serious about this love.
2. I somehow felt the need for secrecy as indicated by the signing with just my initials.
3. I was also apparently in love with my diary. 
Let me tell you the backstory of the dance, the details of which came back to me yesterday in a cloud of Love’s Baby Soft.

Year: 1982.
Place: Middle School Gym (Ridgefield, Washington)
Event: Valentine’s Dance

I was wearing a lovely frock my mother had made me especially for the occasion. It was a white/red dotted swiss dress with a three tiered ruffled skirt and puffy sleeves. I wore a thin red ribbon choker tied around my neck. White gloves were possibly involved. My bangs were tightly curled. I felt confident.

Rick was a tall, brown haired, long faced, lanky boy who was on the basketball team. In a class of about 90 kids, the popular ones are obvious. He was one of them. It’s possible he was wearing a V-necked sweater that night, but I could be remembering another boy. (Another boy named Chachi, but that’s neither here nor there.)

While I certainly do not remember dancing with him four times (and highly suspect I might have been—gasp—lying to my dear diary), I do remember slow dancing with him to “Desperado,” and somehow remember it being sung by a live band, but that cannot be true because really, how would a middle school in a town with a population of about 2,500 afford a live band? Irregardless of the fact of if it was a live band or not, I do remember him asking me to dance and how I died inside and how I had my hands on his shoulders and he had his hands on my waist and how we swayed back and forth in a one foot diameter circle for the entire five or fifty minutes it seemed to take for that song to play. I also seem to remember that when it was (finally) over, feeling a little relieved because I hadn’t known what the hell to do with my eyes the whole time and so I just mumbled ‘thanks’ and scurried back to my friends on the side of the gym floor who welcomed me with the appropriate squeals of admiration and delight.

Because I knew it and they knew it; I was going to be that Desperado’s Queen of Hearts.
I remember going home that night wondering if Rick liked me loved me too.
He didn’t.

But that didn’t keep me from holding onto that dance (or those “4 dances”) for another month. I’m sure I imagined myself and Rick in all sorts of romantic scenes: going roller skating and holding hands during the ‘slow skate’, me writing him notes during class and folding them up like tiny adorable envelopes, him walking into my Home Ec class and scooping me up in his arms like Richard Gere did with Debra Winger.
I’m quite sure Rick bested Chachi Arcola back then as the object of my desire…until March.

Because when you flip past six more blank pages in my diary, you find another entry:


Single
font. Single color.

Poor, apparently dumb Rick, the object of my month long secret obsession.

I moved away from Ridgefield, Washington the summer before my sophomore year of high school. One of my best friends started dating Rick that year and sent me a wallet of their Homecoming picture. I remember being kind of jealous. Jealous that despite the fact that my love for him was short-lived, she got what I had so fervently wanted for a short while all those years before.
Because I never forgot that dance.

And now, thanks to my Sweet Dreams Diary, I never will.



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  • The Dose of Reality - This might be one of my favorite posts of yours ever and has me really regretting destroying all the notes, diaries, etc. I found in my dad’s attic a couple years ago. They were a goldmine of my pre-teen self feeling ALL the feelings! 😉 The different colored fonts and inks is just simply perfect in every way. Happy Valentine’s Day! :)-AshleyReplyCancel

  • Deva Dalporto - OMG I am dying! Hilarious and I so relate. Purple and turquoise were my colors of choice as a kid too (actually, I was purple and my best friend was turquoise). And I used initials in my diary too- for everyone! You know, just in case I became famous and they published my diaries a la Anne Frank, I didn’t want to expose everyone.ReplyCancel

  • Magnolia Ripkin - I applaud you for having a diary that could be shared… I think mine may or may not have had an entry about who bought us all some beer.. but it was Montreal, so ya… no rules.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Catalano - “Single font, single color. I was serious about this.” Haha. This was so entertaining and so true. I remember my 7th grade “social.” Ah, those were the days…of innocence and cringing embarrassment.ReplyCancel

  • Julie - I’m laughing out loud in bed as I read this. The comments about the different color markers and your initials are so true. I also wore Love’s Baby Soft back in middle school. I moved onto the much more mature scent of Charlie in H.S.ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - Surely you have some old diaries, don’t you? And thanks for the nugged of info about Charlie. Now I know what to get you for your birthday.ReplyCancel

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