I was 15. I was afraid that somehow I had been left in the dust, by all my friends, with regards to boyfriends even though in reality few of my friends had had “serious” boyfriends up until this point either. The church youth group (oh, all manner of evils take place in connection with youth groups!) took a winter trip to a camp in the beautiful Sierra Nevadas of California.
Little did I know that while there I would meet my first boyfriend. We’ll call him Abe. Little did I know that this guy was the youth pastor’s special project; a 15 year old “former” gangster with an already patchy past and not too rosy of a future by all accounts. The first night at the retreat he had shared how he had just become a Christian and had left the gangster lifestyle of jumping and being jumped, of bad times at school, and of all manner of general naughtiness that went along with his former bad life but that now he was going straight and was now in continuation school. Apparently it was quite the moving speech. It had to have been, as it seemed to have made me think him one of the holiest gangsters I’d ever had the pleasure of meeting.
I don’t even remember when we met at that retreat. I just remember that he liked me, threw snowballs at me, tackled me numerous times and stuffed large amounts of snow in my face and somehow I found this to be completely romantic. This shouldn’t be too surprising though since I also found him attractive and with this 20/20 vision I now have of the past I can assuredly tell you, I was mistaken on both accounts.
Somehow by the following Wednesday night youth group we were holding hands and he was presenting me with cheesy gangster tag art drawn on school paper that declared his undying love for me along with a heart-holding stuffed bear. I thought this was cheesy at the time even (so, yes, I did still have some of my faculties intact) but because it was directed towards me I fell for it and excused all cheesyness as cute and sweet.
May I just insert here that I don’t know what my parents were thinking to let me continue in this! They must have had a great deal of faith that deep down I was a smart girl and that if they didn’t have a cow about this one bad boy I would surely move on to greener pastures. Either that or they didn’t have a clue that I even had a boyfriend… (which was it Mom?!)
Thankfully the “greener pastures” theory proved to be correct… eventually. But not before I kissed this guy. And not before I had a couple of other “real winners” (as my mother would call them) for boyfriends.
I kissed Abe once. Just once. He had been playing basketball in the church gym and I came to say goodbye to him after a church meeting. He met me out in the hall and before I knew it he planted one on me and summarily inserted his very large and very slimy and very unappetizing tongue. Well, that cut the whole deal short for me. How disgusting! Why were my kissing friends so excited by this… this… this outrage! Pluh! Blech! And Spittooey! Phlargh!
Still, even having been thoroughly disgusted by what formerly was just the concept and what now was unfortunately the real live experience of the much hyped in the ninth grade, French kiss, my lips were tingling and I was somewhere between wanting to puke and floating on cloud 9. That was a strange and unfamiliar place to be.
My sister drove me home from church that night and my hormones were rushing through me with all of the PSI of a fire hose coupled directly onto a teenager’s pituitary gland. I didn’t hear a word anybody said. I didn’t realize that the car had suddenly pulled into our driveway after it floated away from the church parking lot. My mind was all about the strange tingling on my lips and the secret knowledge that someone had just kissed me.
This indescribable mix of being grossed out at the mass and force of this guy’s over-experienced tongue and yet the desperate feeling of happiness that I was liked enough to be kissed fell to the floor and shattered in a split second when as I leaned over my older sister’s shoulder to look at something she was reading, she turned and bluntly said to me, “You have the most stale and rancid breath. It’s disgusting.”
Yeah. That cured me of kissing anyone for another three years.
Fortunately the relationship with Abe lasted a remarkably short time. Turns out he wasn’t as saintly as his testimony that night at the retreat made him out to be.
Three and a half years later was the last time I heard about him. It was just after I had met my husband, the young pastor in training. We were in the early stages of falling in love when we went to lunch one day in the staff cafeteria, at the camp we worked at, where I received a pink notice that signified someone had called for me at the main office.
It was a one line note from my mother, whom, I assume possibly passed on the message purely because it was so bizarre. It read: “Nan, Abe called. He’s going to Jr. college. He’s getting a 3.0 GPA.” I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why I needed to know this piece of information.
My seminary student boyfriend laughed with me at the cryptic message as I tossed it in the trash with my leftovers. Greener pastures indeed!
(Please, if you are reading this and you know of whom I speak, refrain from using real names in the comments section! Thanks!)