In some ways, I was always waiting for my first day of college.
Middle school and high school were not ideal for me. I never got the hang of fitting in. A series of bad haircuts, glasses and the wrong jeans marked me as “Dweeb, Class-A.” By ninth grade, I was labeled “virtually undatable.”
My mom told me to wait until I got to college; everything would be different, better. Nobody would care that I wet my pants in first grade or once took a sandwich made out of hot dogs for lunch.
Nobody would know me. More importantly boys wouldn’t know me. And that’s what I really wanted out of college; to meet boys, nay, men.
“Men” suggested maturity, good manners, the ability to see past a bad perm. “Boys” only wanted to talk about trucks, call each other “fag,” and blow burps in your face.
I was convinced my college campus would be packed to the rafters with intelletual men who liked The Smiths and looked like they were on the swim team. I thought all I had to do was show up and take my pick.
While I waited for that time to come, I ticked the days off like an inmate in juvie and prepared myself for the idea of college boys like I was studying for the ACTs. I took myself to the school of R.E.M. Because that’s what college boys like, right? To talk about the Athens music scene?
My friend, Jonathan – who was the closest thing my high school had to a college boy – helped me out. During play rehearsals and yearbook, he would hand me stacks of CDs by bands who took their names from obscure Monty Python sketches and made liberal use of the accordion. He turned me onto groups like The Lightning Seeds, They Might Be Giants , The Soup Dragons, and The Lemonheads.
It seemed as if this “education” would pay off handsomely, because during my very first college class, who should walk in but a gangly, blonde-headed boy wearing a red baseball cap, Converse sneakers and a green canvas knapsack with a giant Lemonheads button on it.
I about fainted. The luck! I hadn’t even been on campus 72 hours and here he was…the embodiment of everything I wanted! In my Oral Communications class!
As we got up and introduced ourselves, things got even better. His name was Andy! How cute! And it turned out we grew up 20 miles away from each other! I wouldn’t have to worry about going home for the summer and leaving my college boyfriend behind!
Then things got eerie. We started to pick the same speech topics. For our informative speeches, we both chose dreams. For our persuasive speeches, I picked the Lee Harvey Oswald second shooter conspiracy theory (which might seem strange, but I had spent the previous summer obsessed with the Oliver Stone movie JFK, so it was topical). And guess what? Andy picked the Oswald-acted-alone theory. I shit you not. It was a total coincidence.I also though it was fate with a gigantic “F.”
If movies had taught me anything, it was that this boy was going to be mine. We had the whole “meet cute” thing down…sort of. Technically, we hadn’t actually met.
I had no idea how to talk to him. I didn’t know what to say. The most obvious thing would have been to bring up The Lemonheads. I had spent all my time in high school preparing for a moment like this. But I was afraid. What if I didn’t I like them enough? What if he asked me a question about the band and I didn’t know the answer? I would look like a total poser. Besides, my favorite album at the time was the Boys II Men album II. Andy would see through me in a second. I stuck with my main move, which was to stare at him and hope he would just figure out we were soul mates.
Before I knew it the semester was up, and the staring thing hadn’t worked. It was time to do something daring. A friend of mine suggested that I email him. This was 1994, so the idea that I could send a message to someone over the computer was a little mind-blowing. You could talk to someone without having to actually talk to them? Brilliant! This would do the trick nicely.
I kept the message casual – just reminded him of our mutual connection and said it would be nice to chat. He replied in a friendly “Oh,yeah, I remember you. Good talking to you” kind of way. I took this as code for “I felt a connection, too!” We were definitely going to go out.
And maybe we would have if I hadn’t spent the second message listing out all the ways fate was telling us to be together. It was like I was following a movie script, but instead of it being the one for “When Harry Met Sally,” it was the one for “Fatal Attraction.” I didn’t hear from him again.
So my first attempt at a college love life didn’t go so well. I had wrongly assumed I could just show up and everything would fall into place, that liking the right band and following a rom-com trope would be enough. It was clear I had a lot to learn.
Until then, I would just go back to my dorm room and drown my sorrows in Boys II Men.