The June I graduated from junior high was hot and steamy, as only New England weather can be. It was also hot and steamy in my adolescent heart as I contemplated the social possibilities ahead of me once I got to high school.
In my town, junior high took you all the way through 9th grade. It was a social wasteland for a girl. My male classmates were short, their voices cracked like yodeling gone awry, and they were clueless about dating.
To celebrate our exit from junior high one of my friends hosted a party and invited some friends of her older brother. These high school boys were as anxious to meet us as we were to meet them because their female classmates had just deserted them in favor of the young college boys who had come home for the summer.
At the party I quickly set my radar on a guy who was nearly six feet tall– blonde, blue-eyed and adorable. “That’s Pat Patterson,” my friend whispered to me, “he’s on the football team and very popular.”
I was thrilled when he asked me to dance several times during the evening. Even more thrilled when he asked me to the movies the next night.
He walked me home after the movie and kissed me goodnight at the door. Wow! I was in love. I knew we’d be engaged in no time.
The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was leaving the next morning for an 8-week girls camp in Maine, where I was a counselor-in-training. Pat and I exchanged addresses and promised to write each other.
In my hyperactive imagination my romance with Pat grew more intense the longer I was away. I relived our dances over and over. And the movie. And that kiss! I poured my fantasies onto the pages of my diary.
He wrote me only once – a letter I kept under my pillow and kissed every night. I wrote him every week.
Shortly before camp ended I wrote him one last letter telling him EXACTLY when I’d be getting home: Wednesday, August 26 on the 4 o’clock train.
The first thing I asked my parents when they met me at the station was, “Did Pat call?”
Wednesday night passed. No call.
Thursday night. No call (back then girls did NOT call boys).
Friday night came, the first night of the weekend when EVERY self-respecting teen goes out. Still no call. I was miserable. To make matters worse, we were having a torrid sticky heat wave and our house had no air conditioning.
By Saturday night I was so distraught that I couldn’t even eat my dinner. When my dad asked if something was wrong, I burst into tears: “EVERYTHING!” and stormed from the table. I ran into my bedroom, slammed the door HARD, and threw myself on the bed sobbing.
About 7 o’clock I heard the phone ring downstairs. I ran to my bedroom door and it was STUCK, swollen from the humidity. Nobody appeared to be answering the phone. I screamed hysterically, “SOMEONE PLEASE ANSWER THE PHONE!!!”
My mother finally got it and yelled up the stairs,“It’s for you.”
“Who is it?” I demanded.
“I think he said it was Pat,” she said.
But I still could NOT get my door unstuck. I wailed pathetically…“Pleease… will someone help me get out??”
My dad finally worked it open and I raced to the phone, trying to compose myself. “Uh, hi,” I said, as if I were totally bored with pesky boys calling so much.
“Hey, glad you’re back,” the voice on the other end said. “Want to catch the 8 o’clock show?”
I paused… just long enough to make it seem like I had other options. “Well… ok.”
“I’ll pick you up in half an hour,” he said.
I looked in the mirror. My hair was matted with tears. My eyes were red and puffy. I had a lot of face repair to do in that half hour.
At 7:30 on the dot the doorbell rang and I bounded downstairs to get it.
I opened the door and there was my short, geeky, pimply classmate from next door, Matt Harmon.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“I can’t. I already have a date with Pat Patterson.” I said.
“But I just talked to you a few minutes ago and you said you’d be ready.”
By this time my mother was standing right behind me and I knew I was stuck. The only thing that could have made it worse was to be seen with Matt by someone I knew.
Turned out that callow Pat Patterson had been dating another girl most of the summer.
At my 25th high school reunion I learned that as an adult Pat hadn’t amounted to much. Matt Harmon, however, had become a very successful attorney. He had also become tall, charming and acne-free. If I’d stuck with him I’d now be living in a Manhattan penthouse during the week and spending the weekends at an elegant cottage in the Hamptons. Who knew?