Paul proposed! Another torrid teen romance

Propose: to form or put forward a plan or intention; to make an offer of marriage

I’m heading off to a spiritual retreat this weekend. No posts for a couple of days. Instead I leave you with another romantic tale from my far distant past

Paul Reilly proposed to me in October of my freshman year at college.

In my fantasy life he had proposed a hundred times — since I was twelve. Paul was the handsomest boy I’d ever seen – with dark wavy hair, green eyes ringed with long lashes, and a dazzling smile.

The Reilly family lived next door to my grandma’s Cape Cod beach house. There were three adorable boys in his family, and I would have settled for any of them. Bobby, six years older than me, was out of reach; Chuck, who was my age, was not yet interested in girls (most twelve-year-old boys don’t even recognize the female species); but Paul was just enough older (16!) for dramatic unrequited swooning.

My family always spent the last ten days of summer at Grandma’s. I loved the beach but not nearly as much as viewing the Reilly boys from my second story bedroom as they cavorted in the yard. My daydreams were filled with movie dates, holding hands, dancing cheek to cheek, and even kissing!! The mere thought made me breathless.

In my night dreams Paul would be so smitten that he’d fall to his knees and beg me to marry him.

This fantasy had special appeal because I knew if it ever came to pass, my parents would go crazy (nuts not happy). You see, Paul was CATHOLIC. To proper Bostonians like my parents, Irish Catholics – even the wealthy professional ones like Dr. Reilly – were beneath us. (This was before Kennedy became president and that prejudice became toast.)

The August mooning went on for years.

Paul finally noticed me the last summer before college. He took me out in the family boat a couple of times and once we went for a drink at a local dive. No kiss yet; in his mind I was still a kid.

I had been accepted at my top two college choices: one in upstate New York, or one just outside Boston. Although Cornell was my favorite, I knew Paul went to Boston College, which clinched it for the Boston option. (Parents: never over-estimate your teen’s ability to make rational college choices!)

I made sure Paul knew where to find me, and find me he did. And on our first real date, he finally kissed me. I’d like to say it left me breathless, but by that time I’d had a pretty serious boyfriend in high school and had already experienced breathless.

We went out several times that fall, and the real Paul began breaking through the fantasy Paul. He drank too much. He wasn’t very bright. And one night he tried (unsuccessfully, thank god) to rape me.

And then he asked me to marry him.

Well, blow me over! I had already decided that we were way done, but I told him I’d think about it.

Mainly I wanted the perverse satisfaction of calling my parents to announce “You’ll never guess what! Paul Reilly asked me to marry him!”

They greeted the possibility of their oldest child marrying an Irish Catholic boy with stunned silence.

I loved it. Served them right for their prejudice. I let them stew on that notion overnight before I called them back to tell them I’d said no.

Evidently Paul developed an affinity for my family, because a few years later he married one of my second cousins who also summered in Wild Harbor.

I saw him in 2002 for the first time in thirty years at a family reunion at the old house. If he hadn’t been wearing a nametag I never would have recognized him – he was balding, fat, and missing a couple of teeth. Alcohol had not been his friend, and my poor cousin was barely holding on to her sanity.

Still, I wouldn’t trade those years of fantasy love for anything. Paul will always live in my dreams.

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