If your heart doesn't get broken, it's not really high school
Valentine's Day. Ninth Grade. Her name was Jenny. Smart, confident, reasonably popular, and quite sexy in that post-puberty pre-sag freshman jail bait sort of way. Best of all, she was MY girlfriend. Bet you can guess where we're headed. Oh, true love...
I have an unfair reputation for trashing Valentine's Day.
It all started when I went on a rant on the air a couple of years ago. Here's where I'm coming from: I don't hate Valentine's Day, nor should I. It's a sweet, special day for lovers, especially those still new enough to still be discovering all about each other. What burns me is the implication that being unattached on Valentine's Day automatically means you're a pathetic loser.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must also make note of one of the principal reasons for my disenchantment.
Allow me to introduce, live in Hi-Definition on the Teenage Dream Memory Channel, one Jenny Lancaster. For a short time starting in late January of ninth grade, Jenny was my girlfriend, not that I understood why. But I wasn't about to question true love. I was SO infatuated with her. She was charismatic, strong and poised -- the freshman trifecta.
Jenny had enough intelligence and class to know how to laugh at you without making you feel small. She was the kind of girl that everyone loved, and she loved them back, with a smile and a kind word for all. And she also was... well, does the phrase 'brick house' bring anything to mind? The boys' nickname for her in gym class was "bowling balls" -- now you see why I have to remember her in HD.
For the first time in my life, I had a real girlfriend on Valentine's Day. And this was a once in a lifetime Valentine's Day. Forty-plus years on, I can still close my eyes and replay every euphoric moment..
Jenny wore a new red dress that was almost, but not quite, too over-the-top for a fifteen-year-old. (The guys in gym class would have loved it.) I gave her a beautiful necklace. 30 dollars from a real jewelry store. Big bucks in 1972. We had a nice dinner, and walked hand in hand down the street to the theater. The movie was "Friends," a romantic movie about Michelle and Paul, fifteen-year-old runaways who make a life together in the south of France.
"Friends" has fallen into obscurity over the years, but at the time it was the rage among teens. Of course it was. It was about the secret dream we all had. To telI the world goodbye and strike out on our own, with just each other. I mean, it was France -- that alone meant it had to be romantic and sexy, right? And "Friends" had a great Elton John soundtrack, in the days before Elton became a silly parody of himself. In those early days, his songs were quiet, introspective and made you feel the way you wanted to feel when you were fifteen with a real girlfriend.
Jenny loved the necklace, and she loved the movie. Today, we'd call it a chick flick, but what, you've never taken a date to a chick movie? Actually, I loved it, too. To this day, I have a weakness for women named Michelle.
Anyway, as I said, it was a once in a lifetime day. Once in a lifetime night, too, for us both. To my inexperienced yes-this-is-my-first-rodeo mind, that was proof positive that she loved me as much as I loved her. The irony of the gender role reversal wouId soon become apparant, but was lost on me that night. I fell asleep with fantasies about Jenny, me and France. Not that either of our lives were unhappy enough to run away, but it was fun to think about.
You probably have already figured out the rest. The next night, we were supposed to go out again. She didn't show. Yes, February 15, the day after Valentine's Day, one day after receiving an expensive gift from me, she stood me up. February 16, she dumped me. It is really necessary to mention she kept the necklace? In the dark, bitter parts of my mind, I like to thionk she sees it as payment for services rendered. Yes, I know what that makes her in my mind. No, it's not fair to either of us. But when the hurt is stong, you deal with it however you can.
But the best is yet to come. A few weeks later, I found out that the reason she stood me up was that she was on a date with one of my friends. That friend's name was Nancy. Apparently I was so suave, I soured her on my entire gender.
And you were worried about YOUR Valentine's Day...?
Jenny's family moved away about a year later. I never heard from her again. And I never made it to France. I did find someone incredible to share those dreams, and decades of better dreams. Our time together was rich beyond words.
Fade to black, roll credits, house lights up. Thank you for letting me remember. I hope you have a Happy Valentine's Day (unless you're Jenny, in which case you can go kiss the big one -- maybe in your case, the big two.)
Oh, and if you've not seen Henry Yu's clever, and kinda rowdy, video "My Totally S----- Valentine's Day" yet, please be sure to watch it. He says it's okay to laugh at his misfortune. I know I sure did. I hope you enjoy it, too.
Oh, and uh, Jenny... if you ever read this... call me sometime. I have "Friends" on video.