I Made Sure She Would Say Yes, But She Said No
By ninth grade I adjusted to the San Fernando Valley. I moved to la-la land, from Brooklyn, after seventh grade. I made great friends in a year. And even though I left for the summer to go back to sleepaway camp, I came back excited for ninth grade and my California friends.
It was our last year at Millikan Junior High so it was like we were seniors. All things were looking up. It was unlikely I would pee in my pants again this year. But I was still the new kid.
As ninth grade passed, there were more and more couples developing. The last year of junior high was a hotbed for the fusing of two hormonally charged teens. Rifled with daily angst about my face and my clothes, I persisted in my quest for young love.
I usually liked girls I had never even talked to. It was much easier that way. But I had become enamored with a girl who was part of our friend group. We had talked. We had been to group movies together.
She was understated and reserved. She was pretty and smart. I was transfixed by her eyes and puzzled by the clarity of her skin. I was terrified. I wanted her to like me.
I decided to seek guidance. Seeking guidance as I call it now was the very long and arduous process of finding out if a girl has ever thought of you as more than a friend.
And so the process began. I talked to my guy friends first. Men are terrible at giving other men advice because they think of what they would do instead of what they would do if they were you. So asking two teenage boys what they thought was an effort in futility.
But I knew if I gave them the information they would get it to the girls who could find out. They put the word out. That meant that an hour later, everyone in our circle of friends would know.
This was the mid-1980s. We didn’t have email or text or Facebook or Instagram. We had conference call. We all had conference call.
This meant what we could daisy chain our phone lines together and get ten people on the phone. Of course if you were the last person on the line, no one could hear you. But you were still on the line. This was the process.
In a miracle of all miracles, it turned out that there was some potential. Our group conference call confirmed she knew who I was and was not disgusted by me. Step one was positive, but this was far from over.
Step two involved a detailed discussion among friends about how we would be as boyfriend/girlfriend. This included an epic fantasy scenario, a dissection of every boy she ever liked, and other useless teenage machinations.
There was nothing more important than playing out the entire relationship before the girl even said she liked me. And this is what we did, day after day, for weeks. The information would go from my friends to her friends so that someone could eventually find out what she would say if I asked her out.
Side note: I am still perplexed by our terminology. We called it “going out” at the time and when you wanted to have a girlfriend you would ask her out. This did not mean you were asking her on a date. This meant you were asking her to be your girlfriend, without ever having been on a date. It meant that you talked more than two times at a party or at school. It meant neither of you was disgusted with the other.
The Final Confirmation
The final feelers were sent out. After several back and forth exchanges I heard that if I asked her out she would, in fact, say yes.
I had talked to her plenty of times before this. But we weren’t close. It wasn’t a sure thing that she would say yes. At the time, nothing was a sure thing. Teen angst just didn’t allow for that. Hence, the need for positive approval before asking her out.
After getting the green light, my friends and I decided to do this together. Yes, together. I am not sure if we were socially inept, but we needed to have friends around to ask someone out.
“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” — Virginia Woolf
In my case that meant actually on the phone listening.
I went upstairs in my friend’s bedroom. One friend was in his sister’s room and another was on the phone downstairs so we could all celebrate together when she said yes.
I had checked and double-checked that she was going to say yes. All confirmed. She even knew I was going to call this day after school to make the monumental proposal of courtship.
I dialed her number.
Few of us had our own phone lines so I had to ask one of her parents to speak with her. I was sh*tting my pants. A parent called her and she got on the phone, with me and my two friends.
I think I just blurted it out after we exchanged basic greetings.
“Will you go out with me?”
There was an extremely awkward pause. It felt like ninety minutes, but was more like five seconds.
I could see my friend peeking out of his sister’s room. He looked confused. The silence continued. I can’t remember exactly how she said it, but she said no.
Shock and awe ensued as I somehow found a way to get off the phone with one ounce of respect and confidence. Now we needed to discuss the denial ad nauseam. It was a great idea to have them both on the phone.
The conference calls began immediately. There was no explanation. Everyone insisted she was going to say yes as late as earlier that day.
What had I done? Did she find out that I pissed my pants last year?
I was mortified, but not as much as I thought I would be. When you are in ninth grade, your friends have a way of changing the subject. Ten minutes later we were working on our football picks for the weekend.
The Final Word
I began talking to that same girl on the phone more often. It’s like this teenage catastrophe helped us. We pretended it never happened. We were getting along great.
Some time in the near future I got word that she liked me. It seemed that she may have before as well, but said no anyway.
This time I would practically need a signed letter from her, and her parents, saying that she would go out with me. I received repeated green lights and finally decided to try again. She said yes.
Ah, teenage love. It was a matter of a couple months before we broke up. I left for summer camp when we did. But something amazing happened when I came home.
She became my best friend. We talked every day in high school.
Then I went to boarding school. We lost touch for a number of years before Facebook made keeping in touch easy.
We got back in touch about ten years ago. Probably via Facebook.
A few years ago I got to meet her kids for the first time. They were sixteen and eighteen at the time. I told them this story. It’s one of my favorite moments.
I just saw her last year.
And look how far we have come.