Alternate title: Why Jude the Obscure Infuriates Me
1982. Eighth grade. Fifth period. Speech class…Mark. I only had three crushes in eighth grade: Scott, Jerry, and Tom Selleck. Mark wasn’t a crush. It was love. And he wasn’t getting the hint.
I upheld my end of the eighth-grade romance bargain. I’d done everything I was supposed to do. I’d told my friends, my friends told his friends, I made myself available for the couples skate (and don’t think I wasn’t asked, I particularly remember Chris, something of a delinquent and thus highly desirable, asking several times), I wrote his name on my folders…in pen. But Mark couldn’t seem to gear himself up to move our relationship beyond making sure he got the seat behind me in speech class so he could quasi-flirt with my hair. We circled each other warily…no, wait, that’s not right: I stood stock-still and watched him circle me tentatively.
Finally, eighth grade dance. I came home from school to find a new dress on my bed, a gift from my mother. I rarely gave a second thought to clothes, and she rarely gave a second thought to what clothes I might like, because the dress was red, with bright yellow, green, and blue ribbons across the bodice. Prone to jeans and Van Halen baseball shirts I was horrified. But she certainly meant well and I donned the dress, along with strappy red, yellow, green, and blue mini-heels (okay, seriously, what was she thinking?!).
The dance. My first lesson in the power of a red dress. Mark can’t take his eyes off of me. From the other side of the room. Others ask me to dance…and I do, because I’ve grown tired of waiting for Mark, and I know something nobody but my closest friends know. I am moving in two days, and so I am free to do whatever I want without fear of repercussion or mortifying embarrassment. At the end of the night, flush with confidence, I take the microphone and announce that I am moving, and I’d had a great time, but so long, suckers (or something along those lines, and if anyone out there actually has a video of that, I’ll pay big bucks to keep it just between us).
As soon as I descend from the stage, guess who’s waiting? Murmuring things like, “Why didn’t you tell me?” and “But I thought we’d be going to high school together,” Mark finally leaned down and kissed me. It was a nice kiss. But not nearly as nice as it would have been had it happened six, four, two months earlier. Because in eighth grade I learned something more than the power of a red dress, I learned that I had no patience for dithering.
What was he waiting for? More obvious signals? Perhaps if I’d duct taped myself to the tree in his front yard he’d have been more confident? Maybe that’s tough on some poor kid who, after all, had just gotten braces, and didn’t have a great haircut, and, to be fair, I was something of a “handful” (and according to my brave husband still am). Mark had his own insecurities. But he let them get in the way for too long. He let them undermine his courage. And I bet he regrets that late kiss more than I do.
I’m trying hard to not have regrets in my life. I’m trying to have the courage to make the moves I need to succeed in a timely manner. Because signs are there. And I’m not going to miss my chance.
So what about you? What are you waiting for? That chance might not come again, and you’ll never even know you missed it until it’s too late. Grab that red dress, write that book, make your life what you want it to be.
Kiss the girl, Mark.