If seventh grade was an epic tale of lovelorn longing and embarrassment, then eighth grade was more of a haiku of embarrassment. In general, with the exception of the whole remaining girlfriendless for the year and throughout the remainder of most of the next decade thing, eighth grade was a pretty awesome place for a 13-year-old me to be.
We'd had a year to complete that transition from elementary school to the new-found relative freedom of junior high school. And as eighth graders, we were at the top of the hill, a relatively small hill of only two grades, but still a hill.
I was doing well with the making friends thing, and had deluded myself into thinking a) I was one of the popular kids, and b) that being one of the popular kids counted for something. Eight grade was likely the crest of the wave of my popularity delusion, but for that one glorious year I was riding it with as many surfing metaphors as I could.
Just how bad ass was life as an eighth grader?
We got to spend our gym classes playing Ultimate Frisbee, which until Golf Frisbee came along was the cutting edge of flying disc-based sports technology.
Study hall was even better than gym class. There was a group of about a dozen honors students who got to spend at least some of our study time in our science teacher's classroom watching tapes of Friday Night Videos on his giant, toploading classroom VCR. Since most of our town had yet to obtain the magic of cable television and all the Duran Duran videos MTV could play during the early 80s, this was about as good as it gets.
And, in between viewings of the Safety Dance and Jessie's Girl, I had found my new object of affection, eighth grade version. This girl, was, well, I guess she was cute. And occasionally within viewing distance of me, and in my badass study hall. And I was on an Ultimate-Frisbeeing roll and was gonna get this girlfriend thing down in year two of junior high. Yeah, I was going to go for it, eventually, maybe.
I'd thought, or at least I like to think I thought, I'd learned a lesson from the previous school year's attempt at winning going-steady favor through the use of humorous epistolary. This time around, I was going to stand up and be a man (okay, boy - mannish boy) and outright ask this young lady to be mine.
Honestly, I don't think this girl made anywhere near the impression on me that seventh grade not-girlfriend had, but I was in the game and worked myself up and I was going to do this. Now other than committing the sin of being cute and somewhat in my line of daily activity, I'm not sure what this girl did to deserve my swaggering approach. But I was going to go for it. Eventually, maybe.
Going to put my plan in motion!
Just go up to her and ask her out!
Two weeks later. Still my plan. Still had not asked her out. Every night working myself up to do it the next day. Building up high levels of eighth grade anxiety. Hoping she would say yes. Not really having any clear plan what would happen next if she did say yes. Extreme handholding? Walking to the arcade on a half day?
Finally, one day I worked myself up into enough of a sweat-filled frenzy of nerves of I'm Going to Do This that I convinced myself that by the end of the day I was going to Do This. This was the one part of my plan that had not changed from seventh grade. Wait until the last possible minute. As a matter of fact, this has been the one consistent thing that has ever held true about any plans I've ever had for anything.
Doing It consisted largely of cornering the poor girl near her locker at the end of the day, covered in sweat. My sweat, although as soon as I cornered her near her locker, I don't doubt that she began to break out into her own cold sweat. I put my arm up on her locker, looking all cool-like in that 80s eighth grade way, felt my heart go up and out of my throat and dive back down to my knees at the same time, and promptly began stammering.
Something along the lines of:
So, uhhh. You know, mm, I really like you and ummmm (cough)
was thinking, just thinking really uhhhhh, maybe that
you might, maybe mmmummahh wanna
go out with meeeee?
In retrospect, the supremely well thought out and solid part of the seventh grade wooing by letter plan was that I did not see the reaction to my lovestruck idiocy playing out in real time.
Because in eighth grade real time, the reaction could most closely be described as: The facial expression of a teenage girl who had swallowed a skunk that had rolled around in a city dump sized mound of garbage that had been sprayed by a thousand other skunks. If there was a way to wrinkle one's nose so far upwards that it disappeared into the back of one's skull, she discovered it that day.
Uhhhh, yeah, no, that's okay,
I don't think so.
She managed to get out once the skunk smell dissipated enough and her nose had retracted back out from the back of her skull.
I managed to keep my cool arm on the locker pose as she walked away.
During the 20 seconds of what seemed like a sweaty eternity it took for the full powers of rejection to hit me, one of my friends had come up to get his things out of his locker.
Woah man, he said, that was pretty rough. Wanna go play some ultimate frisbee?