My middle school was broken up into “teams” by grade. For the sixth grade, in honor of the state of North Carolina, we were broken up into different regions, and I was part of the “Mountains” team.
The teams consisted of a social studies, English, math, and science teacher and we rotated between them to get acquainted with the class-change system. I don’t remember much about being on the Mountains team, but I do know that I met one of my very best friends, E…and Mr. Curls.
He was a tall, lanky, and acne-ridden, curly-haired boy who was in my homeroom – and I never really noticed him until we went on an overnight class field trip in October of 2000. The trip was to Camp Greenville and I was excited about sleeping in bunk beds and eating at the “mess hall” (I was also obsessed with the movie It Takes Two at the time, if you’re wondering).
On the first or second night (my seventh grade self would hate me for not knowing the exact details, but I think I’m starting to get old…sigh), we took a hike up to Pretty Place, a chapel that’s open (no walls or ceiling), overlooking the land below, and lit by the houses and highways in the towns before it.
We were all told to sit down, and Mr. Curls happened to sit next to me. Being the 11-year-old charmer he was, he started chatting it up, and big-eyed and easily impressionable-me was flabbergasted. He had a cute smile and when the breeze swept through the outdoor chapel, I tensed, and he squeezed my hand to let me know it was okay.
And with that little nudge, the love obsession began.
Thinking back on it now, I feel like I should mail chocolates or thank you cards to my friends and my family for putting up with me talking about Mr. Curls endlessly. While we met in sixth grade, our actual “relationship” didn’t start until the seventh grade, and my obsession with him didn’t come to a halt until I started high school.
It was the age where every touch, every word, every brush up, or smile meant everything. Where the simplest of actions could make me melt and squeal ridiculously. It was the time when I remember anticipating every glimpse or meeting, and hoping incessantly while listening to Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys (they really did know how to illustrate how I felt, ya know?).
Mr. Curls and I talked on the phone constantly for about a year and danced at sock-hops while our friends surrounded and watched us. Apparently, both sides of the team knew we needed to make it “official”, but Mr. Curls was hesitant for whatever reason (funny how some things don’t change). My parents even bought a longer chord for our phone so I could walk out on the back porch, and wrap myself up in the white curls while dreaming of Mr. Curls’ dark ones. My diaries are filled with images, memories, and reminders of him. And my heart is still filled with some sort of an “Aww! My first little love!” impression.
Finally, after about a year, I pulled a Lindsay-classic move and decided to give Mr. Curls an ultimatum. Now that I’ve “grown into myself” more, it doesn’t seem too much out of my pushing-character, but at the time, it was super difficult for me to do. In a not so subtle way, I got my friend, L, to tell Mr. Curls “40 days.” She wasn’t allowed to say anything else but that, but eventually, I think maybe after a few days, he figured out what it was I meant: ask me out in 40 days or I’m done.
And so, on the phone, I believe on January 30 (yep, I still remember), he asked me to be his girlfriend. After we hung up, I screamed something fierce, to which my parents came running because they thought I was hurt. But no, I was just blissfully “in love” as an 11-year-old seventh grader who just got asked out by her all-time crush.
Over the next three months, we’d walk around the mall, try to (and succeed) get our friends to start dating one another, go to movies, write each other little notes, and he’d always walk me to my “car” at the end of the day. I still have a Valentine’s Day card from him that had a horse on the front and says, “Do you know, you make my heart go woah?” Aww, sweet Mr. Curls.
At some point in April he started becoming distant, and being this obsessive gal, I became extremely worried. So much to the point, that I used my press credentials from the middle school newspaper to pull him out of wood-working class to talk to him. I remember him wih this worried look on his face as he said, “It’s just not working out, Linds.” And I of course started to cry, as I probably would today (just not in front of him), and he tried to hold me as I dramatically ran away.
I called my mom to pick me up early and she took me out for brownie sundaes and we talked. She says it broke her heart just as much as my heart was broken to see me so upset – and she knew it was the start of my long journey with men and with love. She told me I would find another love and it would be better, brighter, and everlasting, and as a devastated pre-teen, I didn’t believe her.
A few years later, after Mr. Curls dated and ended things with someone else, we met at the movie theater and rekindled a little bit – or really, just made out. For a few weeks, I really liked him, and he sent me a birthday card, but then I met Mr. Faithful, and all was lost.
At first, I didn’t think to put Mr. Curls in this journey because I wasn’t sure what part he played in my life. I mean, everyone has a first puppy love and gets their heart broken – but how much does it really affect us? Sure, we always remember, but in the grand scheme, I don’t think of Mr. Curls as one of my great loves or even the guy who introduced me to being in love (that title goes to Mr. Faithful).
So why even have Mr. Curls as part of my recovery?
When I was in the south last, I was going through all of my past writings and I stumbled across an old “article” about Mr. Curls. This boy, in some form or fashion, taught me to learn from my relationships. Sure, I didn’t recognize it at the time, but even then, in what I wrote, I talked about how giving up on love is pointless and taking away lessons from love-gone-wrong is more beneficial then turning bitter.
Mr. Curls may have not had that great of an affect on my life, but I think my experience with him ignited my interest in relationship writing. I’ve definitely improved as a writer since that age, but I realized a common thread between the journalist I am today and the one I was then: I want to inspire others. By giving information, sharing experiences, or opening doors that were closed.
So, thank you Mr. Curls, for “breaking my heart” and making me move on – and for all those silly young butterflies. And in celebration of our “love” – here’s the ending of my article, dated 2001, called “Wish Upon a Star”, where I told our story word-for-word (mind the spelling, it’s taken verbatim):
“Sad ending, huh? I think so too. And the truth is, were not even friends now. Which is bad for me and bad for him. My mom says we both look hurt when we see eachother. And I guess she’s right. Now your wondering, Why am I telling you this? Why do you want to know about my little reletionship? This is why.
Many people tell you wishing apon stars never happens. But I belive stars have a deeper meaning. I belive stars are God in desiguse. He granted my wishes and he will grant yours. Find your star and always wish apon it, if it is the first star of the night. Another thing. Yes I had a great relantionship with this boy, and I had a horrible break up. I know you all must think I’m crazy because I was only in the 7th grade, and I have to admit I was overly serious. But still, from this I have gained so much. At times in our lives, we have troubles and problems. But I just remember that the right boy is out there for me. Even if this, even if that. I’m waiting for him and he’s waiting for me. And I know I’ll find him. Maybe it is and maybe its not this one boy, it doesn’t matter.”
And over 10 years later, the hopeful romantic in me isn’t gone. Oh yeah, he’s out there. But first, I’m finding me.