By Anonymous, Collage by Kathryn
Leonardo Dicaprio was on the TV, starring as the ever charming Jack Dawson, and I found myself getting lost in that smile of his. I didn’t know why my face felt warmer or understand the way I was drawn to this stranger. All I knew was that I felt something. Ever since then, I’d hate watching Titanic with my mother because I feared that she just knew what was going through my mind – not that it was anything remotely sordid, it was just childish dreams I’d created where he’d stare at me with love filled eyes in the way that all the teen fictions I’d started reading would label “heartbreakingly handsome.” I’d be the only girl for him, the line of hot models and actresses forgotten.
While I was daydreaming about Leo, other people my age were getting into relationships that had them having a quick ceremony on the playground and breaking up the following day. I stayed in the background, trying to not get involved in any drama about who called who what or who checked out someone’s “husband,” and felt a sense of loneliness. The support of girls during that time was mainly seen when they went around in groups trying to sort these relationships out or attempt to discern who liked who in class. I was never the popular girl, I barely even had any friends to sit with at lunchtime. Would a little drama be bad if it meant I had a seat saved for me during lunch? The only problem, though, was the boys I thought were dreamy were already taken and I was not about to become a complete social outcast by making my affection known. And there was the uneasiness I felt, as if they would never go for me because as small, spotty guys with David Beckham haircuts they were coolest and would never go for a tall, awkward girl like myself. Out of my league, basically. So, I tried to tell myself that I would find someone in high school.
Luckily for my up and down self-esteem, I went to visit a high school far away from where everyone else I went to school with was planning on attending. It was open day and I was walking around the playground of this new territory all by myself, displaying a confidence that even surprised me as I realised I could be anyone I wanted here. In that one moment, I felt beautiful because there was so much opportunity awaiting me. A boy then approached me. I’d be lying if I claimed I hadn’t been checking him and his friends out as they stood there laughing, carefree with their greasy hair and rosy cheeks – they weren’t Leonardo Dicaprio, but they were real and that was a good start. No matter how hard I tried, I would always notice, be so painfully aware, of cute guys.
“My friend thinks you’re pretty,” he said, stopping me in my tracks. And I let myself believe his words, feeling myself get shy because I was being noticed. I cast a look over at where these boys were to see them kneeling over laughing, it soon registered that sometimes cute guys aren’t cool and they’re actually just a bit cruel.
“Er, thanks,” I found myself saying as I rushed away.
Without even realising, I began questioning how to know whether someone truly liked you.
I didn’t care about guys my first year of high school. Okay, that’s a complete lie. I cared yet I found that it was best to act as if they had no effect on you. It also made me look cool in front of the other girls. I remember no one walking the stairs where these 16 year old boys were having a good old gossip at lunch, barring the way with their smirks alone, and the girls I was with – who I hoped so desperately to befriend – sighing in defeat as that was the only way to get to the lunch room. I steeled myself and pushed past these gawky guys saying, “excuse me!” in a way that has been perfected over the years to be a balance of politeness and annoyance. And with that, the other girls followed.
My confidence at that point seemed to attract others in a way I failed to understand. But it attracted my crush, a tall blonde boy with glasses that I shall call Kevin here because I would still be mortified if nearly a decade later he found out that I imagined being his girlfriend. We were in drama class and the teacher was making us a play a game where one person sat in the middle of the room and people had to make them laugh so that they would end up losing. Kevin was sitting the chair and I saw this as my one chance to get him to notice me so I got up to move the chair placed for me so I could get down on the floor.
That’s when I broke into air guitar. My hair was flying everywhere and I was rocking out with all my energy, everyone cheered from all around me. I was the rockstar for all twelve year olds. Kevin, bless him, had burst out laughing, and I was so sure that this time I was being laughed with and not at. I guess, what my little performance had showed was that I was unafraid and I made a cute boy smile, laugh without hesitation, and that was enough to bring a grin onto my face.
Soon, it was the end of the first term of high school and our class was watching Pirates of the Caribbean. Correction: Kevin and I were watching the movie while everyone else was walking in and out of other rooms with their friends. I didn’t get why he wasn’t with his mates, did he too think Orlando Bloom was worth swooning over?
“It’s raining outside,” Kevin said, a line that took me back to Mean Girls and confused me all at the same time.
“Yes,” I said, unsure of how to respond to a statement about the weather.
It felt nice, though. To watch a movie with a guy, have him try to make conversation, and throw a smile his way. And then at the end of the day, I found out that he had a girlfriend. Yes, Kevin had asked out another girl from class that very day, and suddenly I felt less bad about whacking him in the eye that one time accidentally months before due to my clumsiness.
The guy of my dreams walked into my drama class, a place where my romantic situations took place to truly make my life that bit more theatrical. I had moved high school and was once again with all my old friends, so when this boy wonder entered I was lost because I didn’t remember him. He was two years older it turned out, tall and manly, and I felt – for the first time ever – butterflies that weren’t for Leonardo Dicaprio. Time stopped for me, again the drama classroom setting was perfect for this teen movie moment, and I was mesmerized by the magical creature in front of me who had brown hair that was slightly spiked up, sparkly dark eyes, and a smile he wore as he told a joke our teacher didn’t find amusing.
I was attracted to him. Everyone else was either dating, busy finding out who was in a relationship, or just didn’t care about that stuff. I, on the other hand, could tell there was something special about this older guy and created a world in my head that knew no disappointment. He’d ride his bike down the hill I would walk up after school and a small part of me wanted him to hit me so then he’d have to help me up and we’d then start talking, with no school setting to create boundaries that I was the geeky second year girl and he was the cool fifteen year old boy that everyone liked. The fact I was willing to risk injury didn’t even faze my slightly boy crazy mind. I just wanted him to talk to me at school, not giving a damn what others thought, as we shared a bag of Quavers and, maybe, even held hands. And I daydreamed about us getting married – where we’d both be super successful and have life, love, all figured out as “When You Look Me in The Eyes” by Jonas Brothers played.
He never did notice me.
Fourteen and fifteen:
“I don’t like anyone,” I told all my friends. This was true, no one captured my attention, and I found myself dissatisfied with the guys I knew. There was nothing wrong with them, they just didn’t do anything for me, and I suspect this is because I’d known them for so long ever since we were little. All I craved was love, to feel wanted by a super-hot guy. Was that too much to ask? Thus, I got lost in Taylor Lautner and Nick Jonas, boys I spoke of so much that my friend labelled me a “crush slut” – I became confused, could it be possible to tear down girls who never even had a boyfriend before? Why were girls judged by how much they liked boys? These questions would be at the front of my mind for the following two years.
Sixteen and seventeen:
After surviving high school, I now found myself at Sixth Form College. Suddenly, I became overwhelmed because there were so many dreamy and wonderful guys here, a place that didn’t have as much restriction as high school. I got crush after crush after crush on guys I barely even spoke to, they were admired from afar and I didn’t work up the courage to spark up a conversation because gone was the girl who did the air guitar – my confidence was either at a high or a low. Instead, I found a friend who, quite possibly, liked guys even more than me and we would spend hours discussing the subjects of our affection.
One day at lunch with friends, I felt bold enough to leave a secret note on the table next to us where the cute boys that we’d fancied for ages had gotten up to get something to eat.
You’re cute…but your friend is cuter! I quickly scribbled and shoved to my friend for her to put on their table.
They returned, smiled at the message, and quizzed us if we knew who left it there. My mates all denied our involvement, while I was the only one who didn’t speak as I didn’t trust my voice to not betray me. One of the guys put the note in his pocket and I smiled, even if the note was meant for his dark haired, blue-eyed friend. I liked to think that he kept it by his bedside table, pondering late at night over who left it there.
All my crushes disappointed me this year: one of them had a girlfriend who he cheated on with another girl, another was going out with my friend, one was just mean, and another was a total hipster. It was the hipster that I liked the most, spending hours arguing with him about anything, and still wanting to talk to him more. Of course, I denied this. Even as I told everyone I knew that I did not like him one bit, I found myself drawn to him in a way I hadn’t been before. Perhaps it was because I didn’t start out fancying him, it was more of an emotional connection that grew on my part, and that was a first in my boy journey.
“I’m like so majorly awkward,” I informed him, after most likely diving straight into discussing something embarrassing that had happened.
“I like awkward girls,” he smoothly said.
“But I’m so wacky!” I said after a breath.
“I like wacky girls.”
I was confused. Why would he say this? He couldn’t like me. No, that was impossible, and this wasn’t flirting. Turns out, he was quite the player, telling me all about these girls he’d been with. And I felt relief because, right then, I knew nothing was going to happen and I realised I didn’t want it to. I liked the idea of him more than I actually desired anything with him. I wanted something I was sure of, all I had with him was questions that were left unanswered.
Nineteen and twenty:
University didn’t make me fall for any guys. I expected to fall in love as soon my feet hit the grounds, falling into the arms of my future husband, and spending the following few years being the envy of all the girls as I had found my true love. Sadly, this was far from the case. I barely even got any crushes, realising that I had either got too picky, the hot guys were hiding, or that I just wasn’t destined to meet anyone. My friends, who throughout the years had not even been concerned with boys, were having their first kisses, losing their virginities, and generally having more interactions with guys than I was. Were my standards too high? Was it so bad that I knew that I wanted something amazing, something that made me feel special, and that I wasn’t willing to settle? What if I never found the perfect guy for me?
I was visiting a friend of mine at her university, happy to be reunited with someone that got me. My friend’s friend became intent on getting me with someone at the party they were throwing, my label as a singleton weighing on her mind. I refused, telling her to not go over to the cute drunk man at the side, but my pleas were ignored as this stranger came up to me. I was mortified. I could see my friend watching from the side and I realised I wasn’t comfortable or confident in front of this man, who was incredibly attractive, and he seemed to be into me if the way his head came down was an indication. I was sure he was about to kiss me that I sidestepped and missed it.
Not like this, never like this.
That’s the only thought that went through my head as I missed the perfect chance to get my first kiss over with. I guess, for once, I didn’t want to overthink something. I wanted a moment with someone I cared about who I had no doubt cared for me – I craved magic, butterflies, tenderness, passion and everything else so wonderful. I wanted to be in charge, to feel in control. What was the point of being with someone, in whatever manner, if I didn’t feel the least bit comfortable?
I fell in love.
I’ve not fallen in love nor have I come close to it. And I’m okay with that, more than I ever have been. I have a million things on my mind and guys don’t feature on the list. When it happens, it will be great. But, in the meantime, I get to ponder over all the possibilities and that is great, because love, relationships, or whatever else do not have a time limit. All of those crushes were special in their own way, something to reflect on about those times in my life.
And I will always be the air guitar playing, note writing confident young woman who turned down a hot guy because she knew it wasn’t right for her – pretty cool to get to know myself right now instead of any guy.
Prediction: probably still fabulous, no matter what.