An Insipid Defense Of A Hoary Old Adage Through Three People


She was older than me, not by too much, but enough to make me feel a little weird. It was my junior year of high school. We had been friends for two years. I didn't know that she would make relationships more important to me than I could have guessed they ever would be.

After I had spent a bit of time enduring unsubtle chortling on the part of some friends for a reason which I suspected only vaguely or not at all, she sent me a tentative email. I don't even remember how things proceeded from there.

We went to prom together and the dancing made me acutely uncomfortable, and she fell asleep on my lap at the after-prom party. I sat with her head in my lap for probably at least an hour, stroking her hair.

I have always been ticklish, and she tickled me until I couldn't breathe in the hallway next to the room where my high school's Shakespearean Troupe met and rehearsed. She got me to play opposite her in one of the histories about which I knew nothing, King Henry IV or something, and she played Titania and swooned over me as I wore a papier-mâché donkey head and acted extremely uncomfortable.

She wrote me erudite and lengthy love letters. I picked them up out of the mailbox as I walked to the house of the kid I was tutoring in math, read them on the way, and didn't let him see them. I don't remember if I reciprocated, but for the most part, I was kind to her, and I think I did the best I could.

She told me she was falling in love with me and it scared me. I was not yet out of high school. I couldn't even drive. I was fast becoming attracted to someone else, and at that point I didn't know how to handle it.

I may have loved her, but the word still frightened me and I never had a chance to find out. We went to the woods, sat on a blanket in the bamboo, and ended the relationship then and there. We said we would stay friends and she tickled me until I couldn't breathe.

I think now she's working on her master's degree, writing about teaching disadvantaged kids. The kids she works with apparently really like the guy she's with now.


When I met her, I thought she was an introvert. I suggested that she join the Shakespearean Troupe after one of her presentations in the 10th grade English class we shared. Two years later, I sent her a tentative email.

Our first meeting after that turning point was in a library.

She watched amusedly as my Lysander made pathetic moony eyes at Hermia, who was played by a freshman girl; I watched amusedly as she got picked up and carried off the stage by my friends dressed up as pirates.

We went to dinner with our friends on prom night, and they went to prom while we stayed home and ostensibly watched a movie. We sat outside at three in the morning, waiting for a ride from my mom, and I wanted to sing a Suzanne Vega song to her, but didn't.

Her mom and my mom are still close friends.

Her mom got us both summer jobs at her workplace. Eventually people complained that they didn't think it was professional for us to be holding hands on the corporate campus during our lunch break, so we waited until we got to the surrounding neighborhoods and then sneaked off to the side streets to talk and make out, in that order. I think maybe people still knew.

For our one Valentine's Day together, we got each other dictionaries. This was not premeditated. I still have mine.

I sent her love letters, substituting wit for erudition, and she sent me love letters which had their fair share of both. But we both agreed that the word "love" was either frightening or cheap, and we never used it.

We went to college together, and while it didn't necessarily turn out that well, I feel that saying it was a mistake would be missing the point.

She changed, and I probably did too. We started to lose our closeness. She went to dances and LARPed, made new friends who were just deeper than I was. It made me more uncomfortable than I would ever tell her, and it bothered me more than I ever could understand.

In some ways, she always was just on a different level than I was. In the last couple months, I made a lot of mistakes that I would want to apologize for long after she had probably forgotten about them.

She broke up with me after almost two years. She cried then, and asked me why I didn't; I guess it was because on some level I had seen it coming. But I did cry, later, and for eight months after I realized how much she had challenged and inspired me, I didn't know what to do with myself.

I still occasionally discover things for myself only to realize that they're things she told me two years ago. She graduated from college a semester early, and she's living in Seattle now.


We'd been friends for about five years, and I'd seen her date many of my good friends in high school. At the time, I questioned what I saw as her flightiness. At the end of our relationship I was furious about it. Now I think I understand.

In the summer before my junior year of college, we went to a concert and from there to a party. My antics there somehow had people I had never met questioning my sexual orientation within ten minutes of my arrival. She drove me home at 3 a.m. and I tentatively asked if she minded my flirting with her.

The next afternoon, I went to her house, ostensibly to help fix her car. I think we both knew I didn't know anything about cars and that I just wanted to spend time with her after the quasi-revelations of the previous night.

She worked tech in community theatres, I worked at the job I had gotten through the assisted nepotism of the previous years. We snatched what time we could find together as the summer, and thus the time we had in the same state, drew inexorably nearer to its end.

She watched movies at my house, and as often as not fell asleep during them. I couldn't bear to wake her up when I saw how peacefully she was sleeping. Sometimes I would sing softly to her as she slept. When I left her on the couch overnight and went up to my room, my parents told me in the morning that they didn't really want her staying overnight, no matter where I slept.

She was the first person I ever slept with, literally, not figuratively, in the apartment where she lived with a close friend of mine who used to be her boyfriend and now disapproved of us. Neither of us slept with many clothes on, particularly in the summer. She would sleep for fourteen hours, I would sleep very little, and I didn't mind.

The summer ended and we parted tearfully. We kept in touch as often as we could. She flew up to visit me one weekend and I finished a Real Analysis take-home test in four days rather than the allotted week so that I would have more time to spend with her.

She was the first person outside of my family to whom I have ever said "I love you."

She visited me again in February, for about a month. It was to be our last time spent together as a couple. During that month, I pampered her as much as I knew how; she had had a hard few months working herself to death in theatres. She rewarded me with her presence. She solved the Macalester math department's "Problem of the Week" one week, and worked tech for a show put on by Macalester's theatre club.

She made me feel more sexy than awkward for the first time in my life.

We went to a dance, and I danced in a row of five guys with our shirts off.

She had decided to take a semester off from school to walk the Appalachian Trail, starting in March, and promised to keep in touch as much as possible. I sent her a package, which she received after she sent me an email saying that she was breaking up with me. The relationship couldn't last forever, she said; better that it should end before it grew old, and while we still thought of each other fondly. She called me the best boyfriend she had ever had.

I look back on my indignation at the time almost with amusement, now. She had told me she loved me; I think she did, and I think it may have been as hard for her as it was for me. Eight months after the end, I had learned to forgive.

She's back from the trail now, having hiked some but not all of it. She's with someone she met on it, who seems like a good guy. She changed her major from theatre to art.