Look, I’m just going to put it out there: childhood was a tough time for us all. First of all, it was the mid-90s, and everyone was wearing day-glo, so that alone is enough to mar our memories of being young with a cringe-y stain of “oh my god, I can’t believe I wore that.” But beyond the environment we lived in, we have to deal with the fact that when we were children, most of us were painfully awkward and we did and said weird things by accident all the friggin’ time. The most embarrassing moment of my youth that I can recall is seemingly innocuous - but let me give you the scoop.
So it’s fourth grade. I’m nine years old, am like four feet tall maximum, have hair the size of a small melon, and am basically a pink jellybean of a person. Proof:
So despite being fey and awkward and being the only one to laugh at all the teacher’s jokes, and I mean laugh, like to the point where a little pee almost leaked out, and sneaking Baby-sitters Club books to school and reading them with the covers pressed firmly onto my desk so no one would see that it was bright pink, I had two good friends at the time. One of whom was this mousy girl named Shannon*. Shannon was possibly the only child in class more awkward than I am. I don’t have any photos of her nor would I post it without her permission even if I did, so instead I found this on the internet and I kid you not she looked exactly like this**:
Shannon was incredibly sweet but incredibly needy as a friend - she wanted to be with you all the time always. She and I and our one other friend clung to each other like the social outcasts we were, though, and for awhile it was okay. I was deep into Animorphs at the time, and soon we three had made up a game where we were aliens from another planet with a civilization shockingly ripped off of Andalite society, and we all had alien names that were strikingly similar (AKA the same as) Andalite names. And we took this so seriously. Like, to the point of pretending that our human lives were masquerades. It was nerdy, but I’m not ashamed.
Shannon soon made it a habit to call me on the phone daily, as soon as she knew we were home from school. And then she’d want to talk for hours. What could a nine year old possibly have to talk about for hours? I couldn’t tell ya. But it soon became clear to me that I was the only one on the receiving end of these phone calls - the other member of our trio, who honestly I liked better than Shannon, never got called after school.
And then the clues started to add up: Shannon always sat next to me at lunch. Her alien character was allegedly my alien character’s partner (I woulda told you different, but whatever). She called me every day. I caught her staring at me sometimes from across the classroom. Oh, shit. You guys. You guys. Shannon had a crush on me.
Nevermind that I was gay-but-didn’t-have-the-words-for-it. Nevermind that I already had an elementary school “crush” on some other girl who would later become the only girlfriend I have ever had and also would shave her one eyebrow off before the sixth grade dance after she dumped me for the hunk of the sixth grade which totally served her right but whatever. Nevermind that we were in fourth grade so crushes really didn’t matter in the long run. This awkward sauce girl who I only liked half the time had a crush on me and it was gross.
I was able to stomach it, though, because after all she was one of my friends and I did like our alien game, and also she was someone I could talk about Animorphs with. And I didn’t want to be mean. I was a stunningly pacifistic child, who would run away from conflicts. I couldn’t ever say to Shannon, “hey girl, I’m sorry you like me, but I just wanna be friends. Also, we’re nine.”
Instead, I did the only thing I knew how to do. Ignore it. And all was well.
Until one day. Oh, you guys. We were on the phone. It was the middle of the day - I remember the sun still shining in through the windows of my bedroom as I lay on the floor, gigantic cordless phone pressed to my ear. She was talking, and I was listening as usual; my ear was sweating from the amount of time I had spent with the phone up against it. Finally, I decided I needed to get out of the conversation, so I said something like, “Okay, my mom needs to use the phone now.” And we geared up to say goodbye. And then… it happened. I don’t know if it was because I had just talked about my mom, but…
“Okay, talk to you later. Love you.”
I TOLD SHANNON I LOVED HER.
It was the most embarrassing moment. I felt my entire body flush red, my heart palpitated right out of my body, and if it was possible, my hands and ears gushed sweat like little nervous geysers. Oh, I giggled and said, “No, I don’t!” Which, you know, probably not the best follow up to “I love you.” Eventually we joked about it and I said I was sorry and tried to cover my tracks, but what was heard could not be unheard, and every time I saw myself reflected in her round glasses, I heard those words ringing in her ears. She probably thought we were going to get married. We already had a book club and a Tamagotchi club, so it was like we were practically married already. I tried to be icy cold and distant, to show her I did not actually love her, and so things were never the same after that.
Perhaps it was best that way. We drifted apart after being separated for the next couple of grades - she made her own friends who for some reason had a weird animosity towards me and once even tried to sit on my head outside the school. Maybe there was some residual bitterness there? Anyway, eventually she moved away for high school, and I haven’t heard from her since. A quick search on the Facebook tells me that she still exists, though, and in her profile picture, she is posing with an attractive man who is possibly her boyfriend/husband/significant other? So she’s presumably happy, even though I broke her nine year old heart.
And that, friends, is why you should always be careful what you say when you’re hanging up the phone.
*not really her name. If you’re out there, I’m really sorry I told you I loved you. I was super gay. I hope I didn’t ~lead you on~.
**Except without the comically large head. I was the only one who had one of those.