106/365: 1987-1988

106/365: 1987-1988
dating secrets for men
Image by bloody marty mix
Tuesday, 09 September 2008.

40 Years in 40 Days [ view the entire set ]
An examination and remembrance of a life at 40.

For the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday, I intend to use my 365 Days project to document and remember my life and lay bare what defines me. 40 years, 40 qualities, 40 days.

Year 20: 1987-1988

As per usual, the first week back at school at the start of my sophomore year was actually spent in Wisconsin at marching band camp. And, as per usual, hookups were de rigueur. I had my sights set on a freshman mellophone player. We kissed a few times at band camp, and then once or twice back on campus, but that was all there was to that. He said he wanted to be a sports reporter, but the Great Gazoogle tells me he is now a lawyer. No matter, there was another freshman who soon captured my heart.

There are usually more marching band members than there are positions on the field for the pre-game show, so there are several band members who are assigned other band members as alternates. Charlie was my alternate. Eventually, the person I was marching next to got promoted to drum major, and Charlie took her spot instead. We marched next to each other all season, and quickly became thoroughly smitten with each other. From the start, I thought I had Charlie all figured out just from the look of him. He was gregarious and jocular, and wore his hair in a buzz cut. I assumed he was a Naval ROTC because nobody wore their hair that way unless they were a ROTC (pronounced rot-see). And I assumed that, like me, he was from a relatively low-income background, for reasons I can’t remember now. I couldn’t have been more wrong on both counts, though I didn’t find out he was wealthy until long after I’d gotten involved with him.

Charlie helped me through one of the roughest patches of college. My lack of study habits was finally catching up with me. Halfway through fall quarter, I was failing all of my classes. One day while we were out getting dinner I just started crying, and when I told Charlie what was going on, he said he’d study with me, and we’d get through it. We spent every weekend at the library together, from the time it opened in the morning until it closed at night. I had never worked so hard in my life. In the end, I pulled my ass out of the fire and got three B’s and a C.

Charlie and I broke up in December. His father was convinced I was a gold-digger. I think Charlie knew that it wasn’t true; I thought he was poor for weeks into our relationship, right up until he casually mentioned something about "the hangar where we keep our plane." But, he was very close to his parents, and his father’s comments had left him unsettled. The breakup was both amicable and sad.

One night, in late winter, I decided on the spur of the moment to put on my coat and go out. The annual Dance Marathon was going on at the student center, and I thought I might go check it out. On my way in, I ran into a couple of guys I recognized as Chuck and Sherman, the photographers who often shot our sorority events. We struck up a conversation, and eventually, Sherman told me they were on their way down to Lincoln Park to hit some bars, and asked me if I wanted to join them. I said yes. Foolish, I know, but it worked out. Sherman and I dated for several months, and I was madly in love with him. We had the kind of crazy chemistry that makes it take two or three tries to successfully break up when it’s over. (Even years later, he called me out of the blue to tell me he always had a feeling we’d end up back together. We didn’t.)

I spent the summer in Chicago, working downtown for a distant step-great-uncle (or something). I became one of the daily, jostling mass of commuters, riding the express line from Howard to Merchandise Mart (about a 15-20 minute ride in those days, before they started stopping at Belmont and Fullerton). The CTA hadn’t retired all of the old non-air-conditioned el cars yet, and they were often used for the Express. Maybe they figured, since it was the Express, people wouldn’t be on it for long enough to care, but they were wrong. The Express was usually packed full of people, standing ass-to-briefcase, sweating, grabbing each others shoulders and arms to keep from falling. If you didn’t have a seat by an open window, you were screwed. Screwed, that is, unless you were in on the secret. I discovered the secret accidentally one day, while I was moving from one car to another to try to find room to breathe. When I opened the door from one car to move into the other, I saw a couple of people just standing there between the cars, holding on to the hand holds, blissed out grins on their faces as the scenery raced by. It was downright cool out there, with the air rushing by. I walked through the next car, and out the next door, and finding that spot empty, took up residence there for the rest of the summer.

Who am I?

I am apparently nothing more than a series of boyfriends

… or so it seems. But, that pretty much was what my life was like in college and my early 20’s. I had defined myself exclusively in relation to men, and so those are the markers I put down.

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Train is from a photo by soundfromwayout.

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