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Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's the craziest thing you ever did to get a boy to like you?

Well, here's what I did: I moved to Zimbabwe.

Okay, we've all done dumb stuff for love. Like maybe you've pretended to like Arcade Fire (whoever they are). Or watched the Superbowl. Or spent way too long trying to whip up the perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies. But getting your very own certificate of yellow fever vaccination? Seriously?

Seriously. Only the story is even more humiliating. And complicated. But I'll try to be brief.

All through college, I was completely in love with this boy (we'll call him S.) And S was completely in love with me, too. Only not in the will-you-be-my-girlfriend-and-walk-off-into-the-sunset-with-me way. More in the it's-late-and-we're-at-this-party-together-so-let's-hook-up-again way. Still, despite his never quite being able to commit to me, I know we were destined to be together. We had crazy chemistry. We were great friends. You know all those songs and movies where the guy doesn't realize that the girl who's been there all along is the one? That was us. It was only a matter of time.

After I graduated from college, I got a cool internship in the middle east, and while I was there, I couldn't help noticing that my being thousands of miles away from where he was living made S. more interested in me than he had ever been before. In all the letters he wrote (this is all pre-internet, btw), he really missed me.

And I couldn't help wondering: Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

At some point during that year, I mentioned in a letter to S. that I might be going away again shortly after I returned to New York. He was shocked to hear this. He was really upset to hear this. He'd always kind of thought…well, in true S. fashion, he didn't come right out and say what he'd always thought, but you didn't have to read minds to know that what he'd always thought was: Someday, Melissa and I will be together.

When I got back to NY, S. (after years of being unable to commit) became my boyfriend! He loved me. I loved him. And so, I began looking into doing development work in the third world.

"What?" you shriek. Why would you do something like that? S. had finally confessed his eternal love for you. The two of you were happy together. Why would you do make plans to leave the country?

Well, I'll tell you. I had the suspicion that a love like ours (so intense, so real) needed a little…something to survive. And I had an even stronger feeling that that something was distance.

So I found a year-long position in Africa.

I knew nothing about Africa. I mean, I could find it on a map. And back in high school I'd totally rocked out to "We Are the World" and everything. So I wasn't, you know, against Africa. But I wasn't exactly dying to go there either. Still, I had my relationship to think of. How could S. and I maintain our passionate commitment to each other if I remained in the continental US?

When I left for Harare (capital of Zimbabwe), S was brokenhearted. He cried when we said goodbye. Though he understood my deep, enduring commitment to improving the lives of the people of Africa (?!?), he would miss me desperately. I was brokenhearted also. At the time (and I am wincing as I type this), the movie Dracula had just come out, and the tag line for the movie was "Love Never Dies." When a friend quoted this to me (in reference to my relationship with S.), I wept.

Long story short, a year later I returned from Zimbabwe. Just as I'd dreamed, S. was more in love with me than ever. We made plans to drive across the country together to the west coast, where we would live happily ever after. We joked about getting married. We talked seriously about getting married. Those years of S.'s being unable to commit to me had become an amusing footnote to the epic story that was our eternal love.


Except now that he and I were in the same time zone, S. started to seem a lot less in love with me than he'd been when I was leaving on a jet plane. And over the next couple of months, the reason that he seemed less in love with me was revealed: it was because he was less in love with me. In fact, four months after I'd returned to the U.S. and six weeks before our planned road trip, S. confessed that he was having serious doubts about our relationship. It wasn't me. It was him. Or it was me. Or it wasn't me or him, it was us. Or at least us on the same continent.

Bottom line: When he hit I-80 heading west, he'd be traveling solo.

The takeaway from this should probably be: Don't try to get a guy to like you by doing something you don't want to do. But the thing is, I had an amazing year in Zimbabwe. I met people who changed my life, I got to spend time traveling around a really exciting continent, I learned (a little bit of) another language. And years later, I sometimes find myself narrating a story that begins, "Back when I was living in Zimbabwe…", which gives me some serious street cred with people who might be inclined to dismiss me as a vapid jap. I never regret my experiences there, and the fact that I only had them because I wanted to get some guy to fall in love with me…well, like John Lennon says, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you're thinking about doing something to get a guy to like you, by all means go ahead. Oh, not something dumb like losing your virginity to a jerk or lying to your parents so you can go to a party with a bunch of drunk kids. But if we're talking about downloading songs by a band you've never heard of or reading a book you think will make you look cool, I say, do it!

The bad news is: It's not going to work. The good news is: You just might get to go to Zimbabwe.

To read the first chapter of The Darlings in Love, click here.



Anonymous C hansen said...

Wow. I'm inspired. I wish I had such a story! Will save this for MY daughter and live love stories through her.

December 1, 2011 at 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff, I'm going to link this!

December 1, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Anonymous leslie margolis said...

Love this!

December 2, 2011 at 3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved loved loved the part about the Dracula tag line and how it made you burst into tears; please use a version of this story in your next book. Also hilarious is the lack of context, as if the words of love were meant for you and S (one day on the wedding cake: LOVE NEVER DIES) instead of a pack of deviant vampires whose idea of love means drinking virgins and wandering aimlessly through vast arrays of breasts.

December 3, 2011 at 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So there was this guy in high school, that I didn't even like. I mean, I liked him, I just didn't like him, like him. He was funny and sort of funny looking. We joked around a lot and he would sometimes compliment my hair. (But he'd say it sort of jokey way, right?) Anyway, he broke up with his gorgeous girl friend (actually, I think she broke up with him) and oddly, he asked me out. He asked me by passing me a note in class, and initially I assumed he was just pulling my leg. I couldn't date until I was 16, and I had only been 16 for a couple of months and no one was asking me out, so after thinking about it for a few seconds, I wrote, "okay" on the note and slid it back to him. We went out a couple of times and had a lot of fun. I started to think, maybe I do like him, like him. The only thing was I was pretty sure he was pining over gorgeous ex. What to do? Well, after being an item for over two weeks (!!!) he asked me to come to school without wearing underwear. I have always been a bit cautious and that sounded really CRAZY. I laughed it off, told myself he was just being silly, then when I got home that night I figured, well, wouldn't gorgeous ex do it? And it's not like he said come to school naked. Or let's go off campus at lunch (wink, wink) like M and S did every day--we all knew what they were doing. So, the next day, I put on my favorite jeans, sans panties, and went to school. He was very impressed. I was very uncomfortable. How boys do the whole commando thing on a regular basis is mind-blowing. At lunch he took me to a stairwell and slid his hand down the back of my pants. (Now that I'm a lot older and more experienced, I sort of wonder why he didn't stick his hand down the front.) It was just for a second, just a quick cup of cheek and then exit. I admit it was a little exciting. But I was still very uncomfortable. I felt chaffed. But I felt a little proud too that I had been willing to be so wild and crazy. Unfortunately, as you might have expected, two days later he was back with the ex. No explanation to me, he just was with her at lunch. I wanted to know if she had any panties on, but didn't ask. Henceforth, I have always worn undergarments--too bad Britney Spears didn't learn from me.

Can't wait to read the crazy things others have done!


December 6, 2011 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

I joined all the clubs in high school that the cute boys were in - instead of the ones I wanted to do. I loved being on the newspaper, but I worked as a sports writer to talk to guys. *facepalm*

I also pretended to be a Jets fan.
... I still have no idea how football works.

January 5, 2012 at 11:21 AM  

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