Last year I read Pamela Ribon’s novel “Notes to Boys”. I became interested in her book because I’m a fan of her other novels and her blog where she posted some of the letters last year. Her letters were heart wrenching, embarrassing and sweet all at the same time.
It got me thinking about the excitement of passing notes in class and the tome my friends and I would write each other during spare periods about our lives and the boys we were crushing on, how they said hi to us in the hallway, smiled at us in class or asked to borrow our notes (this was the best one because they would have to talk to you again). Then I remembered that one particularly cringe worthy time my best friend and I decided to write letters to our respective crushes (true loves). Her and I bonded while agonizing over our unrequited (probably) loves and came up with a plan – we would write love letters to the boy in a spiral bound notebook and date them like a journal whenever we were feeling particularly overcome with heartache. These journals would be delivered to the boy at graduation or the last day of school so we didn’t have to face the shame of rejection. I think we also agreed to hand the journals to each other’s lover to save even that embarrassment. – good thinking, right?
Obviously, in retrospect, given the precautions we were taking, this was in fact, a terrible idea. But we were in love. Real love, with boys who had no idea.
I began writing my journal with the optimism that he will one day read this and fall in love with me and we’d get married and have babies together and it will be a love story movies are made out of. However, partway through, I was already overcome with dread. What if he got freaked out by my intense emotions? I know I would have been if I wasn’t into the other person, maybe even if I was. What if he thought I was a freak because I thought making a journal of letters was a good idea? What if someone else read it? What if he never speaks to me again, could I handle it, was it worth it? I ripped it up and burned it. I couldn’t risk anyone reading it. It wasn’t worth the shame.
I never told the guy how I felt. I think he always knew, which made it more difficult. I spent the rest of high school embarrassed by my feelings, beyond awkward and shy around him (also in general). I can’t remember a single conversation we had because I don’t think we ever had one. I remember him talking to me and me staring at him with fear. A dear in the headlights, unable to react. Eventually we graduated. I remember our last exam together and the realization that this was the end. A sense of relief and grief.
Time doesn’t heal wounds, we just have difficulty remembering them.
We were never going to get married, we grew into different people. He’s not the type of guy I would date now but he definitely impacted the way I handle relationships, as has every relationship along the way. Love in any form can push you to grow as a person. Since that experience, I’ve learned to express my feelings so that I’m not left with the what if’s. What’s that quote “you only regret the things you didn’t do…” I’ve learned that especially in love, I need know. I may even go a bit overboard with the feelings (especially in writing – thank you texting) but I’m okay with that. I know I tried.
My friend finished all 80 pages of her notebook, complete with letters, poems and stickers within a month of our plan (something that should have taken the next two years). Deciding that she couldn’t handle the anticipation of waiting until graduation, one day at lunch SHE GAVE HIM THE NOTEBOOK! He read it or most of it and wouldn’t look at her. The very thing I feared. Since we were all good friends our social circle became fragmented, some blamed my friend for making her feelings known and ruining everything. I remember the boy getting mad at her for ever thinking what she did was a good idea. He blamed her for having feelings rather than being flattered. I guess he wasn’t sure how to handle it either. However, a month went by and we all pretended like it didn’t happen. Whether or not her confession made an impact on either of them long term, I don’t know, probably not as much as never saying anything.
I don’t regret not giving this boy my notebook of confused, intense feelings because I wasn’t in a place to handle it. But, I often wonder how things would have been different if I just told him how I felt. How much easier high school could have become, or dating in the future. But I guess I am left assured, that at 31 years old, I like who I’ve become, the good and the messy.