When I was 7 years old, my favorite song was “Maniac” by Michael Sembello, from the Flashdance soundtrack. Yes, I was allowed to watch Flashdance when I was 7 years old because “80s parents”. Anything short of a snuff film would have passed muster with 80s parents. Now I’m going to make you repeat the words “snuff muster” over and over in your head, because I’m doing it myself and I feel it’s only fair that I spread the wealth. Snuff muster. Snuff muster. Snuff muster.
We discussed this earlier. Never do anything just because I told you do it. I will become drunk with power and the next thing you know, you’ll open a bag of Fritos and I’ll appear from thin air, take the bag from your hands and say, “You weren’t eating these, were you?” and then walk away with it.
“You wouldn’t do that!”
It’s like the Maya Angelou quote everybody loves to throw around: “When someone tells you they will steal your corn chips, believe them the first time.”
We had a local rollerskating rink we used to go in the early 80s, where parents would typically drop you off around 10am with $3 in your pocket, speed away while blasting a Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, and then pick you up 7-10 hours later. It’s what they now call “free-range parenting”, and except for everyone getting molested and stabbed, it worked out pretty great.
Generally speaking, back then if you were savvy enough when you were 7 to turn down a pixy-stick of cocaine from a 30 year old guy named “Scary Gary” and skate away like your parachute pants were on fire, your parents felt they had done their job instilling a solid fear base in you, as well as the athletic prowess required to escape such stealthy, googly-eyed, predators-on-wheels. You could basically just self-parent from that point forward.
My sisters and I had been dropped off at the skating rink one Saturday, and it turned out my super duper, #1, oh my god, crush was there.
BoyCrush was, by far, without question, the cutest boy in the first grade. He had sandy light brown hair, big dark doe eyes, and a smile like someone in a toothpaste ad. He was always dressed so clean and neat, and unlike every other boy in class, his hands weren’t covered in dirt and warts.
My feelings about BoyCrush were not unique by any means. Everyone had a crush on BoyCrush. Aside from being cute, he was the only boy who was ever nice to us girls. Instead of throwing rocks at us on the playground, he was usually found delicately pushing us girls on the swings or playing Chinese jump-rope with me and my friend Tricia on the basketball court. BoyCrush was the total package.
My sisters knew about my crush on BoyCrush, and even if they didn’t, anyone could have put two and two together. This kid was universally adorable. Any girl could have walked by and someone could yell, “You think this kid is cute, DON’T YOU?” and they’d eventually cave in and say, “YES. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR? YES! HE’S SO FREAKING CUTE! I’M NOT MADE OF STONE. I HAVE TWO EYES, YOU KNOW.”
In an effort to match-make us at the skating rink, my sisters cornered BoyCrush near the restroom and told him that I liked him, and then he immediately ran into the boys’ restroom and hid. Upon hearing that they ACTUALLY TOLD HIM that I liked him, I ran into the girls’ restroom and hid.
Unbeknownst to me, my sisters then went to the DJ and requested my favorite song, “Maniac”. They came back to the girls’ restroom with a plan to coax me out.
My sister Julie knelt down beside me on the restroom floor, the feather roach-clip in her hair danging over me and said, “You know, BoyCrush just went to the DJ and asked him to play “Maniac” because it’s your favorite song and he wants to skate with you.”
My sister Bonnie chimed in, “It’s true. I saw him go up to the DJ booth and ask. He totally wants to skate with you.”
I said, “Really? BoyCrush said he wants to skate with ME?”
They nodded their heads in unison, “Yep.”
I couldn’t believe it. BoyCrush wanted to skate with me. Of all the girls in the world, he picked me. I’d never felt so special. At least not since Chef Boyardi started selling Beef-a-roni in the family-size can.
I eventually came out from the girls’ restroom and passed by the boys’ restroom. BoyCrush was sitting on the tile floor, up against the wall, looking extremely distressed while a couple of my sisters’ guy friends (including his own older brother) appeared to be trying to talk him into something. He had a desperate look on his face, like he was being interrogated by the police.
Just then, “Maniac” came on over the sound system. I guess my sisters weren’t lying after all! I waited for BoyCrush, but he was still in the boys’ room, so I skated out on the rink alone. About halfway through the song, I saw BoyCrush emerge from the boys’ room and come out onto the rink. I slowed down so he could catch up with me, then he took off like a rocket and zoomed right past me.
When Monday morning rolled around at school, he and I pretended like the whole thing had never happened.
I ran into BoyCrush at a bar many years later, when he had returned home from college for winter break. We had a couple drinks together and reminisced about our old school days. After my second drink, I worked up some nerve and said, “What was the deal that day at the skating rink when we were in first grade? My sisters said you requested “Maniac” so you could skate with me, and then you just blew me off!”
I playfully knocked him in the shoulder and laughed, “How could you break my little 7 year old heart?!”
He laughed, and laughed and laughed and laughed, and then said, “Oh, my sweet. Your sisters were soooo fucking with you. I never asked the DJ to play that song. Did you seriously not know I was gay? For god’s sake – I used to play Chinese jump-rope with you and Tricia – in public!”
(I imagine you probably came to that conclusion yourself when I mentioned Chinese jump-rope a few paragraphs ago.)
I said, “How the hell was I supposed to know? I was 7!”
BoyCrush said, “Fine. How about when we were in middle school and I went to the New Kids on The Block concert with a pack of 13 year old girls?”
I said, “Plenty of people liked New Kids on The Block besides teenage girls!”
BoyCrush gave me his best “Bitch, please” look and said, “Name ONE boy or man.”
I started to answer and he put up his index finger and said, “One that’s NOT gay. And before you continue, may I also remind you about the time in high school when I did a spot-on lip-synch performance of Madonna’s “Hanky Panky” in front of everyone outside the art room?”
He probably had me on that one.
He clinked his glass against mine and said, “And I NAILED IT, chica.”