Getting my first boyfriend was pretty easy.In the fifth grade, I had a crush on a kid named John. He wore jeans adorned with dragon patches and let his stringy brown hair grow until it swooped across his face like Tom DeLonge. He was the skater boy I dreamed about, despite the fact that he didn’t skate. I decided he would be an ideal father for the three Peruvian children I planned to adopt, and began adorning my notebook doodles with his initials and going over the details of our short conversations at weekend sleepovers with my girlfriends.
“So, like, he said hi to me in the hallway,” I’d whisper in the dark. “What do you think it means?”
The girls would weigh in on the endless translations of a simple “hello.” We reasoned the greeting probably meant we were destined to be together. What fifth grade boy says hi to a girl without reason? There were whispers that he liked me, too.
The day before school let out for the summer, my friend Marcie decided to put an end to all the wondering. “I’m going to go see if John will be your boyfriend,” she informed me.
I shrugged. Sounded good to me.
She marched over to where John sat, drawing a detailed race car with a pencil. She crossed her arms and stared at him. When he failed to look up, she tapped her foot.
“Hey,” she said.
“Do you like Ashlee Schultz?”
I cringed as I watched them from my desk. Pleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyes.
“Yeah, she’s cool.”
My heart leapt into my throat.
“Good,” Marcie agreed. “So, do you want to be her boyfriend?”
“Um,” John said, thinking it over. “Yeah, sure. Sounds good.”
“That is wonderful news. I’ll go tell her that the two of you are together.”
I’d made up my mind by the time she reached my desk. I couldn’t have a boyfriend. What would I do with one?
“Ashlee, I’ve come to tell you that John has accepted your proposal, and—”
“Nope,” I cut her off. “No. Go break up with him for me.”
Marcie rolled her eyes and huffed. “Fine,” she said, and did as she was told.
“Well, alright,” John said. “Whatever.”
What seemed like a blossoming romance quickly crumbled into dust. I forged on into summer a single woman, and when I saw John at the community pool a month later, I brushed past him as if I never knew him at all. He barely looked in my direction.
By the start of sixth grade, it was like we never knew each other at all.
These days, it’s pretty easy to find someone like John, someone to spend two drinks or a night with before one (or both) of you pretend the other never existed. Apps like Tinder and Bumble make it possible (and enjoyable) to browse a human catalog as if it were a marketplace with an unlimited range of free product samples.
But when do we stop trying things out and accept that something good for us?
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