Grown ups laugh and say kids can’t possibly fall in love. But it’s more that they don’t know quite how to do it yet. It’s like that thrill of putting on your first pair of roller skates, setting off and gaining speed, flailing with the scary and thrilling momentum, falling and getting scraped, maybe crying a little or surprising yourself by crying too much. Eventually you’ll figure it out, the adults say. Try something new; maybe you’ll discover something. No one gets it exactly right the first time. No adult ever stands over you laughing when you fall, telling you it’s not real, that you can’t possibly ever roller skate, and that you don’t even have the faintest chance of beginning to understand how.
When I was five years old I fell in love with a boy named Adam Rainy who had what seemed like every Lego in the world. We ate alphabet soup together. We played doctor, but a much more innocent version than what you’re thinking of right now. He told me every day as he held my hand on the bus ride home from afternoon kindergarten that he loved me. He’d smile and his blue eyes would shine with sincerity as he promised that he’d marry me one day, as long as Kristina, his best friend’s twin sister, never loved him. After all, I was his second most beautiful girl in the world.
We went to Kristina’s 6th birthday party at Ronald McDonald’s playhouse and I felt special in my new pink dress. I’d always wanted to go there. It was so hip and I had a date. I remember I had trouble enjoying myself and wondered why. My little hands shook when Kristina opened Adam’s present. I saw how he looked at her and my small heart broke. She was my friend, but I wanted her to get run over by a school bus.
I went to the bathroom and took deep breaths and couldn’t believe what I’d just wished would happen to my friend on her special day! I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw.
Every day Adam made me the same promise. You if not Kristina. Second most beautiful girl in the world. I felt thankful. I was so happy someone thought I was beautiful. I was special. And second most special in the world is better than everyone else except one after all.
When Adam moved away, I cried for what felt like months, but was probably only a few days. I believed I’d lost my soul mate, something I’d seen in movies. I’d never be anyone’s second most beautiful girl again and I was devastated.
Kristina told me how sorry she was I’d lost Adam. She said she knew we were in love. That made me feel even worse for drawing stick men pictures of her dying in fires, falling out of a burning building, her hair for some reason falling out on the way down so she looked ugly and bald.
I tried to be her friend that summer, but I kept thinking about Adam, and those drawings, and one day I squirted glue in her thick curly hair when she wasn’t looking. And I wiped a booger on her jacket. And I stared at my crooked teeth in every mirror wishing I could be her.
When my mom told me we were moving away I pretended to be sad, but I knew it was my chance to be a good girl again. I would keep my boogers to myself. I would be happy for my new friends if they had pretty hair.
In first grade I started dating Chris. He told me he’d always loved this cute blonde girl named Nicole but she’d never liked him back. He wanted her to marry him on the playground but she’d said no. Once I married Chris, Nicole started hanging around, offering to help him clean out his desk at recess. I cried but I kept my boogers to myself.
To this day I catch myself hating blondes. Pangs of jealousy hit me when I see girls with perfect curly hair. And every Nicole I’ve ever met has been a fucking bitch.