Have you ever been in the situation, where you were talking to somebody really attractive—like the best looking person you’ve ever had the pleasure of being in public with—and exactly 2 minutes and 43 seconds into the conversation you realize that they are unbearably dull?
Well this happened to me, only I didn’t know it because I was 15 years old.
Recently my parents sold the house in which I grew up, meaning that a few weeks ago two boxes containing all of my old stuff arrived at my front door. Going through the boxes, I have never been so happy that not only was I a pack rat, but I was an incredibly organized pack rat. I know it will sound really nerdy of me to admit this, but I actually kept all of my notes, journals, term papers, creative writing endeavors in chronological order. I’ve since been spending evenings here and there re-living my teenage years. The mountain of paper that grew out of these boxes provides a very vivid and accurate portrait of yours truly right in the midst of his most gawkiest, rawest and hardest teenaged years.
But those times weren’t all bad because in the summer of 1988, I met a girl. She was one of the most memorable “J”s in a long line of girls I’ve dated whose names began with that initial. This particular J was, to me at the time, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. And she liked me. I mean really liked me. She liked me in the only way a 15 year-old girl likes anything—totally obsessed for a very, very short period of time. And I liked her back. I mean I really really liked her back. This was true pimply puppy love. We spent two glorious whirlwind romantic weeks together before I shipped off…on a teen tour across the country.
Before I left, there was a teary goodbye between us that could have been lifted from a sweeping Forties-era romantic epic. She promised to write. And she made good on her promise with a nearly 50 page handwritten correspondence that came to be known on my tour bus as, “the letter.” The Letter’s magnitude was unprecedented in the brief romantic experiences of the 50 or so teens on that bus. It's very existence and the fact that it was sent to me became the stuff of legend. It helped make the summer of 1988 one of the most memorable I’ve ever had.
Exactly 20 summers have passed since then. And in unpacking the boxes I found, nestled between my journal and one of my high school yearbooks, the letter.
Before I get into the letter, here are two things you need to know about this girl:
1) She dumped me the moment I returned from my trip. Literally as I’m driving back home from the airport.
2) Years after that summer, I learned she was severely anorexic when she would show up at the gym with less meat on her than a chicken. She was topic of a lot of gossip by my mother’s friends.
The contents of this letter are truly astounding. It is written in the classic bubbly girl scrawl. The one where all of the dots over the “i”s and the periods are little puffy circles. In reading this letter, I immediately realized that this girl was the most vapid, shallow and boring girl ever. A good majority of the letter was spent telling me about the minute details of her day. You see, J led a very simple life. Her summery days were spent exercising to Kathy Smith’s aerobic workout videos and weighing herself. In the afternoon, she would sunbathe on her deck and then cool off in front of the TV watching reruns of “The Brady Bunch.” That doesn’t leave a lot to write about. Often in the letter she would just list what songs were playing on the radio. A typical passage of the Letter went like this:
“The song ‘Electric Blue’ is on Q107. Before they were playing ‘Faithfully’ by Journey. WAVA is playing ‘Hungry Eyes’ by I don’t know who [Eric Carmen, by the way]. But I’m listening to Q107. They’re in the middle of a 10 in a row overflow. Pretty nifty."
I’m not kidding. This went on for pages and pages. In another section she refers to one radio station as “the black people station.” Holy shit. She’s a racist too!
Of course, I had absolutely no idea at the time who this girl really was. All actual memories of real conversations with her have eroded over time. But this letter serves as a perfectly preserved snapshot of this girl in the neon-colored time that was 1988, and how a young geeky boy ignorantly and blissfully fell for a beautiful blonde.
I’m so thankful that the 15 year-old me knew that the 35 year-old me would totally love this stuff.