Thursday, May 14, 2015

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Every time I hear "Smells Like Teen Spirit," I remember.

I remember what his room looked like, the way his whole face flushed the first time I made it clear I had a mega-crush on him. And then there was that moment when he became my very first kiss….ever. It was like lightning was surging through my entire body and in an instant I fell head over heels for that boy.

He was left-handed, so I would sit on his right side during catechism class so we could hold hands under the table because we were both oh so spiritual at that time in our lives and we couldn't have the pastor busting us for our scandalous antics. I can't even imagine what my mother must have been going through as she sat in the parking lot of the church and waited for me to finally come out because I was taking my sweet dandy time saying goodbye to my boyfriend. We tied up the phone lines for hours. 

Honestly, I don't remember if I was 12 or 13 years old, but I do know that at the time I was convinced that this boy was IT. This absolutely, positively had to be what love was like! I got the tingles every time I saw him and he was all I thought about for every waking moment of my existence.

There was a day when we spent a good deal of time together doing a whole lot of "not talking" and Nirvana was playing in the background. It was the late nineties, after all.

Now here I am, a grown-up.

About twenty years have passed since Kurt Cobain became the soundtrack to my very first make-out session and in those years, Facebook has made it possible for us to stay in touch. Sure, we went our separate ways in real life after I broke his heart, tossed it on the pavement, and danced on top of it while I got ready to launch a campaign that I now like to call my "Teenage Spiral of Poor Choices," but I'm pretty sure he's moved on.

Thank goodness he did not get stuck with me because as my husband will readily testify, I am a teeny bit emotionally high maintenance.

Anyway, he posted photos on his Facebook wall a while back that made my scroll-happy finger stop cold. Suddenly my tongue felt like it had swelled up in size and my stomach jumped up into my throat.

There he was, down on one knee. And in the next photo, embracing a woman with a sparkling diamond ring on a very important finger.

Nothing will stop your mindless Facebook scrolling faster than catching a glimpse of your very first boyfriend popping the question to a stunning brunette with porcelain skin, flowing curly hair, and perfectly manicured nails. Suddenly there's a grunge rock song stuck in your head and you're having flashbacks, all while experiencing emotions that make absolutely no sense at all.

I mean, I was happy for him, of course. I guess that goes without saying. Maybe not. All I know was that I was immediately very aware of my stretch-marks around my midsection that my boys left behind, my scraggly cuticles, and my wild hair that should have been cut weeks ago. There may or may not have also been a significant zit on my cheek that I was getting ready to register for its own zip code. 

But there was something else swirling around in there that I couldn't quite put my finger on. It wasn't jealousy exactly, but it was a sort of strange curiosity, a sense of "What if?" that I couldn't shake.

What would my life look like if I had made different choices back then?

Seeing him get engaged was a very real reminder of how much life we both had lived since we spent those moments with Kurt Cobain being seared into our memory. He was a representation of my youth, that blind, naïve view of love that I had when I thought it was all about the tingles and butterflies. We knew nothing about sacrifice, selflessness, or submission. For the love, we couldn't even drive yet and cellphones didn't exist!

Even though I have been married for more than ten years, this boy - this MAN -  still holds that exclusive spot in my past as the first boy I ever kissed, the first boy I ever loved. Even after all this time, I think I was still enjoying the fact that I hold those roles in his life as well.


Am I really that proud? Am I really so attached to the artificial, idealized version of myself that I experience authentic feelings of animosity when that fiction is replaced with reality?

Before I could stop it from happening, I was scrolling through every photo, acting like a true Facebook stalker. With every click, I compared myself to her.

She's thinner than me.
Prettier than me.
Her hair is how I've always wished mine would look.
She has a successful career and I'm still a waitress.
How the heck does she get her teeth that white?
Holy crap, that diamond is enormous.

And into the spiral of self-pity we go.

But in the middle of feeling sorry for myself as I looked at their engagement photos, I saw something else. I saw the way they looked at one another and the sparkle in her smile. I could almost see the lightning bolts shooting out of his fingers as he rested them on the small of her back.

It was Tingles and Butterflies.
Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Because maybe that's how love starts - all naïve and thrilling, laced with lightning - and it grows into something much deeper and profound that you only begin to learn about after you've been immersed in it over time. Love becomes about sacrifice and struggle, being willing to let yourself be vulnerable and exposed and allowing all your faults and failings to be fully known. It's downright scary at times, but nobody tells you that. Let's face it, you wouldn't have believe them if they did. After all, lightning.

The timer on the coffee pot dings and he takes out my cute teal mug, remembers to add just enough coconut creamer. Not too much. My husband brings me my morning cup of coffee, sets it next to the computer while I read my Bible and write. He helps our son clean up the wet sheets after he comes into our room to admit his accident. He kisses me goodbye and promises to fold the laundry when he gets home from work tonight.

Smells Like Teen Spirit.

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