Blowing Kisses

4f8f68e2b65b9_230787n“It’s like I’m blowing kisses in the wind, giving you love that you haven’t been given. I cross my heart and hope to die. I’m only wishing you’d love me like I… Blowing kisses in the wind. Waiting, waiting, waiting for you is like blowing, blowing kisses.” ~Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul was my adolescence. “Rush, Rush” was one of the first songs I truly loved as a freshly minted teenage boy in 1991. In fact, in boarding school one of only two tapes I had (they were known at Blue Mountain Academy as propaganda) was Spellbound. I kept it safe and secure in a plastic baggie at the bottom of my gigantic box of Tide detergent. There was just something about her slightly nasal voice and the perky vibe she always seemed to embody that turned my heart to mush. She was my first crush.

Now, I wasn’t a video kid, even though I grew up in the golden age of MTV (back when they only showed videos), because we didn’t get cable TV at home. Instead, I had to content myself with the glory of the radio, so the voice was first and foremost in my mind back then, and it still is, because of that. I heard “Opposites Attract” that way for the first time, and I absolutely adored the back and forth between Paula and whoever that rapper guy was. It was the initial time I had heard that voice, and I was in love from the start.

Of course all of it had to surreptitious from the start, at least the radio part, but when it came to images there were definite possibilities. We didn’t have the internet back then, so I couldn’t just do an image search, but we did have teen magazines at the local 7-Eleven. My sister and I would pool whatever money we would get when we got it (for Christmas, birthdays, etc.) and gorge ourselves on those teen magazines, eating up the photos and articles like they were going out of style (which they were). We would get the magazines home and divvy up who got which photos to put on their bedroom walls.

Paula+Abdul+-+Blowing+Kisses+In+The+Wind+-+5'+CD+SINGLE-46744That’s when I saw a whole spread on Paula Abdul, and if I thought I was in love with her voice it was complemented completely by her appearance. The magazine that one time was from right after the 1990 Grammy’s, and Paula had won an award for the Opposites Attract video. The picture I recall the most was one of her holding that miniature grammophone award in her arms with a broad smile on her face. She had on a black dress that flared out at the bottom, and I couldn’t stop staring at it, or at her either. I carefully cut that page out of the magazine and taped it in a place of prominence on my far wall, so her smile was the first thing to greet me every morning.

If Winnie Cooper was my dream girl then Paula Abdul was my dream woman. She was real, too, which made a difference to an adolescent boy heading toward adulthood. If I had had the funds or the wherewithal to fly to Los Angeles (hell, to hitchhike there, even) I would have been there in a heartbeat with a map to the stars held out in front of me, hoping to just catch a glimpse of her. Don’t judge me. All teenage boys are like that, especially the ones who lived a completely closed off from the world existence.

Maybe part of the draw was the forbidden nature of it all. I wasn’t supposed to be listening to secular radio. Paula Abdul traded on her sex appeal. And I was an impressionable teenager. But none of that mattered to me. What mattered was how she made me feel, which was spectacular. I could put on my headphones and lose myself in her music in a way that I couldn’t do with most anything else. It made me feel safe. She made me feel safe, even though she has no clue to this day who I am, so I’m still thankful to her for her music, for her image, and for that time in my life when she was really important.

And don’t even get me started on Jennie Garth.


Crush Crush Crush

117091062_4b64ec9547“If you want to play it like a game, well, come on. Let’s play. ‘Cause I’d rather waste my life pretending than have to forget you for one whole minute.” -Paramore

She was perfect. Her skin was a smooth, dark chocolate, mocha maybe, her lips a contrasting pink. Every time I saw her my heart literally skipped a beat (seriously, check with my doctor), but to her I was always just a friend. Maybe to her I was even “little brother” material because she sure enough treated me like it, even when I went out of my way to remind her that we weren’t related, that she could and should see me in a different light.

We met at church, like a lot of people do, when we were both just out of the cradle, it seemed. Perhaps that’s where the “brother” feelings originated for her. I don’t think I’ll ever really know, if she herself even knows. I hadn’t seen her as a possible love interest then either. It wasn’t love at first sight, but there was always something about her that was ethereal, transcendent even. I think I knew even when we were little kids that there was a spark there I would like to explore later. That set us apart.

It was always more than just a crush, too. Now, I’m not saying that I knew what love was way back then, but I did know that I wanted more than what friends had. I was probably around 10 when I first realized I wanted to be more than friends. I began writing about her daily in my journal, thinking about her more and more as time went by, and finding excuses to spend more time with her both in and out of church. I even joined several groups just to be near her.

But I never once told her how I felt. I think maybe I was just too shy to approach anything like that with her. Or perhaps I was just deathly afraid of rejection. Maybe I figured it was better to be a well-respected friend than to possibly mess things up if she didn’t say she felt the same. It’s always awkward after that. Continue reading “Crush Crush Crush”

Why I Got an “F” in Chemistry

The year was 1992, and I was as frightened as a turtle who can’t find his shell. After being summarily dismissed from Blue Mountain Academy at the beginning of my junior year, I was rudderless, finally coming in to port three weeks later at the third largest public school in Philadelphia. I was overwhelmed from the start. I mean, going from 200 kids total to 1000 in each grade level was severe culture shock, and it took me ages to get acclimated. Two things stayed the same, however. The first was that I was still getting all A’s through that first semester at public school, and the second was that I had an unrequited crush almost immediately. Her name was Kendra, and boy, was she out of my league.

I knew the first time I saw the back of her head that she was the one for me.

It was chemistry, second semester of junior year (my first junior year, anyway), and she sat right in front of me at one of the long tables. I knew the first time I saw the back of her head that she was the one for me. She had one of those old-school perms that you knew just had to have activator in it all the time. It glistened. And I was in lust. My eyes followed her every time she walked in the room. In fact, I would make sure I got there first, sprinting all the way from the other side of the massive building, and three floors down as well, barely beating her most days to Chem. All so I could see her when she came in, that casual smile on her face, that booty that wouldn’t quit. I’ll admit it, I was an adolescent boy. I saw it. I liked it.

If she was going to fail chemistry, then I would too. It was one of the dumbest decisions I ever made.

But she was dumb as a rock, and I say that in the nicest possible way. Not quite a compliment, but it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. I’m sure she had some street smarts, I’ll leave it at that. But she couldn’t keep the periodic table of the elements together, she failed all of our tests, and she almost set the lab on fire on more than one occasion. Needless to say, I was near her for all of those failures, telling her it was all okay, that anyone could make those mistakes. And indeed, I became that “anyway” I talked about after a while. If she was going to fail chemistry, then I would too. It was one of the dumbest decisions I ever made, as if me failing would make her see me in a different light (not true), or that me failing would assure we were in chem together again the next semester (which it didn’t), but at the time it made perfect sense to the 16-year old me.

After she nearly burnt down the lab, my grade had gone from an A to a C, and my teacher was tearing his hair out trying to figure out what was happening. Often he would be grading my paper in class, his glasses perched on the edge of his nose, he would stare daggers at me and shake his head slowly from side to side. I only saw part of that, though, because I was busy staring at the back of Kendra’s permed-out hair. There was no saving me. And before the end of the school year I knew I had to make my move. I was finally pulling a D in chem, so I thought I would have a shot. Again, I was wrong.

I will admit the “F” looked kind of like the block-style “A”‘s if you looked quickly, as she did…

She shot me down so quickly I don’t even remember asking her the question. But by then it was too late to right the ship, so I ended up failing the class. The funny thing was when my report card came home. My mother read through it quickly, gave me a pat on the back, said “good job,” and went on to other things. I will admit the “F” looked kind of like the block-style “A'”s if you looked quickly, as she did, but I knew it would have to come out eventually. So I told her to look again, more closely, and she just about fainted. I hadn’t brought home anything lower than a B+ (in gym — I was a nerd, remember?) my entire high school career to that point. Eventually the entire story came out, and by the end of the tongue lashing I got, it was understood that I never sacrifice myself for anyone else. I learned the lesson well.

And I got an “A” in chemistry that next semester. And I found out later from my friend Fran that Kendra had somehow passed the first time through. Go figure.


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