Monday, May 2, 2011

Old school.

Sometimes in elementary school before our school day would begin, we would all gather in the cafeteria for a talent show. Because five-to-ten-year-old children need nothing more at 7:45 in the morning than to evaluate each other American Idol style.

Here are some particular numbers I remember vividly from those early mornings at my sweet alma-matter back in Ossining, New York:

• My best-friend Susie doing a number with another little girl to Billy Joel’s The Stranger. This routine was a bit strange because it consisted of Susie and her friend (who I was so jealous was not me) up on the stage bouncing a red-pink dodge ball to each other back and forth over and over again to the beat of the music. This was by far not Billy Joel’s most popular hit at the time, but Susie was so cute and the dodge ball bouncing was so impressive that she and her partner got a crazy round of applause.

• A girl named Maureen tap-dancing to the song Personality channeling the bee girl from the Blind Melon “No Rain” video that would follow years later. I swear to God someone from Blind Melon must have gone to Brookside Elementary with me and had Maureen’s tap dance burned into their memory just as I do.

• My music teacher Mrs. Williams announced one morning that her daughter would be coming in to dance for us. Mrs. Williams was beautiful, kind, and had the prettiest eyes I had ever seen. In class she would tolerate a trio of “bad boys” singing a song called Scratch, Scratch Me Back that we all enjoyed so much, especially when Billy, Chris and Mario were singing it together. I remember Mrs. Williams pretty daughter (who must have been in her late teens at the time) coming in and doing a cross between a ballet and a modern dance routine for us. She had on a gauzy skirt and her hair was pulled back in a bun. I remember wishing I could dance like her, she was so graceful and beautiful and had pretty eyes like her mom. Years later I realized that the pretty girl who was so sweet to us was Vanessa Williams.

Chris, one of the Scratch, Scratch Me Back boys was adorable. He had dark brown hair that naturally curled under Dorothy-Hamill-style, which was acceptable on a young boy back then. He wore corduroy pants and striped Osh-Kosh-B’Gosh shirts like none of the other boys could. He had a sweet crooked smile, and I thought he was cute.

One day in music class, I decided out of the blue that I was going to let Chris know that I liked him. Of course I wasn’t going to tell him, I don’t think I had ever had a one-on-one conversation with him. So I wrote him a note. THE note that every child writes to at some point in their young life. It read:

“Do you like me? Because I like you. YES or NO,” with an empty check box next to each option.

I gave it to him at the beginning of Mrs. Williams class and thought by the end of the day Chris and I would be making beautiful music of our own. What unfolded next was completely mortifying, and even writing it now gives me that cramp deep down in your stomach when you think of something really horrifying.

I watched Chris open the letter from across the room, read it, and look over at me. I smiled big. Then I saw him walk over to Mario and show him. And they laughed. Then he walked over to Billy and showed him. And the three of them laughed. Then they showed every other boy in the class and they all laughed. The rest of the day I was red as a beet and kept a low profile. But the boys would walk by and say in mocking voices to me, “Ooooh, do you like me?” “I like you” and “Lori loves Chris”. Chris never gave me the note back with the box marked, but I could guess which box he would have chose.

I went home and cried, too embarrassed to tell my parents why I was upset. I remember telling them I just had a bad day. I knew I couldn’t go back to school, ever again. I didn’t know how I could make the “ever again” part happen, but I knew how to make the tomorrow part happen.

I faked being sick. I had a trick where I could make myself shake really hard while the thermometer was in my mouth, so the mercury inside would raise to at least 100, sometimes 102. So I was good for a day. But the day after that I went back to school and guess what…nobody was talking about the note anymore. We were in music class singing Scratch Scratch Me Back again like nothing had ever happened.

I swore to myself I would never do anything so stupid ever again. But looking back, I am proud of being so risky, so ballsy, so willing to put myself out there.

Sometimes today I wish it were all that simple - I don’t really want to have to waste my time. Do you like me? Yes? Or no?

If my maroon rainbow jumper couldn't seal the deal I guess nothing could.


  1. I don't like you, I LOVE you. I so wish I had the memory and ability to retell stories of my youth like you.

    I hope Chris' hair still curls under like a girl. Because it's not OK on a grown man:o)

  2. Oh Yes, I like you! I love you!