opposite-sex friends

Reblog by Linda Holmes: Disposable Friendships in Modern Society; Opposite-Sex Friends (Assumed to be Lovers); Friendship Getting Respect; Friendship Breakups

Amazing how lightly people can take friendships….

A book review about how friendships these days are treated as disposable:
‘Friendkeeping’: The Close Relationships We Could, But Can’t Easily, Let Go

Some quotes:

I realized as I read it that I wasn’t responding only to the book itself — which covers territory like secrets, crisis management, and how much advice to give your friends — but to the mere fact that it was written.

It was taking seriously something, namely adult friendships, that often turns into the wallpaper of cultural life: something that’s there, and that’s lovely, and that ideally you don’t have to think about, but not something that you would delve into deeply. Not something you attend to specifically.

In a way, this theory reminds me of what we talked about here earlier this week: that the very compelling fragility of friendships comes from the fact that there’s such a low barrier to exit. You don’t have to work on anything if you don’t want to.

Indeed, Klam says when she wrote the book proposal, she realized that in theory, there were easy answers to all the hard questions she had about friends. “You could possibly write every question that I posed and answer it: ‘Well, just don’t be friends with them anymore.’ ‘If you don’t like their spouse, don’t hang out with them.’ So there was less of a sort of [concern for] how to work through things … just because you know you really can walk away.”

From the same blogger who wrote the review:

Building a show around friends has some structural advantages; friendships are precious specifically because they are fragile. You’re not bound to these people by law or by blood (in most cases), and you don’t share a home with them or share your stuff with them (again, in most cases).

You have to keep choosing them every day, and on any given day, you could just … not choose them, and that would be that.

I once had a friend very tentatively, in hushed tones, acknowledge that there is a way — one particular dimension, one kind of sense of intimacy — in which your closest friends are closer than family, and I think that’s what was meant.

You don’t have to file anything to dump your friends; the barriers to exit, you might say, are very low. Your mom is supposed to like you; your friends just do. —You’ve got to have friends: how curated families shook up tv comedy

As for opposite-sex friendships as shown on TV:

Heaven knows, I’m a rom-com person. I’m an appreciator of the slow burn as much as anyone.

Still, not every close bond is a precursor to something entirely other than itself. I admit that I’m an outlier — I badly wanted Friends not to get Ross and Rachel together at the end, since they were obviously going to make each other miserable as they had so many times before. But I don’t like the romantification of every important relationship in the known universe. —Sometimes a friend is just a cigar: why not everybody needs to kiss at the end

She may be talking about TV, but it also applies to how people often see opposite-sex friendships: as somehow necessarily being about sex.

Which is really frustrating and sexist, because then you can’t even talk about how much you care about your opposite-sex friend without everyone on the forum going, “OMG you want to have an affair and should ditch that friend!”

Um, considering how many guy friends I have and care about, you must think I’m a promiscuous ho bag.  I mean, sure, I love to flirt with my guy friends, but that’s all it ever is: a little joke between friends, nothing serious.

It’s extremely annoying to have to add some version of “I mean as friends” when I talk about Richard, because so many people (including Tracy) have made it into something it’s not, that I feel the need to do so.  Let’s get with the 21st century, people!

People say “best friend” because it recognizes what you might call, for lack of a less academic-sounding garble, “platonic intimacy.” It says, “This is a person who is not like normal, ordinary friends, but who is the ‘I would drive anywhere at two in the morning for you without complaining’ kind of friend.”

Or, in the case of Pam Ribon’s book You Take It From Here, which is a wonderful look at a relationship like this, the “I would manage your life in the event of your death” kind of friend.

One of the reasons Bridesmaids was so affecting was that it really honored how important those relationships are and how painful it is when they’re jeopardized.

It was great to see Kristen Wiig play the fact that you can feel just as devastated, just as undone and disoriented, by losing friends as by losing boyfriends.

Breakups are common dramatic fare, but as I recently talked about on our podcast, the saddest breakup on My So-Called Life, after all, was Angela and Rayanne. —Best Friends and Broken Hearts

 

Psychological Hell as Shawn Turns Dark and Moody (sexual user); Irish Writers Class–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–January 1993, Part 1

Irish Writers Class 

Now I started my second year of reading My Utmost for His Highest, in totally different circumstances now, but still desperately needing the messages it and the Bible had for me.

Pearl got a present from a relative which inspired Rachel to make up this tune:

Some little Christmas thing
Sitting on my mantel
I don’t know what it is
I got it from some corny relative
It killed my cat
What do you think about that
As the world blows up

As far as I can explain a tune in words, it was a simple, alto melody sung mostly in low notes.  The line “I don’t know what it is” sounded similar to the beginning of the Aerosmith song “Living on the Edge,” which, incidentally, came out soon after Rachel made up this song.  (I always jokingly wondered if Aerosmith stole it from her.)

“It killed my cat” ended on a higher note, “What do you think about that” on an even higher one, and “As the world blows up” even higher.

Pat Robertson actually predicted the spring/summer Flood of 1993 on or around January 5, according to my diary.

My Winterim class, Irish Writers, taught by a tall, thin teacher named Todd, was a lot of fun.  It was held from 9 to 12 each day.  We learned not only about Irish Writers, but about the Irish people.  I had no idea just how colorful they are.

Todd had been to Ireland, and showed us pictures of a man he met there.  He said the man tended to walk with his arms behind his back and his hands clasped, an Irish thing.  Todd passed around a brick of peat, which is dug out of bogs and used for fuel.

We learned about Irish history, and that the Irish are passionate about everything (including freedom, and in such a way that, until 2000, it seemed impossible to stop the fighting over it).  The Brits looked down on them, at least in previous centuries, for loving sex and alcohol so much.

We learned about stout (no, we didn’t drink it).  We read books, plays and stories by Irish writers.

James Joyce said he was no good at making things up, so his stories were based on things that really happened.  As far as I was concerned, he had little sense of plot and most of his stories were dull.

We read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man–the second time for me.  I had to trudge through that novel in high school.  It was just as bad the second time.  (What is the point of that 42-page Hellfire Sermon, anyway?)

The only part I liked was the beginning, with the stream-of-consciousness stuff about a moocow and some bird plucking out the kid’s eyes if he didn’t apologize for something: “Pull out his eyes, apologize, apologize, pull out his eyes!”  I like to repeat that now and then.

We read his collection The Dubliners, and the only stories I liked were “The Dead” and “Araby” (which I had also read in high school).  “Araby” would show up again in a Lit class junior year.

We saw My Left Foot, a filmed version of “The Dead” with Colm Meaney (from Star Trek: TNG), and a John Wayne movie, The Quiet Man, set in Ireland.  Though we didn’t like Foot, and I think we liked the movie Dead, we loved The Quiet Man.

I loved the very end of The Dead, focusing on snow falling on tombstones in a graveyard.  It reminded me of my own musings at that time whenever we passed cemeteries in a car: that the people in those graves were fortunate to not have to feel the snow or the cold, or have heartaches, or go through any more of life’s many problems.  I just hoped their souls were in Heaven.

Our first day of class, we chose or were assigned partners and days to do presentations.  I ended up with Clarissa, and we had to do the next day’s presentation on “Araby.”

Clarissa and I had no examples of past presentations to go on, and had to just make everything up, not knowing what would work and what wouldn’t.  We thought we did all right, and certainly our best from what he’d told us to do.  But afterwards, Todd told the class with a grin,

“Maybe tomorrow’s presentation will be better.”

He often did this, ripping on people and grinning at the same time.  It was the only fault in an otherwise pleasant guy who actually loved Jane Austen but wasn’t gay.

One day, I brought in some of my Irish pen pal’s letters.  I said she would talk about the noise of bombs going off and helicopters constantly flying overhead, and about the constant violence in Belfast, where she lived.

Shawn had Irish ancestry, so one day I said to him with a grin, “I understand you now.”  I explained what I had learned about the Irish.  I told him I had Scottish ancestry, which I thought meant we had a lot in common.  But I forgot that the Scots and Irish fought each other.  Shawn said, “That must be our problem, then.”

****

I talked to Steve about what Peter told Memadmin.  I asked if I needed to apologize to Peter for anything I did freshman year.

He said, “No, you did nothing wrong.”  Others told me this, as well, such as Julie.  “It would be good to let him know you never meant to hurt him.”  I didn’t want to say anything to Peter, though, but Steve did.  When he did say this to Peter, he got no response.  To describe Peter’s reaction, Steve thought a moment, then said, “Indifference.”

Psychological Hell as Shawn Turns Dark and Moody 

On the 5th, Shawn wanted me to come over, but I had to unpack.  He called up the next night, and said to call him when I finished my homework.  I tried, but kept getting his answering machine, so I went over there to find out what he wanted.  (It couldn’t be the usual; he said firmly that the physical stuff was going to stop!)

I found him in the lounge, watching one of the movies rotating around the dorms that month–the end of Poison Ivy.  Blech!  A few other guys and Frank, the RA, were watching it.  I came in during one of the sex scenes.  I went up to Shawn and said, “What is this?”  Another guy said, “It’s a porno.  Wanna watch?”  Um, no.

I went to the vending machines; Shawn stood by me to wait for me, but went back to watch the end of the movie.  The other guys kept making perverted comments, which angered Frank, no saint himself; one said, “Oh, you’re just mad at us because there’s a female here.”

Whatever Shawn wanted with me, I never found out; after the movie, he just sat there flipping through channels, so I got to know the remaining guy better.  He’d been in the Special Forces, and had interesting information about the Japanese mindset and the sterility of drinking urine on the battlefield to stay hydrated.  He seemed to be flirting with me; I hoped so, and hoped that Shawn would notice and get jealous.

But Shawn was persistent, asking me over again the next day.  I had to write a paper first, and didn’t finish until 9 or 9:30.  He called to ask if I still wanted to come.

He didn’t even hint that he was calling to cancel because it was getting late, and we know what happens when it’s so late.  But since he did not actually tell me this, and I can’t read minds, I did still want to go, so I went.

What was this about?  I expected it would be nothing but talk.  Part of me wanted more, but part of me just wanted to talk.

He let me in, but started reading his homework and watching TV.  (I guess he must have brought a TV from home, because I’m pretty sure he did not have one before.)  It seemed so rude.  So I started watching the TV with him and occasionally making comments, which got him to at least glance at me now and then.

Finally, he put down the book and said, “Could you do me a favor?  Could you give me a back rub?  My back is killing me.”  Back rub?  Seriously?  Those always led to more with us.  But I didn’t expect it to, this time, naive person I was.

He lay down, I sat beside him and began using the knowledge he’d given me about giving back rubs.  When I stopped, he gave me one; he tried to behave, but almost transgressed a couple of times, then stopped himself.  But then he kissed my back.

Soon, he lay down beside me, held me and told me to try falling asleep, “just to see what’ll happen.”  I put my arms around his neck, full of tenderness, and nestled my head on his neck and played with his hair.  Some things happened….

It got close to midnight, so he said I’d better be getting back to my room.  I began arranging myself as he got up, smiling, and sat in the chair.  He didn’t seem to feel guilty this time, so I was happy.

Then all of a sudden he said, “What are we doing?”

I paused, upset at this turn, and said, “Well, I know my reasons.”  I love him, that’s it.

“What are they?”

“There are some things I’d rather keep a secret.”

I was irritated, especially as the same old conversation over the same old stuff began, the hyper-analyzing.  He seemed mad at somebody, hopefully himself and not me.

He asked, “Where do you want this relationship to go?”  I couldn’t answer.

Where did I want it to go?  The hope of marriage, but only if it seemed right; the hope to go out and be a true couple, with romance and not just being some chick he fools around with on the sly; but the fear of commitment while other guys still interested me.

You can’t tell a guy you want to marry him in a couple of years, if he doesn’t feel the same: You’ll just scare him off.

He said, “I’m probably not Mr. Right.  You’ll probably meet a lawyer.”  He thought a lawyer would be well-read and my intellectual equal, unlike Shawn, who would be an engineer.  (This is funny because I ended up marrying an engineer.)

He said he was afraid of commitment.  (Well, so was I; so what?)

Once, he asked a question and I paused to form an answer.  Introverts have to think before we speak; we do not form our thoughts while speaking, like extroverts.  But Shawn snapped, “And I don’t want to wait four days for an answer.  That’s what I don’t like.”

And I don’t like people who snap at introverts for taking the time we need to think before we speak.  But unfortunately, I was not able to say this, not knowing about introversion, NVLD or the art of verbal self-defense.

He kept snapping at me like that, once because I thought he was talking about me but he wasn’t.  He said he doesn’t like it when I do that.  (Well excuse me for misunderstanding and not reading your mind!)

“I’m not a book reader like you, not so smart.”  (What?  He was a math-brain and was in the National Honor Society!)  “I don’t think I’d give you the attention you need.”  (What?  I liked spending much of my time with my friends or alone in my room, recharging.)  “A girl from Taiwan asked me, ‘Why are you so rude to her?  It seems like she has to seek you out.'”

Then came the revelations of what kept going through his head, what he would do to me if I let him, overpowering thoughts of what he could get away with if he tried, how badly he wanted to try.

(It was only our fear of offending God that kept us from going all the way; I would have allowed him, otherwise, because I was just as full of lust as he was–and from what he said, he may have started to realize this.)

He asked, “Do you do all the things we do because I force you?”

I said, “Not all of them.  I must make it hard for you to do things I don’t want.”

He said, “No, you don’t.”

He said, “I wish our friendship could be like mine with Frank or Pearl.”

I said, “It could never be that way, now.”

He thought maybe, if one day he scared me enough, I’d turn tail and run; I said, “You really think scaring me will–You’ve already scared me to death!”  I was thinking of the “Dreadful Night.”

He told me he was into one of my friends.  (Fortunately for me, she had a boyfriend and was not interested.)  What a thing to tell a girl who loves you after you’ve just been using her body and making you think you want her!

He insulted me, made me feel like some cheap whore, no better than the pop tarts.  He referred to us as “sexually active,” which I objected to–though legally, he was correct.

I no longer knew what was right or wrong, beyond the sex act itself; he told me I should read the textbook for his class, Understanding Morality.

He almost seemed to blame me for things he himself had chosen to do even when I tried to get him to go away, times when he himself chose to come over and do all these things, but I was too much in love to stop him, like now.

He called me a source of stress, but all he ever had to do was stop coming over, stop asking me over, stop starting things he knew I would not want to stop, and let me get over it; no one was putting a gun to his head and forcing him to touch and kiss me.  Sure I wanted him to, but it takes two people, and he had the right to refuse to do it anymore.

He was being such a jerk, saying such things, almost making it sound like I was to blame if it didn’t stop–then he tried to start it all over again, while telling me he felt nothing, which made me bat his hand away.

After all this scolding of me for allowing him to have his way with me, he turned creepy, tried to get me to do something in front of him which I did not want to do.  I said, “I’m not a pervert!”

He smiled and said, “Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not!”

“Yes, you are.”  He began doing things I did not like….I told him to stop….He suggested doing to me what I did not want to do to myself….I said no….

Is this why he kept wanting me over the past few days?  He’d had time to reconsider, this was premeditated and not spur of the moment, but every night he asked me over until I finally came, after he had insisted he would not do this to me anymore.

Then he bumped my arm, which was holding a can of pop.

I said, “You’d better be careful, or my pop might spill.”

He said, “It already did.  It’s on your shirt.”

I looked down at my shirt, saw a dark blotch in the dim light, and said, “You’re dead.”

He laughed and got me something to wipe it up with.  He said, “Maybe I shouldn’t let you come over here anymore,” but with a smile, so I said, “I hope you’re just joking.”

He finally helped me sneak out around 1:30, with my long hair tucked into my coat, then told me to call him that afternoon if I wanted to talk more–which I did not.  I knew how it would go: the same as always.

It felt like we’d lost the ground we gained with that tearful phone conversation, all because he could not keep his hands to himself and I was too in love to stop him.

I spoke to Sharon about it; she said no one would care if they saw me leave, because I’m of age, so don’t worry about my reputation, which Shawn kept warning me about.  She said we should make up our minds soon, and either commit or snub each other.

This seemed to turn a corner, but not the one I’d hoped for at the beginning of Christmas Break: We went from the fun we were having before, to a new and more disturbing phase, where we did things we’d never done before, went farther than ever, while he often treated me with contempt.

The thing I did not want him to do to me, he eventually did in February, suddenly and forcefully from what I recall, taking away my innocence and filling me with thoughts I could barely control.  Not what is clinically called “coitus,” but another thing.

And even though he himself had similar thoughts and told me about them, he judged me for them when I confessed them to him.

In fact, considering his mental health history, I can’t help wondering now if something happened over Christmas Break that led to this, if he was on the verge of another nervous breakdown, and I was the unlucky one caught in it.

From January through the end of the school year, he kept going from manic hyper stages where he treated me kindly, to foul moods which ended up hurting me.

I had told Shawn so many things, including deep, dark secrets.  We usually seemed like best friends.  But sometimes, like January 10, I wondered if we were even friends.  Some weeks he’d call all the time and sometimes stop over, but I wrote on the 13th, “some weeks, like this one, he won’t call and he won’t even sit by me.”

I had hoped things would change for the better between us, but instead they got worse.  He was moody.  I was too afraid to call him or go over without being asked.

On the 11th, he was in a bad mood, so I didn’t want to sit with him at a meal; I was surprised to see him come sit with us.  But he just started writing in notebooks instead of attending to the group’s conversation.  Why bother sitting with anyone, then, especially me?

He was having troubles with his Winterim class and the two joint teachers, who he felt were against him.  At 2 or 3 in the morning, he kicked in the door of someone who woke him up with their stereo!

****

Shawn had told me to sit with my friends whether Peter was there or not, so on the 12th I did so.  I sat with Steve, and Peter was right across from me.  He didn’t stay long because of class, but it seemed to go well.  I stayed cheerful despite fighting to control my shaking.  Even Peter seemed cheerful.

On the 12th, I saw my old suitemate Tom checking out a display for some date rape movies.  A guy with him said, “You saw the word ‘sex,’ and you went right to it.”  Tom denied it, but I said, “Yeah, we know you, Tom.”  He gave me a kind of lecherous smile.

That night, my suitemates held a seance in the suite lounge.  Clarissa and I stayed in our room, hoping they wouldn’t call something into the suite that wouldn’t leave, and keeping our crosses nearby.

Pearl and Tara were in England for their Winterim class, which was led by my old Expository Writing teacher.  They visited such places as London, Bath and Stratford-on-Avon, and included a showing of Phantom of the Opera.  I was envious, but had no way to afford such a thing.  It did, however, make it into my story “Bedlam Castle.”

Then on the 14th, Shawn sat at my table for a minute, then, as he passed behind me on his way out, tapped me on the back.  I looked up; he smiled and said “bye”; I smiled back.  This made me feel better; kindness from him again?

Index

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

We’re Dating!–No, We’re Not. Yes, We Are. ACK!–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1992, Part 4

I wrote in my diary on the 11th that “the situation with Shawn is finally clear now.  We have different definitions of terms in our own minds; to me, we’re dating; to him, we’re friends; but we both have the same idea of what it is.  We’ll have to get the word out that we’re only dating…we’re not boyfriend/girlfriend!!

“Oh, yeah.  Anna said that just the fact that I’m here at school still, and not anorexic, is a testimony to God’s strengthening power.”

The next day, I saw Shawn, and we started walking together.  I was happy.  But then he said, “This is not gonna work.”  So much for dating.

Yet, despite getting rid of the term “dating,” things still went on the same as before.  He would still come over and see me or invite me over, oftentimes every weekend, we’d watch TV or talk about all sorts of things, and he’d start kissing me and touching me and fooling around with me.

So did we really stop dating?  And were we dating or not the whole time?

He also would call me late at night sometimes and we would talk for hours.  But it seemed like nearly every time he did fool around with me, after it ended he would go on and on about how he didn’t want me, and criticize everything about me.

It also seemed far too analytical of him, making things far too complicated: Calling someone your “girlfriend” doesn’t mean you’re practically engaged.

You can just be going on casual dates with a bunch of people and call them all girlfriends.  It just means you have some sort of continuous romantic involvement (as opposed to one-night stands); it doesn’t have to be serious.

And saying that we’re “friends”–um, “friends” connotes no romantic or sexual involvement at all.  Unless you want to call it “friends with benefits,” but we didn’t have that term back then.

A few years after I graduated college, I watched a call-in advice show on MTV called Loveline, hosted by Dr. Drew and Adam Corolla, along with a woman whose name I forget.  To my surprise one night, a guy called in about the very same kind of situation:

He had started by giving “kissing lessons” to a girl across the hall; these lessons continued, and progressed so far over time that they did the same things Shawn and I eventually did, though they had not had vaginal intercourse.  He said she had feelings for him while he had none for her.  He said it wasn’t a “relationship.”

Dr. Drew said that if two people are physically intimate on a regular basis, they are indeed having a “relationship”–and it would hurt the girl to break it off.  Drew said to stop and cut off contact for a while, to give her time to get over it.

He said there’s a lot of BS going around these days, people saying “this is just for convenience, we’re not really in a relationship.”  He did say girls need to realize that sometimes guys will kiss and carry on with girls they’re not interested in.

Yet testosterone-driven Adam, on the other hand, the one you’d think would agree, didn’t buy that this guy was not attracted to the girl.  He said, “Isn’t it funny how guys’ll go and bang someone every night and then say, ‘Oh, I’m not attracted to her.'”

He didn’t believe it was possible, but that if you’re physically intimate with someone it’s because you are attracted to them in some way.

Then there was Sharon Stone’s character on Basic Instinct, who said, “He wasn’t my boyfriend.  I just f**ked him.”

And my old friend Becky from South Bend, who was still in high school, told me about guys who’d tell her, “That’s not my girlfriend.  I just f**k her.”

I guess there are a lot of Shawns out there, when I once thought there was only one.

It was hard for anyone in my group of friends, least of all me, to understand Shawn, because we thought kissing meant something and you didn’t do that to someone you weren’t attracted to.  You didn’t want to, because that would be icky.

So we couldn’t conceive of Shawn telling the truth when he said he wasn’t attracted to me or didn’t want to go out with me.

And if he was telling the truth, then why did he keep coming over and starting things with me all the time?  I normally waited for him to call me over and to start things, to let him set the pace, since he was so ambivalent.  In fact, after I graduated, one day I visited Sharon and she referred to him as “Shawn, who you were going out with.”

After Shawn called me senior year and said he hadn’t had a girlfriend in two years (ie, since he left Roanoke, rather than since he left high school), Pearl said,

“That’s fishy.  Maybe it shows there was something going on there.  Maybe now he thinks of you as an ex-girlfriend?…I always knew there was something there he wasn’t admitting to.”

And Pearl would know better than anybody else, being the confidante of us both about our relationship.

This blog post, about people confusing each other with varying definitions of the same dating terms, sums up the whole thing very well.

In September, Shawn had said, “Do you want everyone to know we’re dating?”

So, why couldn’t he just tell me to use that term (or “seeing each other”) instead of the completely platonic term “friends”?  It would have meant we were more than friends, but available to date other people, and been far more accurate.

But no, he couldn’t simplify it like that.  No, he had to complicate things by telling everyone we’re “just friends” and make me feel like some tart because “just friends” aren’t supposed to be fooling around every weekend.  I didn’t want to be exclusive; dating around was fine.  But I was not just your “friend”!

When I hear the song “Ah Leah!” by Donnie Iris, I realize that was Shawn and me:

Don’t you know we’re playin’ with the fire? 
But we can’t stop this burnin’ desire, Leah! 

Ah! Leah! Here we go again! 
Ah! Leah! Is it ever gonna end?  
Ah! Leah! Here we go again!  
Ah! Leah! We ain’t learned our lesson yet!  

Baby, it’s no good. We’re just askin’ for trouble.  
I can touch you, but I don’t know how to love you.  
It ain’t no use! We’re headed for disaster. 
Our minds said, “No!” But our hearts were talkin’ faster, Leah! 

But if he’d let me, I could have loved him.  I could easily have forgotten Peter completely in Shawn’s arms if only he would have stopped pulling me toward him and then pushing me away.

We could’ve had a lot more fun, without all the guilt and shame.  And Shawn was more like what I was looking for: similar music, similar religious backgrounds (I was Nazarene and he was non-denominational evangelical), love of sci-fi such as Doctor Who, sharing each other’s religious convictions–He even liked Monty Python, unlike Peter.

***

Each year in October, Roanoke held a Writer’s Festival.  This year, we had Billy Collins (poet) and W.P. Kinsella (novelist).  Two guys stopped me once and asked where Krueger Hall was.  Only later did I discover they were Collins and Kinsella.

Collins played the piano once in Krueger lounge, and Pearl hung out with him for a while.  When Counselor Dude and maybe Rachel took Collins to his room in Krueger, they found there’d been a mix-up: Some (unmarried) couple on campus had rented the guest room so they could have sex in it, which they were doing right then.

Collins joked about it, and Counselor Dude didn’t open the door.  Rachel thought it was sick.  Rachel and Counselor Dude wanted the flowers, at least, since they were for Collins.

The guy made a weird smile and almost threw the flowers at them.  Collins told Rachel to keep them, but it wouldn’t look good for the RA to have them.  He told her to come and get them later, I guess, and “slip into something a little more comfortable”–just a flirtatious joke.

So now Rachel had his pretty flowers.  Collins writes humorous poems; I could imagine him writing about this whole incident, and immortalizing RC (and maybe Rachel or Counselor Dude).

W.P. Kinsella wrote Shoeless Joe, the novel which inspired the movie Field of Dreams.  He read from Box Socials.  Every time he said the town’s name, Fark, he would pause and then say it significantly.  The readings were so funny that I bought the book from the Campus Shop, and loved it.

This, and a later presentation called “The Devil You Know,” became part of the backdrop for my story Alexander Boa, which was based on a dream.

***

One night, as we stood outside the suite after he had walked me home, Shawn said, “I would love to go on a date with you” (as opposed to just making out in our rooms all the time).  So one day, I went up to him in the cafeteria as he was at the salad/ice cream table where people would set down their trays before getting drinks and such.

I don’t believe anyone else was nearby, and I’d fallen behind my friends, who were leaving, so they weren’t nearby.  I asked if he wanted to go to Homecoming with me.

(Either that year or the year after, Pearl and I were talking about how we’d like to ask guys to the Homecoming semi-formal dance, and she said with a laugh, “I love you dearly, but I don’t want to go to the Homecoming dance with you.”)

He said he had to see whether or not he’d be going home over Homecoming weekend.  But a whole week apparently passed before he gave me an answer, and I believe I had to ask him for it.  He said he didn’t want to turn me down and embarrass me in front of my friends.  This is part of a diary entry I wrote about it:

I’ve never been that good at expressing myself verbally.

Maybe my status as a youngest child, not listened to as much, has caused me to concentrate more on developing my natural writing talent than on developing my speech, since on paper, at least, I can finally be ‘heard.’  [I got this idea from an article I read once on birth order, and it seemed to fit my own life.]

A pencil and paper–my form of eloquence.  Since I have a hard time organizing my thoughts, and making them understood, during conversations of an important nature, my journal is probably my best place for arguing my side of an issue, so here goes:

No matter how you tried to ‘do it right,’ you still forgot the number one rule of rejecting: a quick and painless death….

When I asked you to Homecoming, I wanted an answer right away.  Pearl had told me you like dances or dancing, and we’d agreed that we could go on dates, so I thought, Why not?  He’ll probably say yes, and we’ll have a great time.  If he says no, then so what?  If the Group doesn’t go, maybe we’ll all do something else together, or maybe I’ll do something else.  Or maybe another guy will ask me to go.  I’d just better ask him quick, before he asks someone else, or I might not be able to go at all….

You were alone; I’d fallen behind the Group while contemplating asking you.  A simple, ‘No, I don’t like dances,’ and I could stop thinking about the dance.  I wouldn’t feel personally rejected.

Why did you say you had to see whether or not you’d be going home that weekend?  Hogwash!  That just made me think, if he will, no; if he won’t, yes.  And what was the good of that?

Why do you feel you have to treat me so differently than everybody else?  A little special treatment is obvious, considering our past, but you act like I’m some bundle of neuroses, that’ll [be upset] if you don’t stop your conversation with someone else and give me attention for a while.

And the way you ‘assume’ things, just drives me crazy.  Did you think I sat with you at lunch because I have a crush on you?  I sat with you because I supposed you were my friend and wouldn’t mind, and because no one else from the Group was around yet.

I was soon quite glad I sat there, because a certain person–James–sat there that I’d been wanting to get to know.  As a matter of fact, I’d basically forgotten you that weekend, in favor of this person.

One week you said you’d love to go on a date with me; tonight, you said just the opposite, and made me feel like you didn’t even want to be around me.

You’ve confided things in me, and I’ve confided things in you; I don’t want you to blow me off, and I don’t want to blow you off.  Am I really beautiful, as you recently said, or am I totally repulsive to you?

No matter what other feelings I might have towards you that week, what I value most is our friendship.  Friends don’t hurt each other; they spare each other pain.

And friendship means I can sit by you anytime, talk to you anytime (without me suspecting or you expecting that we’ll probably end up making out), tell you anything.  Catherine made a flippant comment once about you not liking it when I talk about Peter (‘the other guy’)….

Remember, when I say I want to talk, it means I want to talk.  Making out was never my idea, even though I went along with it; you always started it.

Don’t make it into another ‘love ’em and leave ’em’ thing; one’s too much.  ‘Over’ Peter?  [Someone] told me you don’t ever really get ‘over’ someone you’ve loved.

But that doesn’t mean you’re always going to be on the rebound.  It’s been eight months, almost nine, and I’m sick of having no one to think of fondly.  It’s probably unhealthy for me to stay away from dating much longer.

***

On the 20th, I had a disturbing dream about a vampire, which I quickly turned into the first draft of my story Candida.

***

Darryl and Ned occasionally did comedy skits as “Virtual Reality.”  I don’t remember if they did skits the following semester; they did none the next year.  My friends in the Group thought they did too much Monty Python, but I loved the skits.

During a campus talent show, they did the famous Parrot Sketch from Monty Python, and a sketch about the Registrar’s office.  Ned played the guy working at the desk, and when someone pointed out that the sign was spelled “Registar’s Office” instead of “Registrar’s Office,” he said, “Well, this is Roanoke.”

Their sketch of the campus president was hilarious.  It featured Darryl playing a clueless president, constantly offering people coffee.  The “president” would get this dopey, open-mouthed grin on his face and kind of tilt his body a bit as he walked, a coffee pot in one hand and coffee mug in the other.

The most hilarious part of it was, the second time they did it, the real president was there to see it–and he loved it.  He must have been a good sport.

Also in that performance, Ned’s new girlfriend Melissa played Ned’s “Piece of Fluff,” or ditzy girlfriend.  (She obviously agreed to this, so don’t go crying sexism.)  At one point, Darryl picked up Ned’s glass of pop and noticed the backwash.  Darryl said, “I feel sorry for Melissa.”

***

No matter what I thought of Peter as a person, no matter if I loved or hated him, I felt he was my burden and I was supposed to keep praying for him until he finally realized that he needed God again.  It wasn’t about me so much; it was about God.  I thought he was just in a phase; I didn’t realize he never would return to Christianity.

One day, we heard a lecture on “Job and the Mystery of Human Existence.”  The speaker was impressed that Roanoke students all read Job our freshman year, so we already knew what he was talking about.

One day, Rachel and Sharon, both RAs, took a master key and got into Pearl’s room while Pearl and Cindy were gone.  They then hid behind furniture.  When Pearl came in, Rachel started lifting up a pillow.  Pearl stared with a blank look, thinking, “Oh-kaaay….”

A year or two before, this Clinton fellow seemed to have no chance of winning against the popular incumbent George Bush who had won the Gulf War.  His run was a waste of time.

Now, opinion polls showed him pulling ahead of Bush.  But I knew he would lose, because Pat Robertson had said so, along with other predictions for 1992.  He had said the same thing soon after the Gulf War.

Each New Year’s, Pat gave predictions for the year to come, things God told him during a time of fasting and prayer.  He never seemed to be wrong.

Since I taped the show, I copied down every word of what he said each New Year’s.  He and his co-host would name the previous year’s predictions, and say they had all come to pass.

The only prediction I wondered about came right before the Gulf War.  Had he really said the Stock Market would plummet, or had he said, rather, that gas prices would plummet?  Had I written it wrong?  Had he thought one thing and said another, which I often do?

Whatever it was, I wrote down one thing, another thing happened, and he claimed to have predicted what happened.

I thought MTV had gotten too political.  This, and the message that everyone should vote, wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t 1) shown political shows instead of getting back to videos, and 2) shown an obvious bias toward one candidate.

But here’s something good that MTV showed a lot that year: Joe’s Apartment, a comedy short about a guy whose apartment is overrun with cockroaches.  It’s hilarious; enjoy!

Even college students like a little trick-or-treating once in a while.  Since I wasn’t in the group who went that year, I don’t know where they went to (perhaps to houses on Prof Row).  Someone this year dressed as a mummy, wrapped head to toe in toilet paper.

The disgusting but funny antics of MTV and Nickelodeon’s Ren and Stimpy now came to MTV, and became popular at Roanoke.  We loved to imitate Ren’s “STEEEM-pee!” and “STEEM-pee, you EE-dee-uht!”

Ren and Stimpy’s song “Happy Happy Joy Joy” became popular to sing–and I believe WIXX played it.

One evening, while passing through the Campus Center lounge, I found a group of students all gathered around the TV, watching Ren and Stimpy.

This wonderful popularity, however, was shortlived: Ren’s voice changed, the cartoons began to be more for kids, and a new cartoon arrived on MTV: Beavis and Butthead.  But more on that one later.

I kept setting aside a tenth of my paycheck to be given either to the S– church, or to my church back home when I went home for vacations.  Some guy on The 700 Club (Benny Hinn) had predicted a dark economic time for the country, saying that only the givers in the church would survive.

Of course, in the fullness of time we see that though other parts of the world did see recessions in the 90s and the US went through its own recession for a time, it wasn’t so bad as all that.  Most people in the US seemed to survive, and I don’t think being a giver in the church affected that.  Heck, the 90s ended with a booming economy.

Clarissa and I heard awful stories about Krueger, that girls on the mostly-freshman third floor would get drunk and poop in the hallway instead of the bathroom, that somebody on the second floor puked or pooped in a shower stall….

It turned out that at least one of these stories wasn’t exactly true.  I believe the shower stall story (and possibly the other one as well) could be explained by someone taking peanut butter and putting it in a shower stall as a prank.

Some people didn’t even bother getting dressed for their 8:00 classes: They’d roll out of bed and go to class in their pajamas!

In high school, I had felt like an oddball for not wearing makeup like the other girls did.  That was the 80s, after all, when you were “supposed” to wear it, and lots of it.

But in college, I was no longer the only girl who didn’t wear makeup.  Rachel didn’t wear it, Catherine didn’t wear it, Clarissa didn’t wear it.  I finally felt normal.  In the late 90s, I’m told, college girls commonly went without makeup.

Clarissa and I hated it when our suitemates would hold seances in the lounge.  They’d turn off the lights and light candles, and Clarissa and I would hole up in our room until it was over, afraid to come out even to go outside or to the bathroom.  We feared what they might stir up.

We also heard that Carl, Dirk’s roommate, was a witch, and he and Dirk held a seance in their room in Grossheusch once.  Carl said he went to bed in his nightclothes.  When he woke up in the morning, his clothes were on, and all the drawers in the room were open.  (He assumed Dirk had been asleep.)

***

On Halloween, right before Hell Week started, Shawn called around 12:45am, asking if I wanted to watch a movie in the suite, in Maggie’s old room, which had been made into a guest room with the suite lounge’s old furniture after new furniture was delivered.  There was a big, old, comfy couch.

We used my TV and VCR.  He came around 1am, so I got myself ready for bed before he came, even in my nightgown.

We lay on the couch watching the movie, me about to fall asleep; afterwards, there was a little fooling around, though not much so I could go to bed.  He finally left around 4:30!

It was Saturday, but I had to get up in time for lunch, so didn’t get enough sleep.

It sounds very much like what a real couple would do, not just friends, just some simple little scenario of hanging out together all nice and cuddly.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

The Secret Gets Out–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1992, Part 2

A few days later, on Tuesday the 6th, I wrote this in-class assignment, myself from the point of view of Counselor Dude:

She’s very quiet, especially in class.  Then you can’t usually get a word out of her unless you ask her a question.  She will talk to her friends, though.  When she does say something, you have to get her to speak up, or else strain to hear her.

Sometimes she acts like I’m going to bite her.  I think she only sat at my end of the table because she’d be close to her friends, the people she did talk to.  I remember once when Julie sat next to her.  D–n, did she laugh and laugh!  I believe she said some funny things to Julie, too.

Oh, and that’s another thing.  You should see her wince when I cuss.  That’s one thing you never hear her do, besides speak up in class.  Wouldn’t that be a d–n fun thing, getting her to say “F–k!”  I wonder how a person could do it?  I hear I “corrupt” people that way, so maybe, if I keep at it, and keep using such words in class….

After Fiction, I was in Pearl’s room with Pearl, Rachel and Catherine.  Somehow they forced me–with Catherine’s help–to come out with everything, so I revealed my secret of seven months.

I didn’t want to, but they threatened to take away my blue Flavor-Ice so I’d quit eating it and talk.  There were plenty of loud “ooooohs” whenever they tricked me into revealing something Shawn and I had done, such as frenching (I did not tell them everything).

Catherine asked me, “If Peter and Shawn both asked you to the Homecoming Dance, which one would you go with?”  I don’t remember my answer, or if I could decide.  She said, “You should choose Shawn.  Shawn’s nicer.”  Peter had recently done something she witnessed that really ticked her off.

I looked at the time and fled; they called it an excuse.

I also told them then about a silly dream of a beetle.  That’s where I got my “signature.”  Some of my friends began calling me Bebe based on this dream.  When I worked the dinner shift, their trays came in with three messages written on napkins, one with a drawing of a beetle.

I didn’t have time to read Rachel’s message, so I stuck it in my pocket, but I threw the other two away so no one would see them, trying not to grin.  But part of it read, “Guess who heard us talking about you at dinner?”  Oh geez….

With them calling me that and Catherine calling me Stella, I began to sign my name as Bebe-Stella on Pearl and Cindy’s message board.  Then they tried to give me another nickname.  Sharon or maybe Pearl took my name and started playing with it until she got “Stu.”  This one lasted quite a while.

I don’t recall when exactly Shawn told me this, but guys would ask him what was going on between us, and occasionally say, “Nyssa’s looking really pretty today.  You should see her.”  It sounds like people were shocked that we weren’t “going out,” and maybe they wanted Shawn to make me his actual girlfriend.

***

On October 7, my hopes for a restored friendship with Peter were blown apart.  I waited for several days–no answer.  Then I talked with Pearl, who told me that her friend Dave O’Hara had been driving outside my dorm with Peter.

I remembered that day, having seen the two of them in Dave’s red car as I headed off somewhere.  I was on the sidewalk beside the drive, or very close to it.

Dave did not tell Pearl Peter’s exact words, probably to spare her feelings.  But Peter saw me walking and made some sort of nasty comment.  I suspected he called me a rude name.  I was furious.

Soon afterwards, he called to me by the dorm to return my stuff.  “Here’s your discs,” he said, with the air of someone who wants to slap you or throw you into the river.

“Where’s my notebook?” I said, wanting to do the same thing to him.

“What notebook?”

This may have been when he told me that he had gone through his room and not seen a notebook.  So, to this day, my precious writing notebook is lost, along with all the notes and other things I had so painstakingly made in it.

So, even though he’d acted like we were friendly again, I wasn’t allowed to be friends with him?  I couldn’t even make an overture of friendship without him treating me like mud on his shoe.

This may have been when I began to view the before-mentioned “words” more as something that was supposed to be fulfilled rather than something that I wanted fulfilled.  I hated Peter.  I wanted Shawn or James, not Peter.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

Friends With Sexual Benefits: Fun at First, But Began to Destroy our Friendship: College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1992, Part 1

About the song “Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, which after a year was still getting a lot of airplay on MTV: Though I still wasn’t so sure that a song that said things like, “Give it to your dog,” “Take what I got and put it in you,” and other such questionable lyrics (questionable because you couldn’t be quite sure if it meant what it sounded like), was something for me, it was fun to play with.  I amused Clarissa by rolling my tongue just right to say “Give it away,” and then transforming that into,

“Put it away, put it away, put it away now!”  I rolled my tongue for both “put” and “it.”  It was surprisingly easy.  So if what he “got” was really what I first thought it was, I was telling him to put it back in his pants and leave us alone.  It was fun to say, and it was fun to make Clarissa laugh by saying it.

(Though, many years later, I heard that “it” was actually stuff you have, sharing freely with others, not what I thought it was.  Whew!)

Each year, Turning on the Heat was the event of the fall.  It usually didn’t happen until October.  Catherine’s roommate Carrie inquired about it.

The administration’s story was that the school’s ancient steam heat system took time and effort to start up each year.  Turning it off again right away because of a return to warm weather would be a pain.

“People would open their windows because it’s warm again and the heat would just be wasted,” they said.  Carrie said, “They said it has to be consistently cold.”

But this was little comfort in late September to cold students wrapped in blankets.  A little wasted heat sounded pretty nice around that time.

That year, a new thing began in the Muskie: weekly open mikes for writers.  The following year, it moved into the Pub, and was opened to other arts as well, such as music.  On October 1, I read one of my Fiction class stories, as suggested by my teacher.  I believe I read other things on other weeks as well.

***

On Friday, October 2, I had to sit with my Humanities class presentation group instead of my usual group during lunch, for a meeting.  Along with the presentation group, there were others.

At the table were Steve, N., Ned, Melissa, a guy I’ll call J.–and Peter!  Only one empty seat, and next to Peter, of all people!  Of course I had to sit there.

J. handed me the sheet with my part on it.  “We’re thinking about having you do ‘Singin’ in the Rain,'” he said.  (We were doing some modern take on Greek plays.  I was supposed to be a girl pretending to be a boy at an audition because girls didn’t act.)

Shocked, I cried, “That’s weird, because that’s just the one I was thinking about doing!”  I think Peter looked my way as I said this.

Soon, Peter said, “I’m going to take my tray up.”

He was gone an awfully long time for just taking his tray up, and, with a partition in the way, I couldn’t see where he went, or even when he went to the window.  I began to wonder if he’d run away from me.  But he finally came back, a newly-lit cigarette in his hand.  Maybe he got it from someone.

“No, Peter.  Bad,” Ned said.

Peter put it close to an ashtray, and the smoke billowed my way.  And this from the guy who used to complain about people smoking in the cafeteria.  I waved it away, sitting forward in my seat and making exaggerated lunges for it.  Everybody laughed.

“See that?” Ned said.  “Nyssa knows it’s bad.”

“They’re all bi***ing at me for smoking,” Peter said to me, “I guess so I’ll quit.”  He knew it was bad, but it was a long story how he got started smoking.

“Especially since you hated them before,” I said.  Then, with a smile, “Maybe you should try one of those nicotine patches.”

“No,” he said with a grimace.  He tapped the ashes into the ash tray again.  “Just willpower.”  He started blowing his smoke upwards to spare us.

We chatted a bit about my broken jam box; I wanted to know if he could fix it, but no, he could only fix cameras.  Then a short time later, after some more chatting, he said he was going to shoot pool, and left.  (Until my dad could fix that jam box, I relied on MTV for music.)

Once he was gone, I said to Steve, “It’s such a relief to be able to talk to him again.”

“Yeah,” Steve said.  “You know, I didn’t even notice that.”  He raised his eyebrows.  “Hm.”

Soon, the presentation group was left, and began rehearsing.  We went through the script several times.  J. was supposed to say at the end, “My sympathies to your father.”

He told me to say my lines in a deep voice, which, he said, would make my “uh-huh” sound like Elvis Presley.  I told Steve I should have an umbrella, and I did a little embellishing of the part I had to sing, trying to remember some of the things Fred Astaire did in the movie and the different ways they sang the song.

At about 12:30, N. had left, and my bosses Arthur and Nancy were the only other people sitting in the cafeteria.  Nancy came up to me and said, “You know, Nyssa, I’m really disappointed in you.  You, of all people, should know better.”

I blanched, wondering what in the world I’d done.

She said, “You should know better than to hold your tray!”

I jumped up, and J. and I took our trays back.

Before Steve came back with our mail and copies of the school paper, J. and I started talking about The Omen, which he’d seen, and the person whose mailbox number was 666.

“We’ll have to find out who it is,” I said, “and kill them for being the Antichrist!”  (I was joking, by the way.)

Steve came back with new, orange directories, and J. and I started looking for this person, who, however, didn’t seem to exist.  We found 665 and 667, but no 666.

You’ll note that the directories didn’t come out until almost a month into the semester.  Every semester, this was a problem, and you’d be stuck without people’s extensions if they changed rooms since the previous year or you didn’t have a copy of last semester’s directory.  You wouldn’t even know how to call the information desk from your room to find out somebody’s extension–if you even knew that you could do that.

Steve lent me a hat, tie, jacket and a dress shirt for my part.  I dropped them off in my room, and began working on a note.

****

I got the idea for the note from an issue of the magazine Campus Life, in the column “Love, Sex and the Whole Person,” written by Tim Stafford.

I wrote the note before re-reading the column; later on, I wished I’d read it first to get the words just right.  But I still thought (and think) that the note I did write was well-written.  This is the column:

Q: Is it possible for a guy and a girl who were going out once to become friends again–to be just as close, if not closer, than they were before?  I’m beginning to think it’s not.  

What suggestions do you have for two people who used to date, but now, several months later, won’t talk to each other?  

A: It’s possible to reestablish a friendship, but it’s very hard.  The more romantically involved you were, the more difficult it is to find a non-romantic way of being together.  Too many feelings get in the way.

A few months isn’t enough time to deal with powerful feelings.  Often a year must go by before you can let go of anger and disappointment.  Don’t try to force a change.  But keep the door open to friendship.

I thought enough time had already passed, since now Peter was talking to me–heck, chatting with me like a regular acquaintance.

The column went on:

A good way to keep the door open might be a note.  It could say something like:

“Just wanted to let you know I have good feelings about you and hope that we can be friends again someday.  I don’t think we’re ready yet, but I hope to see the day when we can sit down and talk like old times.  Let me know when you’re ready to try.  In the meantime, I hope things are going well for you.”

Then, when you think you’re ready, ask your old friend if you might have a soda together.  Keep it light.  Don’t go over the past.  Just try to talk as friends.  And if things feel comfortable, do it again in a week or two.  Gradually you may be able to reestablish a friendship.

I thought we already had the equivalent of that first soda, that day at lunch.  This is the note I sent to Peter:

Dear Peter,

I want you to know I’m praying for you, and that everyone misses you at the Nazarene church in S– (now known as the “Good News” church!).  I miss our friendship, and I think we should meet for a Pepsi at the Muskie sometime (not a date, dear friend!).

I put “Don’t Panic!” on the folded letter so he wouldn’t think it was a beg letter or anything like that.  I checked with Pearl to make sure it sounded just right.  When I asked if I should say “dear friend,” she said, “If he takes that the wrong way, that’s pretty sad!”

The letter took so long that I had to hurry to Humanities class, though I think I mailed it before or after class.

****

I changed in a room across from the classroom, putting Steve’s clothes on over my own.  Steve had put a slipknot in the tie, but it came out–one end was too short.  I put my hair in the hat, and came out of the room.  N. did the tie for me, and Steve made an OK sign to me.

We waited outside the door for our parts.  While N. was inside doing hers, some teacher came by and smiled.  Then she turned around at about the end of the hall, and came back by us, still smiling.  I finally went in with a smile, and did my part.  J. jumbled up his lines, confusing me once or twice.  N. shook my hand after class.

****

That evening, as I did some reading for Sophomore Honors, Catherine and her roommate came over. Most everyone had gone home for the weekend, so they were visiting those who still were left.  I asked to go along.

There was no one to see at Muehlmeier, so we went on to Grossheusch.  In between the two dorms were a bunch of guys playing a game, and someone was running a little, red, remote control car around the parking lot.

Catherine said, “Is that Shawn over there?”  I said, “It probably is.”  We got to the door at the same time as Shawn and another guy, cars in hand, and we spoke to him.

Catherine distributed her “HAPPY” signs: signs with “Happy Happy Happy” written on them, and covered with stickers and drawings.  I put mine on my door each year for at least the next two years.  When Elizabeth moved into the suite later that year, she saw my Happy sign and thought I must be a really happy person.

But back to October 2.  Catherine slipped a “HAPPY” sign under the door of Jennifer’s brother, then we went down a few doors to 212.  That person wasn’t there, so she was about to leave, when I suggested we visit Shawn in 211.

Catherine wanted me to visit Shawn by myself, doing her little matchmaker thing, so she tried to talk me into it, saying, “At least one of us oughtta have a guy on a Friday night.”  She didn’t succeed.

She said, “We’ll all visit, then leave you there after a few minutes.”  She knocked on the door.  “I have a gift for you, Shawn!” she said.  How embarrassing!

We all went in, and her roommate sat in the green chair.  Catherine and I stood by the wall for a few minutes, as Shawn did something with his red RC car.

I told Catherine about seeing Peter at lunch, but she said, “Don’t talk about Peter.  Shawn doesn’t like it.”  As if he even cared if I did or not!  Then she said it was time to leave, and Shawn once told us, with a smile, to leave.  I tried to follow them out, but Catherine turned around and said, “You stay!”

“But he told us to leave,” I said.

“He wouldn’t say anything like that.–Would you, Shawn?–You stay!”  She practically threw me back into the room, and slammed the door behind her.

I looked sheepishly at Shawn.  He told me to sit down, so I sat in the chair.  What else could I do?  So we tried to start a conversation.  It was about 7:00.  He asked what Catherine was trying to do, always trying to get him to see me and me to see him, but I didn’t want to tell him.  “Why don’t you ask her?” I cried.

“Because she won’t tell me,” he said.

I wasn’t completely sure myself, but I tried to reassure him that I didn’t think she was trying to get us to sleep together.  Then we started talking about my day, including Peter.

I mentioned the sunset, seen through a crack in the curtains; he told me to open the window so I could see it.  He meant the curtains, confusing me.  He acted like I was silly, and opened the curtains for me.

He lay down on the bed.  I still couldn’t see the sunset with the back of the chair turned to it.  He said, “You can see it better from over here.”  I wasn’t sure if this was an invitation, so I stayed put.

We talked for a bit; it had nothing to do with our makeout sessions or twisted relationship, but was still full of misunderstandings and my hurt feelings; he said, “I’ve interrogated you so much already, that it’s your turn.  Start questioning me, ask me anything you want to know.  Try to see from my answers, just how I think.”

I didn’t know what he meant, but began.  But he wasn’t satisfied.  Finally, he said he wanted me to lie next to him on the bed, so I could see the dying sunset and we could talk better.  So you see I waited for him to give a clear invitation, did not force myself on him.

He kept the lights off as the sunlight dimmed.  I climbed over him onto the bed, and lay against the backrest.  I gazed at a star; he said it was probably a planet, that the stars weren’t out yet.  I said no, it twinkles, and planets don’t twinkle.  He said planets twinkle, too.

He said the best sci-fi comes from stories with a moral; I said we downplayed that very thing just recently in Fiction class.

He said we now know humanoids could never have lived on Mars, that we know too much about it for successful sci-fi set there; this upset me because of my Martian stories.

I told him that I asked a girl in my high school Astronomy class about this, because I wanted to publish my Martian stories, but we now know they’re not plausible.  She said not to worry, that my stories are just the sort of thing people want to read about.

I asked him why he was voting for Bush; he said he’s the best candidate, and on the right side.  He said, “That’s politics, go deeper!”  I couldn’t figure out what more he wanted; these were indeed the things I wanted to know.  Wasn’t that what he told me to do?

Finally, when I asked why he kept dismissing me as being “as mature as a 19-year-old,” when I was 19 and for years people called me mature for my age–he revealed what he wanted me to probe for.  With only a little provocation, he opened up his heart.

I won’t reveal his private thoughts, just that it was about his time in the mental institution (which was no secret at Roanoke anyway), and that he only told people what they needed to know about it.  Obviously he felt I needed to know far more.  The feelings came pouring out, and the tears.

At the end he said, “I guess this is what I wanted you to find out about me.  I seem to have a gift for finding out how people think, from the simplest replies, without them even knowing.”  He turned to me.  “But I’ve overwhelmed you, haven’t I?  They say not to do that.”

I agreed, but did not answer.  I didn’t know how to react, so I said and did nothing, thinking that might be best.

Then he began asking me to do things, some I was fine with, but some which made me uncomfortable, so I did not do them.  The conversation became more intimate as he tried to get me to experiment.

I followed his lead, though I kept trying to stop him when he wanted to do things I did not want.  He was persistent, however, and I finally let him do some things he’d been begging to do for months, admitting I did actually want them, too.  Things got more heated and…

The phone rang.  It was his parents.  At almost midnight!  He told me to be very quiet, but I couldn’t help snickering now and then.

It was a very long call, with all his parents and siblings, so eventually I got hungry and thirsty and had to go to the bathroom.  As I tidied my hair before going out, he told someone that Heidi called him way too analytical, even more than her!  It was so true that I could barely keep from laughing.

Then Samuel, Anna’s friend, began going up and down the hallway, yelling, “Fleeee fornication!  Fleeee fornication!”  That made it even harder to contain my laughter.

When Shawn hung up, saying he wanted to get up for Saturday breakfast for once, he scolded me: “You were noisy.  I could hear you!  But it’s all right; you were still quiet enough.”

This may be when I went to find the women’s little bathroom.  I tried to get enough information from him that I would not get lost, but he said the dorm was so simple that “if you get lost, then you’re not as smart as I thought you were!”  But I kept having trouble finding that little bathroom that year, depending on whether the sign was on the door.

I was feeling melancholy about Peter, and expected to now move to the guest room in the suite to talk and cry about that.  But Shawn kissed me “goodnight” a few times and that plan was set aside.

I even fell asleep for a time; as he tried to wake me up, he said, “You know, I could take advantage of you now, really easily.”  I said, “But I know you won’t.”  He said, “No, it’s really tempting right now.  Really tempting.”  So I quickly roused myself and got up.

He said, “I thought we agreed this wasn’t going to happen again.”  Which was maddening, because he’d been driving the whole night.

Eventually, we began talking again, about old love interests, then he walked me home.  I said something I should never have said: Somehow, after all this, I was thinking of Peter!  “Reality hits at 3am, so I know what I really feel for who,” because I felt strong love for Peter, and not much of anything for Shawn.

I just want to go back in time and slap myself for that.  Here Shawn could very well have been falling for me, with all he did and said that evening, and I said I was still in love with Peter, who didn’t care two bits about me anymore??!!

Sometimes I think I sabotaged my own relationship with Shawn by talking too much about pining for Peter.  But eventually that did end.

But I was definitely attracted to Shawn, always had been, or I would not have fallen so easily into temptation with him, again and again and–as the following school year would prove–continuously until he left Roanoke for good.

As we passed Chase, we saw a kitten, but it ran away from us.  I said, “I want so bad to pet something warm and furry and cuddly.”  Shawn said, “You’d better not say that to your friends.  They might misunderstand.”

He said, “Maybe you should tell Catherine that we had a big fight and you hate me.”  He left me at the door.  He said he was going to bed, but there were lights on in the Beta suite, so he went there instead.  He missed breakfast.

The next day, at dinner, I wanted to tell him a couple of intimate things relating to the night before.  I hung around him in the Campus Center lounge waiting for my chance; once, at the information desk, the worker there asked me, “Can I help you?”  Shawn said, “She’s just hanging around.”

Then he headed back to his dorm, and I went with him part of the way.  He said, “No, you’re not coming with me.”  I was miffed because I didn’t plan to; I just wanted to tell him those two things.  Which I did, then left.

****

So you see how I tried to be good when Catherine shoved me into his room, but he called me over, confided in me, made me his toy for the night, exhibited quite a bit of passion for me, then scolded me as if I had started everything, and treated me with scorn and derision the following day, trying to push me away from him.

He would say I was beautiful and pretty, but didn’t want to be my boyfriend.  Once or twice, later in the year, he even said he wasn’t attracted to me–but his behavior belied this claim.  What he got from me, he could’ve gotten that and much more every weekend from the easy high school “pop tarts” who came around the guys’ dorm looking for college boys; he didn’t have to come to me.

He was always completely sober, because he never drank or did drugs.  He didn’t do this with anybody else, and neither did I.  So you can’t blame it on inebriation.  If he didn’t find me attractive in some way, then why did he keep lusting after me?  Why did he call me pretty?

(I was also thin and curvy, and kept myself clean, so there was nothing to turn him off physically.  After him came several boyfriends, all of which considered me beautiful and sexy.)

Why did he come over every weekend, or ask me over, looking for some more?  Why did he seem to want me so intently?

If I was so unattractive to him, then why didn’t he just stop coming over, cut me loose, only talk to me on the phone or at mealtime, and pursue some girl he actually liked, leaving me to pursue other guys who might like me?

In fact, before Christmas Break he insisted it was all going to stop and we would get to know each other as friends, only to–as soon as we got back to school–start asking every night for me to come over, until I finally did.

Even now it makes no sense, because usually you hear about guys either getting drunk first, or one-night stands, if he’s not attracted to her physically.  Neither applied here.

And we ran in the same circles, so it would be impossible to avoid each other; why do something you’d regret–over and over again–while in full possession of your faculties?

He wasn’t some handsome, muscular stud–No, he was an ordinary geeky guy, getting pretty flabby around the middle, who seemed to annoy a lot of people, was considered obnoxious by my friends, and had an awful time finding dates.

I believe one or two of my friends didn’t like him at all.  They especially didn’t like him coming over all the time, behaving like I was his girlfriend, and then telling me he didn’t want me except as a friend.

Other than two girlfriends in high school, there had been nobody else, and would be nobody else for quite some time after he left Roanoke; I was the only girl at Roanoke known to be interested in him.

Some guy saw a picture of his ex and said, “How did you get a girl like this?  You’re butt-ugly, man.”  But I thought he was cute: He had dark hair, glasses, and big, Irish blue eyes I could get lost in.

I had a huge crush on him, which is why I kept taking him in every week.  That, and I liked doing what we did.

We kept going farther and farther, but did not want to lose our virginity through vaginal sex (that would be sinful).  However, we were extremely naïve to think that what we did eventually do was not “sex.”

It was, according to medical definitions, and far too many Christian kids are going too far because they think only one thing (vaginal) means “sex” (or that it’s the only way to get pregnant).  I write about this here, with links to various articles.

Such things as we did are meant to lead to a certain end point, and stirred up our passions to boiling.  And according to Wisconsin law, what we did qualified as sexual contact and intercourse, so legally, we were mistaken that we were still virgins.

The following year, I let my fiance Phil lead me into more things with this idea that only vaginal penetration=sex and only sex=sin.  He made me feel silly and uneducated in sex for thinking otherwise.

I never did this stuff with Peter, because Peter and I felt it was going too far.  They were all Shawn’s idea, and it took him months of convincing to get me to start giving in to him.  And Phil found it a lot easier to break through my reserve because Shawn had done all the work before him.

Even Christian boys can be just as persistent as non-Christian ones, so if you’re dating only Christians expecting to never have this problem, think again.  Don’t be naïve like I was; know what you’re getting into.  And if you’re under 18, be warned that what you’re doing could be illegal.  At least we were 19.

Once Shawn got it in my head that these things were not sinful, I only wanted more–and we got deeper into trouble as we went.  Then afterwards, he would tell me in a long lecture why he didn’t want to go out with me and criticize everything about me.  He’d also tell me about other girls he was attracted to–who included some of my friends.

The problem, as we discovered later, was that he knew my body but he didn’t know me, my soul, how I thought about things.  All he knew was what other catty people thought, people who weren’t even my friends.

When I think back–especially now that I’ve been married for years, those youthful indiscretions were nowhere near as satisfying as what I do with my husband, and I haven’t actually been haunted with disturbing “memories” which church leaders always warned teenagers would follow them into their marital beds–I don’t really regret it so much anymore.

It feels like I regretted it for so long that it just got tiresome to keep thinking so negatively about it.

It seems like, after many years, continuing to beat yourself up for past sins becomes overkill and unhealthy, especially if those sins did not really hurt anyone, have now been set aside through marriage and never had negative impacts on that marriage.

Hubby doesn’t seem to care that I did these things before him; by the time he came along, what I did with Shawn was overshadowed by Phil, and Hubby sure wasn’t innocent, himself, putting us on an equal footing.

Rather, I’ve just put it into my past as something that happened and shaped who I was.  In fact, I don’t find the memories disturbing at all; I’m supposed to, yet instead they are pleasurable reminders of a colorful past, not promiscuous but monogamous.  Even my “friend with benefits” was monogamous.

What I do regret is that Shawn did all these things with me but kept insisting he didn’t care for me the way I cared for him, that our friendship was damaged by it.

If he had not been so disgusted in May 1993 by what we did, seeing it as a grievous sin and an impure relationship, while I was not disgusted, maybe he would have been kinder to me.

Many of my readers will say I was an adult and did nothing wrong.  That’s fine, especially in this day and age.

But if you want to save yourself for marriage, don’t do what I did, because one thing leads to another, and Shawn and I both felt that our “impure” relationship damaged our relationships with God.

And in any case, this story is meant to show two things: 1) how easy it is to get out of control with lust if you want to save yourself for marriage, and 2) how adding “benefits” to a friendship can destroy it.

I have no regret over the first ten months, which were a lot of fun.

But things began to take a very dangerous turn in January 1993, not just taking away any innocence and purity that might still have been left to us and our relationship, but damaging our friendship almost beyond repair.

It’s a miracle that things finally turned around eventually, long after the sexual aspect was removed–but more on that later.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: