A few weeks ago I found a love letter a boy gave to me in 2nd grade. The front of the letter proclaims that he loves me “so moch you coodeit blevit,” while the back features a hand drawing of what appears to be us naked in bed. Looking at it now, I realize that I probably should have hung onto him, a scholar and an artist, but whatever else happened during our 2nd grade love affair, it didn’t last. I should note, he was also overly optimistic about how big my boobs were going to get. Those never came in either. He was onto something though when he wrote “I you sto hat you but I Love you now.” Over the years I have come to realize that I am definitely an acquired taste, like coffee. OK, maybe more like chicory.
It seems that almost all the people who love me now “you sto hat” me. This is particularly true with my closest girlfriends. Case in point, Eleanor, who I met in grad school where we were both studying history (which should explain her choice of a pseudonym). By the time Eleanor joined the program, I was already jaded, bored, bordering on hostile and she was happy, enthusiastic and really, very, very strange. She biked to class and came wearing an array of interesting outfits, like baggy shorts over leggings (note: this style was YEARS away from appearing in Athleta catalogs). She also liked to crouch on her chair, bouncing on her feet in a way that made her look like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. For my part, I had adopted a style that should probably be described as the love child of Marion the Librarian and a pompous ass. I liked to look over the top of my glasses at people and wave my pen around to indicate that I was annoyed. I was also addicted to the word “fundamentally,” which I usually paired up with “disagree.” I was not popular. Eleanor was not particularly popular either (too smart and prone to blurting out what she really thought). This didn’t, however, make us fast friends, for as much as I thought she was a freak, she thought I was a pretentious ass.
That didn’t change until the day we were discussing Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution. With one week to read this 750 page tome, most of the class had elected to also leave the book unfinished and this has a way of making a three hour seminar extra torturous. Halfway through the class, Eleanor leaned over, pointed to the picture of Foner on the book and whispered “I’d do him” in my ear, a tiny little statement that filled me with such laughter I thought my spleen might explode. No one wanted to “do” Eric Foner and the mere thought of it shattered my carefully crafted persona and made Eleanor my new, best (and, at the time, only) close girlfriend. I should note for the sake of historical accuracy that Eleanor was not kidding. She would do Eric Foner. She is what can only be described as an academic groupie. We once ran into Arthur Schlesinger in a restaurant in Washington D.C. and Eleanor flirted shamelessly with him in an effort to take him home. Given how much he flirted back, she probably would have had him too, if he hadn’t been 150 years old and barely able to stand up on his own.
Eleanor eventually figured out that another benefit of my friendship is that I cook. Within a few months she had moved 60 miles to live close enough to me so that she could come over and join us every night for dinner. And when she moved to town she moved next door to a woman we’ll call Lobo (a nickname bestowed upon her by my husband Karl). She was about to be the next contestant in the “you sto hat” me game show where you eventually come to love what you initially thought was the worst booby prize ever stashed behind door #3.
Like Eleanor, Lobo came by her utter disdain of me honestly as I had decided that one girlfriend was plenty for me (yes, I know, it was one of many dumb ideas I have had). As a result of my “one girlfriend” rule, every time Lobo tried to invite me anywhere I would, quite literally, give her the hand. She would barely get a word out of her mouth and my palm would go up into her face like a marionette whose fingers were attached to a string on her tongue. Knowing her as I do now, it is a wonder she never smacked me.
Eventually I realized the error of my ways and spent years working to convince Lobo that I would be a great friend. That I was more than just four fingers, a thumb and a palm in your face. What lengths did I go to? Has anyone else ever gone to a weekend “out of body” retreat with Bill Buhlman where you lie around on the floor with strangers for two days and try to commune with your past lives? I didn’t think so. It worked though and now Lobo and I are pretty convinced that we used to share a past life. What did we share in the past life? A womb? A foxhole? A jail cell? A crappy husband in a 19th century Mormon homestead? It’s hard to say.
It also took a little divine intervention from the moon to bring around my friend Heidi. Heidi worked with Lobo and we typically only saw each other when there was a gathering of girlfriends so I was actually unaware that Heidi didn’t like me. That didn’t come out until later but now she happily reminisces about those feelings. So much so that if I say “remember when you didn’t like me?” she enthusiastically replies “didn’t like you? I HATED you! And I was scared of you! I HATED YOU and was SCARED of you!!” I really should stop asking her if she remembers that.
What I remember is that one night we were together at a party, drinking copious amounts of wine and someone suggested that we should go sing to the moon. I can’t recall now if there was another reason for that (a full moon? the winter solstice?) but all the wine was definitely a factor. And so Heidi and I found ourselves standing next to each other as we all tried to think of a song we all knew the words to. I also can’t recall what we sang but I do remember very clearly that after the song Heidi meowed like a semi-rabid amorous cat and bit my ear.
It was obviously a Chardonnay inspired moment but much like Eleanor’s “I’d do him” comment it positively filled me with mirth. Nothing makes me happier than when friends do ridiculous things that I can build on, cartoon, and tease them about. It makes no never mind to me if they are drunk or sober and, having no idea that Heidi both hated and was scared of me, I went full bore ahead, making elaborate plans to turn the bite into a source of ongoing hilarity. Lobo, who knew that Heidi was beside herself about having sank her teeth into her secret nemesis, tried everything to get me to drop it. She cajoled, threatened, and begged but as she couldn’t bring herself to tell me that Heidi didn’t like me I was hard to deter.
The next time Heidi saw me, I had a big band aid stuck on my ear. How can you be scared of someone who is so clever and funny? OK, so it was silly, stupid and ever so slightly juvenile but it was the milk in the chicory and it would be years before anyone (including Heidi) told me how much she “you sto hat” me.