Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In which my college boyfriend tells me he loves me and I don't know what to say back because he got me out of bed (I was skipping statistics)

I have changed R.M.'s name to Calvin because it is easier to type.

I went back to school after Christmas break. I had a boyfriend. I guess. I had won my bet. I had gotten him to kiss me. Was that enough? Or did I want to keep seeing Calvin?

I must have, because we did indeed date.

"Dating" meant going to the movies at the Chemistry lecture hall on Saturday nights for a dollar. Or going dancing with a group of friends, most of whom couldn't have cared less about the liquor we were not legal to buy - we were at the Winchester Club on Westheimer to two step and polka.

Primo thinks country western dancing is dumb, but that is because Primo thinks he cannot dance and has never tried to two step. Primo might have had a better shot at getting laid in college if he had spent more time dancing than drinking. And if he hadn't been obsessed with a crazy (seriously) girl who used him. Just saying.

He will learn to dance this winter, though, when we can't play tennis any more. He promised. We dropped in on the polka class at Polish Fest and he did just fine, as I knew he would, because he is a natural athlete with a good sense of rhythm. The teaching at the salsa classes we took last year was not so good. Polka Society teachers, though, are about 80 years old, patient and encouraging. One teacher helped Primo get the knack of it and told him, "Youse are generally doing pretty good today," which made Primo say that maybe dancing wasn't so bad after all.

His dancing with me is my Christmas present from two years ago. Last year, his present was that I do not have to visit his mom and dad with him, although how will I ever get enough material for a good tell-all nasty out-law memoir if I don't spend more time with them? Am I willing to make the sacrifice to get that bestseller and the condo on Key Biscayne, just five miles down the road from Palacio de Jugos with its lechon, arepas and batidos de guayaba?

Yes. I think I am. If I can get more drugs. Did you know I had a migraine for 12 straight days last year in anticipation of the visit and during the visit itself? I need painkillers and preferably something that will let me sleepwalk through the experience so instead of getting mad and arguing with his dad, I just smile beatifically and say, "That's fantastic [how you were never held accountable for your performance and held the taxpayers of your state hostage to your union/tenured demands]!"

By the middle of sophomore year, we could all get into bars without fake IDs because we were finally 19, not the 18 we had been the year before when we had to borrow IDs from upperclassmen. Karen, who was 5'1" and brunette, had borrowed an ID from Bea, who was 5'10" and blonde. The bouncer just looked at it and grunted. And took Karen's two dollars.

Still, the upperclassmen hadn't always wanted to lend their driver's licenses to us, so during our freshman year, my friends Anita, Heather, Rene and I were forced to go to the flea market held every Saturday at I-59 and Chimney Rock to get fake IDs. Someone knew someone who sold IDs way in the back of the market, past the bright cotton Oaxaca dresses, the serapes, the counterfeit Long and Silky shampoo, the tamales and the used auto parts spread out on a blanket on the ground because when I need a part for my car, the flea market is the first place I think of.

Our fake IDs did not look remotely like legitimate Texas driver's licenses, what with their greenish cast, but they had the right birthdates on them, as in, making us each ten believable years older.

It's not like the bars cared, anyhow.

Calvin and I went to movies and danced and ate at the gyro place on Westheimer and at Marini's Empanadas right across the street* and took long walks around campus in the evening, which you can do all year in Houston because there is NO SNOW and talked about whatever two horny college sophomores talk about when they are not necking, which was our favorite activity and which we usually did in the physics lab or on top of the geology building, as both of us had roommates who did not leave the room enough.

He was usually late to pick me up, which annoyed me to no end. I hate it when people are late and I especially hate it when it is Saturday night and the reason they are late is because they were helping Jim or Scott or Bob with the physics homework.

It's Saturday night.

Tell them to wait.

The kissing made up for it, though. For a guy who had never kissed a girl before, except one little kiss from Candace Allegra C., Calvin's big high school crush, who, I am sad to say, is showing the effects of never having used sunblock on her face her entire life and I know this how? Because I am a googlestalker with way too much time on her hands and I remember names.

Wear sunblock and a hat. This is what I am telling you. Do you want to look like an old lady when you are only 46? No I didn't think so. Heather's mom tried to warn us when we were in college and would sit on the sundeck but did we listen to her? No I did not and I regret it now.

Also, take the stairs as much as you can when you are young before your butt starts to fall. Better to keep that from happening in the first place than to try to fight gravity once it's too late. You can thank me later.

We had been dating for a couple of months and things were going swimmingly. I had some status now as a girl with a boyfriend. Not that it was so hard to get male attention at Rice: the male students outnumbered the female students two to one. Still. I had a boyfriend. I wasn't thinking any further than the next weekend.

A few months into the semester, I was sleeping late and skipping class, which was my wont, which goes a long way to explaining my college GPA vs my grad school GPA. Did you know that if you prepare for class, go to class, sit in the front row, and ask questions when you don't understand something that you do a lot better on tests than if you 1. don't do the readings and 2. don't attend class?

I had a huge misunderstanding of what a roll was. I thought it was a class so easy that you didn't even need to attend to get an A.

Wrong.

It was a class where it was easy to get an A if you prepared, attended and asked questions.

Who knew?

I thought I was so smart taking probability and statistics for academic majors (as opposed to P&S for science and engineering majors). I'd already taken calculus and differential equations. Shouldn't P&S have been a piece of cake?

Well sure.

If I had gone to class. And when I took P&S in grad school, I did very well. I had learned my lesson.

But as a college sophomore who had just changed her major from electrical engineering with a concentration in biomedical engineering so I could go to med school and then design bionics to English, I was not so clueful.

Hence, the skipping class.

That morning, I heard a knock on my door, which annoyed me as it awoke me at the crack of dawn hour of 9:15.

It was Calvin.

Now that I think about it, why wasn't he in class? He never skipped. People borrowed his notes. They went to him for homework help.

He had something to tell me, he blurted out.

Not until I've had a shower, I told him.

I made him wait while I bathed and wondered what on earth he could be so nervous about. Was he going to break up with me? Would I be upset if he did?

I emerged from the bathroom, dressed, I suppose, because we were not at That Stage. We were still at the hand-holding, kissing, and touching only above the neck stage. Yes, it is completely possible for college students to be virginal. We were of the No Sex Before Marriage group, remember?

And he told me he was in love with me.

Well.

Nobody had ever said that to me before. Nobody who wasn't a relative.

I had no idea what to say to him.

So I told him I had to get to class.

As soon as I could, I called my mom and dad. What am I supposed to tell this guy? I demanded.

They laughed. Whatever I wanted to, they told me.

I thought about it and a few days later, as we took a late-evening walk through the quad, I told him I loved him, too. Then we talked about getting married because that is the logical progression for two college sophomores in love, one of whom plans to get a PhD and would not be ready to support a family for many years.








* Note to self: get a dozen empanadas - cream cheese and blueberry, pizza, banana and dulce de leche - when Primo and I go to Houston next month for our 25 year reunion.

Monday, September 13, 2010

In which I stalk my college boyfriend before we start dating so he will want to date me because every man wants an obsessed woman

When I left you, I was on a "date" with Jake, my physics lab partner, and had just met Calvin, who later became my boyfriend, then not my boyfriend when I met his hot friend Seth who had the fabulous abs, then my boyfriend again when I realized Seth had no interest whatsoever in me, then my fiance' and then not my fiance,' but only after my mom had reserved the church and I had bought the dress.

I took one look at Calvin and thought, Well now he's a hottie, isn't he? only I didn't think the word "hottie" because it was not yet in use in the early '80s. "Stud" and "studmuffin" were the terms of art back then. "Hunk" was also used, although "hunkalicious" would not find popularity until 2009, way too late to use for Calvin.

But they all applied.

He was hot.

Even more appealing to me than his smoldering dark good looks and cute smile was the fact that he was completely, totally uninterested in me. No vibe whatsoever.

Nothing I like better than a challenge.

I'd had only a date or two my freshman year of college, if you could even call them dates. A date implies interest on the part of both parties, not an interested guy and a girl who's too startled at being asked out to know how to say, "no." It implies that the girl know when a guy tells her that he has an extra ticket to the Tom Petty concert and does she want to go that he is really asking her on a date, not trying to keep the ticket from going to waste, because if that's all he wanted, he could have asked his roommate. But some girls will just go because they've never been to a rock concert before (really!) and then be shocked, shocked when the guy tries to hold their (her?) hand because when has she ever shown any interest in this guy?

See also, "I go to a play with my roommate's brother's roommate and then he walks me back to my room and won't leave so I sit with my roommates to watch TV and pull out my knitting, then go to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror with the cute guys who walk past our room and invite anyone who wants to go with them."

I needed a strategy to make Calvin mine.

Part of it was to lose 25 pounds.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know it's what's inside that matters, but 18 year old men who can choose from an entire cafeteria of girls will choose the ones they find most visually appealing and select for personality later. I needed to catch his eye before he would even talk to me.

Over the summer, I de-chubbed. What a pain in the neck. Eating less, exercising more. I hate it all.

But when I returned to school that fall, there was less of me to love and I had a better haircut.

Then my roommates, who were in on the plan with me, and I began to include Calvin in our group activities. We were already friends with some of his friends, so it wasn't too hard.

He was a hard nut to crack. Study, study, study. He was majoring in electrical engineering and physics and had appointed himself the homework helper to the world. He didn't have much free time.

Yet I persisted. I would visit him and his roommates - just saying hi! Just making myself obnoxious!

Over Christmas break, I saw my chance. My family lived in San Antonio. So did his. I proposed that we get together and do something while we were home. Probably too surprised to say no, he agreed.

My friends bet me that I couldn't get him to kiss me. He was too shy, they said. He wasn't interested in girls. Or in me. Fine. Show me the money.

What did we do? I can't remember. Maybe we went to a movie. I do remember that he picked me up. (He had his own car. He was an Only.)

When he dropped me off at the end of the evening, he walked me to the door. Took my hand. Kissed it.

Oh no, I told him. Not there. Here. And I pointed to my lips.

He gave me an awkward peck.

I was disappointed. Really? That was it?

You can do better than that! I exclaimed.

He tried again.

Practice did make perfect.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In which I meet my college boyfriend, who later became my fiance' but then I changed my mind about getting married and he married my roommate instead

Let me be clear about one thing from the outset: my college boyfriend, Calvin, is a great guy. My decision not to marry him had nothing to do with his being a jerk (he wasn't a jerk - I dated him for three years - even I don't put up with jerkness for that long) and everything to do with my being only 22 years old at the time. Twenty two is very young to marry. It's also young to make career decisions, but what can you do?

My freshman year of college, beginning of the second semester, it snowed. In Houston. This happens once every gajillion years or so. Houston is usually quite humid (= Hell is the staging ground for Houston) but on the snow day, the air got really dry. My eyes got dry. That was back in the day when I wore hard contact lenses. Dry eyes + hard contacts = scratched eyes, which meant a trip to the ER (had I known then what I know now, I never would have wasted medical resources like that, but it felt as if someone was pouring acid in my eyes and I was 18 and didn't know what else to do). They rinsed my eyes and told me to keep patches on them for a few days.

My roommates kindly drew me a wardrobe of eyes to wear over the patches and escorted me to the commons for meals and to my classes. I didn't, however, go to my first physics lab (I was an engineering major before I changed to the oh so practical English), which was when everyone picked their lab partners. I was partnerless when I showed up for the second class. So was Jake, who had twisted his ankle playing basketball. He hobbled and I squinted into class.

It was destiny.

We were great lab partners because we would calculate what our results should be (density of water? rate of gravity? easy!) and set up the experiment to get the results we wanted, which meant it took us half the time it did the other students.

Suckers.

Our labbie might not have approved, but bless his Korean graduate student heart, we couldn't understand a word he said, so even if he had been telling us to tear it all down and start over, we didn't know.

This method didn't hurt Jake too much. He got a PhD in chemistry from CalTech, which makes me think his technique wasn't so far off.

Naturally, I developed a crush on Jake because he was funny and smart, which is the lethal combination that always gets me.

One day, as we walked back from lab to our dorms, Jake asked me, "Do you want to go to [this dorm dinner]?"

I paused. What did he mean? Was he asking me on a date or was this an in-theory question, like, "Would you like to be two inches taller and 20 pounds lighter but with bigger bosoms?"

Well duh.

Who wouldn't?

I answered cautiously. "With you?"

Wouldn't you be concerned? What if I had answered, "Yes!" and he had said, "Well I hope someone asks you."

Then I would have felt dumb.

"Yes, with me!" he said impatiently.

Well yes then!

I was so excited. Maybe my feelings were reciprocated.

They weren't. Jake just wanted a date for the event. I don't even remember how I figured out he was not at all interested in me but it didn't matter, because his roommate, Calvin, was also at this event and without a date.

And really cute.

And really smart.

I looked at him and thought, "That's the man I'm going to marry."

And I almost did.

But it took some work to get to that point.

More on the Calvin, who had almost never kissed a girl, story next time.