Lost Love’s Labors

candy hearts“If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

Twelfth Night, Act 1, scene 1, 1-3

In truth, forsooth, Duke Orsino’s strategy here isn’t worth a damn — the notion that we can cure ourselves of love-sickness by over-indulging in it.

To this day, I mourn the boy on whom I had a passionate hopeless unrequited crush from age 9 until probably age 22.  Or perhaps, with the hindsight of what passes for maturity,  I just mourn those wasted years.

In third grade, I was standing outside my small New England elementary school on a cold grey Valentine’s morning with my best friend, Pauline.  We had both dressed up for the occasion (knee socks, saddle shoes, plaid flannel jumpers & white cotton blouses with a little lace at the throat).  We were both smitten with the handsome and charming Scotty Joseph (yes, a third-grade boy can indeed be handsome and charming, at least through the eyes of a third-grade girl).  He approached us with a big engaging grin, a box of those pastel-colored candy hearts in his hand.  We held our breaths.  He tossed that box to Pauline with a bold deliberate wink — there was no question of a badly-aimed throw meant perhaps for me.

To this day, I can’t abide those heart candies.  I did eventually pick up the shattered pieces of my life and move on.  But every Valentine’s Day, I find myself right back on that frozen playground, trying bravely not to cry.

Unrequited passion (passion, mind you, not puppy love) for young Mr. Joseph kept me out of trouble for many years; I should thank my protective stars for all that fervent chaste despair. Scotty was voted the high school’s most-likely-to-succeed, elected student body president, and appointed yearbook editor; I was flat-chested and shy and non-athletic and wore glasses and got As and played the violin.  And I only proved good enough for the third-tier wrestling cheer-leading squad, where they put all the plain awkward chubby girls with body odor and black teeth (“Toe hold! Toe Hold! We want a Toe Hold!”).  It all meant social death at my small high school.

I might have been OK with a chest.

Scotty did finally ask me on a date one summer in college.  It was my first formal date ever;  I was 20 years old (I kid you not about having saved myself for him).  I was so nervous I couldn’t speak.  It was the worst night of my life — and probably his.  No second chance was ever forthcoming.

I went to my thirtieth high school reunion — my first — hoping to see him and apologize for that date (also, it must be confessed, to demonstrate that late bloomers are often worth waiting for).  I marched right up (OK, it took a Scotch or two) and told him my regretful story of tongue-tied love.  He was gracious and charming and said he didn’t remember the evening like that at all — whereupon I was smitten anew.

I didn’t admit that I still mourn Pauline’s 1968 candy hearts.  Never confess the full extent of your obsessions.