Other Boys & High School Hearts
“She was a really cool kisser and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian. She was a damn good dancer but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend.”_The Hold Steady, “Stuck Between Stations.”
There is a book by Ben Tanzer called You Can Make Him Like You. I will tell you first that Ben is my friend. But I didn’t really know him when I read the book. I read four or five Ben Tanzer books last summer because that’s kinda what I do; I find a book by an author I like and then I go back and read most if not all of their books. Last summer, I was on book tour, promoting my debut short story collection and rallied the writing/reading troops and ended up reading in a lot of different cities, meeting a lot of people. In Chicago, I met and read with Ben and the glorious Megan Stielstra, my dawg Paul Luikart, my buddy James Yates and my BFF and kind, thoughtful beta reader Steve Karas at the lovely City Lit books. It was the best and I loved it. There is a podcast of Ben and me talking afterwards, sharing gin. I laugh a lot and sound confused. This prettymuch sums up my personality.
It was great, things were great and Ben signed my copy of You Can Make Him Like You and I loved that because I love Ben and I love the book. You Can Make Him Like You is the kinda book I like to read because it’s about men and women and relationships and families and trying and getting better and failing and drinking and loving and fighting and making up and music. I read You Can Make Him Like You and listened to the song “You Can Make Him Like You” by The Hold Steady and the entire album, Boys and Girls in America. That book, that album will forever and always remind me of last summer—the busiest, fullest, starriest, brightest, most exciting summer of my life. I believe books and music and albums and songs and people come into my life and your life at the perfect time because Our Good Lord wants them to.
“You can wear his old sweatshirt, you can cover yourself like a bruise.” _The Hold Steady, “You Can Make Him Like You.”
I listened to Boys and Girls in America all summer and emotionally attached myself to it the same way I emotionally attached myself to my favorite albums when I was in high school. Under the Table and Dreaming, August and Everything After, Grace, Ten, Under the Pink and and.
Boys and Girls in America reminded me of all of those great 90s albums I listened to when I locked myself in my room in high school and wrote in my journal for hours and hours and hours, only pausing to talk to one of my friends on the phone about school, boys, life, whatever. I wrote in my journal and listened to a lot of Tori Amos, Indigo Girls, Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan. I wrote about boys in my journal, I wrote about girls in my journal. I kept track of any song lyric/quote that spoke to me in a black notebook I called THE QUOTE BOOK.
I don’t know if I’ve ever identified more quickly with a lyric than I do with a song from that Hold Steady album called “Stuck Between Stations” when he’s all like “She was a really cool kisser and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian. She was a damn good dancer but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend.” That’s why I loved it when I heard the new Taylor Swift and she sang “I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt.” My high school heart lit up. I still have that good girl faith. I am a preacher’s daughter from the South. I also love kissing and wasn’t that great of a girlfriend. I’m Christian-strict about like, taking the Lord’s name in vain and not-all-that-strict about like, church everysingleSunday or a well-placed F bomb or like, beers.
I wasn’t that great of a girlfriend because there’s always other boys, there’s always other boyfriends/there’s always other boys and you can make him like you. I got dumped the day before Valentine’s Day when I was a junior in high school and it sucked. It was 1995 and it sucked bad for like a week. But there’s always other boys. This is not to say that I didn’t sob over this, because I did, because I was sixteen and because when you’re fifteen-ish, somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them. But also ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. And me and this boy, for the record, we are still friends. I love his wife, his babies. It all worked out! “You Oughta Know” was released that summer on my seventeenth birthday in 1995. Amen. I needed that song/album so bad that summer because boys, amirite? THANK YOU, CLARITY. THANK YOU, ALANIS.
I really didn’t date a lot in high school but maybe I did, I don’t know. I had one semi-serious boyfriend for almost a year, another for a little less than that. Another almost-boyfriend for not nearly that long. There was a boy I liked only because he was tall and handsome and played on the football and baseball teams and later, was voted most attractive. I kissed other boys when I was dating them all. Looking back, I guess that’s awful. Sorry, boys. Either way I wasn’t one of those girls who had a crush on a boy who didn’t know she existed. I’ve always been a rational person. If someone didn’t/doesn’t like me, they didn’t/don’t like me. So what. There’s always other boys.
And mostly I just wanted a boy to think about.” _Blake Nelson, Girl.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t feel deeply. It just means it’s not my personality to get all torn up about stuff like that. If someone didn’t want to date me, that’s fine. What a weirdo. (I’m half-kidding but you get what I mean.) It’s less about me thinking I’m so great and more about the fact that there are a lot of people in the world and everybody got their something. I have been with the same man for 20 years. WHAT DO I KNOW.
This. This is what I know: there were always other boys. Yes! Absolutely I’m glad I found my person. I’m glad albums like Boys and Girls in America are here to remind me of a lot of things. Being a teenage girl, being a human, being in love, being in hate, kissing a boy because he had pretty hair, listening to Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle in a pickup truck behind the coffee shop and kissing a boy whose mouth tasted like tobacco, making out in a van for no other reason than because we got a flat tire, then got Chinese food.
I am always searching for things that remind me of those feels. The good ones. I had/have the bad ones too but no. I mean the good ones. I love writing those stories and reading those books and listening to those albums and re-watching those movie/TV scenes. I also know I love relationshippy books like Girl by Blake Nelson and This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell and any kind of well-written books like that. Those are my favorite things to read about/write about. The 90s, complicated relationships, breaking and making out and up.
BUT WHAT DO I KNOW. (Well, I know what I like.)
“I am struck that it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do, life keeps cranking along and you can either be part of it or not, your call.”_Ben Tanzer, You Can Make Him Like You.
All right. This. What I know is this: there were always other boys, until there weren’t. When I met my husband, there were no other boys. Just him. And if what they say is “nothing is forever,” then what makes love the exception? Because Outkast. And because there has to be something, I guess. Love! And maybe a lot of things last forever. Like, nostalgia. And the hearts of teenage girls. Forever-ever, even. I think so. I feel it.