The Boyfriend

Eileen W. Fisher

© Copyright 2021 by Eileen W. Fisher

Photo of high school sweethearts.

Why do first loves seem to last a lifetime?

It was the summer of ’58. We were members of the Shorehaven Beach Club in the Bronx. I was all of thirteen, a time when having a boyfriend was the be all and end all.

Having a boyfriend meant status. It would prove that I was lovable and attractive, and not just to my parents who had no choice but to love me. Perhaps, I had been wrong. When I stood before the mirror, I saw nothing but faults with the way I looked. For one, my hair was so unruly. It would never do what I wanted it to do – flip under into the smooth pageboy hair style that was all the rage then.

The social pressure I felt was palpable. Making new girlfriends was seen as a vehicle to meet boys; after all, they could introduce you a new crowd of people. That was not all…my girlfriends and I spent countless hours creating lists of our ideal man, from the color of the boy’s hair down to his preferred activities.

But that summer, my sister’s boyfriend introduced me to his best friend, Alan. He was a year older than I, tall, slim, muscular, and so good looking. I was immediately smitten. From day one, we were a couple. We hung out together, sometimes alone, and sometimes with the other kids in our “crowd”. You could find us either at the pool, the handball court, or just hanging out on the blanket, playing endless rounds of card games.

We were great together that first year, but by the end of the following summer, not so much. As Alan began flirting with other girls, I faded into the background. At the club’s Saturday night dances, he couldn’t seem to find me, although I could easily spot him. Even then, when I walked over, his attention was elsewhere. When summer was over, I would run into him Friday nights at the Zionist youth group gathering. He ignored me, acting as if he didn’t see me, walking by without even saying hello.

I floundered, not knowing quite what to think or do. Yes, I did ask him… and no, he didn’t want to break up with me. He still loved me, or so he said. It’s just that he wanted to date other girls, too. And, we did go out together from time to time. Nothing had changed except that I was adrift, waiting for his next call. After all, I wasn’t looking to date other boys.

Not surprisingly, it was apparent to my mother that I was on stand-by when no one else was available.

Why I allowed these unrealistic expectations to dominate my life, I can’t say, other than I was a typical teenage girl. I worried that if I broke up with him, no one else would come along. I clung to hope that he would come to his senses and realize that we were meant to be together.

My Mom urged me, “Move on with your life.” We had fallen in love way too young, she said. She knew that as long as I sat by the phone waiting for him to call, I would never be open to another relationship. How could I? No one else could possibly compare to him!

However, after the summer of 1960, my mom’s advice hit home. I was lonely, and realized that Alan was not ready to make the kind of commitment I wanted from him. When I called to say that I was breaking up with him, Alan pleaded with me. He loved me; he would change…he promised. But after weeks of soul searching, I didn’t want to risk a replay of the last few months. I wanted to disentangle myself from this one-sided relationship.

But only two years later during my first year of college, when dates were few and far between, that I began to doubt myself. Perhaps I was to blame for the way he had acted. Was I too available, too easy going, too willing to make excuses for him? Should I have given him one more chance? After all, didn’t he say he loved me?

I chose to disregard all the reasons why I broke up with him, and attributed to him all sorts of qualities that weren’t really there. I made him over into my image of the perfect boyfriend. I fantasized — maybe we could start over again. Searching for a way to hear his voice, I went out on a limb, calling to invited him to a spring recital at college. I never expected him to accept… but he did.

Once seated in the auditorium, I moved really close to him. He moved away. I reached for his hand. He pulled away. Later that evening when he brought me home, I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, trying to kiss him. He withdrew.

Eileen, please.”, he said, and turned to leave.

I let myself into the apartment, crying, feeling humiliated. As usual, my Mom was waiting up for me. She said nothing. I walked by without speaking. She never brought up the subject. I never called again.

It was over.

I could no longer hold onto this fantasy of rekindling our lost relationship. He would not be my Prince Charming, waiting to sweep me off my feet. He had undeniably stepped out of my life. It was time for me to move on.

By the end of the year, I was dating. By the end of my senior year, I was married. But I never forgot Alan.

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