My BFF and I spent hours in her bedroom smoking cigarettes, pressing rewind and play on her mixed tape in an attempt to memorize the lyrics to the Stray Cats' "Sexy & 17" and Spandau Ballet's "True." We danced around the room, blowing kisses to posters of Rod Stewart, John Taylor from Duran Duran, and Mick Jagger. Her walls were plastered with Tiger Beat pull-out posters and random pages ripped from music magazines. Among the ashtray with half-smoked cigarettes were two twin beds with matching comforters and shams. They were white with little pink flowers all over -- a blunt contrast to the teenager attitude that dominated the room. It was 1983; MTV had debuted; Marlboro Lights were $2.17 a pack and we thought we owned our world.
Our weekends of driving around aimlessly with our friend who had a car gave way to weekends at my BFF's new boyfriend's house. Her boyfriend owned the house, threw the parties and abandoned all rules. I was 13, and she 15 years old.
My best friend always got the attention. She was tall, thin, tan and blonde and had an air of confidence that overshadowed my awkward frame. I had wiry red hair that a brush could not contain, glow-in-the-dark white skin, and wore whatever clothes my mom's church voucher could afford -- which were usually Miller's Outpost indigo blue 501 Levis (stone-washed levis were the style) and a t-shirt. She got the catcalls and whistles -- which we considered compliments -- while we walked into town.
It was October 1, 1983 and, on this night as on many other occasions, I tried to look like a girl. Sounds easy enough, but I was pretty uncomfortable in "girls" clothes. I remember one outfit I had recently bought at the swap meet. The pants were cotton, with pink and white vertical stripes; the t-shirt was white with "Stray Cats" written in pink lettering. Pink equals girl, right?
So we walked to the party with our night's supply of Marlboro Lights and the swagger of teenagers. I felt the privilege of knowing the party host as my friend, and I claimed our spot on the couch in front of the television cabinet blaring "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer on MTV. On other weekends, we spent hours chain-smoking cigarettes and lip-syncing to the videos. On this night, the couch was our roost for the evening. We took turns going down to the basement to listen to the band or to the kitchen to refresh our Strawberry Hill and 7-up DIY wine cooler.
I noticed him leaning up against the door jamb as I entered the kitchen. He was tall, wore a white t-shirt and Levis and had his left ear pierced. I was in love with Nicholas Cage in the movie in Valley Girl and decided that he looked just like Cage's character, Randy. After a few glances, I mustered the courage to ask him for a light. He told me it was his 29th birthday. After a guessing game of how old I was, I revealed that I was 13. He lit my cigarette and, moments later, we were downstairs listening to the band. At one point he turned and kissed me. I was happily shocked. He said, "I hope this isn't a novelty to you." I had no idea what that meant, but said "No" anyway. I later looked it up in the dictionary, but still didn't understand the comment.
Over the next four years, I considered him my boyfriend even though we never really went out. He would usually call my friend's house from a local liquor store around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to see if I was there. It usually gave me enough time to jump in the shower and try to look cute for him. If I wasn't there, he would come to my house and knock on my bedroom window. I would sneak out through the window and back in before anyone woke up. We never really went anywhere, except to park his car in a secluded area and have sex. I always asked him if we could go on a real date, but he inevitably had a smart remark and referred to our dates as "real dates." Aside from never going to a movie or dinner or to the beach, I didn't really think there was anything wrong with our relationship -- until I told two adult friends about it in the excited way only a 13-year-old can. They both said he was too old for me. They did not mirror my happiness, at all. I stopped telling anyone.
Thirty years later, I can find him on Facebook. He looks exactly the same except for his distended gut and eligibility to join AARP (American Association of Retired People) and claim senior discounts. Under other circumstances I would "Friend" him, but I can't. Instead I will check his Facebook page when curiosity comes over me. It's like a car accident: I tell myself not to turn my head, but feel compelled to look.
I feel helpless, really. His page features pictures and video of his niece -- aged four or five. She will be 13 one day. I see this child and am struck by the daunting thought of whether he will prey on her -- or already has. What should I do? Has he used the Internet to sneak into the bedrooms of young adolescent girls in a modern variation of how he slipped into mine?
Follow Angelica V. Hernandez, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theoryofhope