I was sorting through a box of my old books yesterday, and I realized what a wonder, what an absolute miracle it is, that I ever managed to have any normal romantic relationships at all, given the books I read as a teenager. They were all published under imprints like “Wildfire” and “Sweet Dreams,” which probably should have been my first tip-off.
I don’t know when I realized that those books had led me down a primrose path of love that not only wasn’t very likely to happen to me, it wasn’t very likely to happen to anyone and probably all the plots were the result of the writers’ own crushed pubescent daydreams.
There comes a point in every young girl’s life when we are forced to realize that, despite what we’ve been reading, our parents are not going to jet off to Europe for the summer and send us to live with an aunt and uncle we for some reason don’t know very well but who live on a sprawling ranch, where one of the ranch hands is a quiet, moody boy with blue eyes who acts like a jerk to us so we pretend to ignore him although we aren’t really because that’s how we’re able to discover him reading a book of poetry under a tree one day on his lunch break, and we realize he has a beautiful soul to go with those beautiful eyes and we spend the rest of the summer blissfully in love until our stupid parents come back from stupid Europe and we have to go home, our heart shattered into a million pieces until he promises to write every day, the end.
If I’d have taken every plot line of these books to heart, I’d have grown up believing that:
a. You only fall in love during the summer, and then only if you’ve got at least a good base tan.
b. You only fall in love when you’re on vacation or visiting somewhere else. If you’re stuck spending the summer at home, you might as well enroll in Convent Camp.
c. Boys who act moody or jerky always secretly have a beautiful, poetic soul.
d. If there’s something horribly wrong with you, like good grades or braces, don’t worry. Once you meet a cute boy, you’ll be all right.
I remember falling in love with a boy at summer camp when I was fourteen, and I mean I went ass over teakettle for this guy. He had sandy brown hair and dark eyes and long eyelashes and knew how to play “Chariots of Fire” on the piano. From memory. Our steamy summer romance consisted of me accepting his invitation to sit on his lap one day while he played the piano in the dining hall, and my friends being sincerely scandalized at my behavior. When camp was over I went home and bought the sheet music to “Chariots of Fire” and learned to play it and never saw him again. That is how my love life usually went, but even I know that would make for a lame romance novel. Actually, my whole life would, now that I think about it. And yet for some strange reason, I’m good with that.