Oh Internet, I hope you're buckled in, because this is going to be one wild ride. I've told you a little bit about how Sean and I met, I think, but I'm not sure I've gone into it in as much detail as is warranted. I don't think you've really felt the pain of my 16-year-old self sufficiently yet, and since this month marks the anniversary of the ELEVEN YEARS I have now known Sean, we're going to take a little trip back in time.
Join me, if you will, in Darien, Connecticut, July 1996, when I'd just returned home from boarding school in England to spend the summer vacation with my family.
At this point, I feel that there should be some sort of visual representation of me at 16, but sadly I can't find a photograph. I can tell you, however, that I had braces on my teeth, mousy shoulder-length hair that I doused liberally with Sun-In, and an expression that was permanently set to Bershon Beyond Belief. Sean, on the other hand, was really seriously hot---well, for 1996, anyway. Here is his driver's license, which he got renewed the day we met. He'd just turned 20 a few weeks before---an older man! the scandal!---and had obviously been listening to some serious Pearl Jam right before the shutter snapped.
Anyway, as I was saying, I was home for the summer vacation---my first ever in the States---and I was determined to make it THE BEST SUMMER EVER. What was my mission? My mission was to meet a boy. Because boys, you see, were few and far between at my all-girls boarding school in the English countryside; sure, we all lusted after David Charvet and Jon Bon Jovi, but a real live boy? We didn't really have a clue what one was.
And so my goal for the summer of 1996, my sixteenth on the planet, was not only to meet a boy, but to meet An American Boy. I aimed high, I tell you. My best friend Anna had come to stay with me---yes, the one who has a baby now---and our boy-hunting arena of choice was the local beach, a tiny half-moon of sand and surf that faced out into the Long Island Sound. Angsty teens often went there at sunset to sit on the rocks and write terrible poetry bemoaning the fact that Daddy had bought them a silver Mercedes instead of a champagne-colored one, and it was at this beach that Anna and I were supposed to be meeting some boy Anna knew, Jay, who actually never showed up.
What's that? This story is boring? Oh, that must be because I'm telling it with the detachment and clarity of someone who is now eleven years older and wiser, someone who never thought that the scruffy skater boy she obsessed over so many summers ago would one day turn into the slightly harassed 31-year-old she now chides for never wiping down the kitchen counters. I think what we need here is AN ACTUAL RECORD of the first flush of teenage infatuation, an as-it-happened log of how, exactly, I knew this man was the one from the moment I set eyes on him. My diaries from 1996? Why, yes, I do have them! I have them right here, in fact! How funny you should ask. Let's take a peek, shall we?
July 28, 1996 "......So Jay never showed up because he thought the concert was canceled, but we did meet several more people, and kind of had fun hanging out with them. This guy turned up, riding a bike, and he had curly dark blonde hair, nice eyes, and looked kind of Irish. He was pretty good-looking and there was something about him I liked, but I didn't know what yet. He was called Sean and he seemed really shy."
And what about our first conversation? Ever wonder what that was about?
"...He said "thanks" a couple of times when I threw him the hackysack he'd dropped, and finally we had a very short conversation. This girl Sharon was in a fight with this girl Melissa and as she punched her (ed note: wow, Sharon was hardcore!), Sean and I turned to each other and went "wow," then he went "I didn't actually think she'd do it!" and I said something like "no, nor did I!" Then as she came back, I went "is she laughing or crying?" and he went "I think she's laughing." Later, he was on the phone when I was trying to call my parents to come pick me up (ed note: payphones! how quaint!) and I was thinking "I hope he's not talking to his girlfriend." I think then I realized that I quite liked him, but not that much."
Are we all okay? Did we all survive that cloud of teenage turmoil and self-doubt? Oh good, because there's more. A few days later, Anna and I went back to the beach to meet Jay again---who did, to his credit, turn up this time---and it was then that things got really exciting.....
".....We were sitting on a bench, waiting for Jay, and Anna suddenly said "is that Sean over there?" I thought she was joking, or trying to cheer me up, but she was right! It WAS Sean! He rode over on his bike, circled around and went "hey!" to us, then rode back over to his friends. And I was like "wow! Sean said hi to us!" and then Jay showed up, and I forgot that I was angry at Anna, and Anna explained the Sean situation to Jay."
But what happened next? No, seriously, sixteen-year-old Holly, how did you decide to pursue this boy you liked? What cunning methods of flirtation did you use?
"...So we came up with a subtle plan to walk over to him and say hi. But we walked over.....and then back again, without talking to him. Anna was desperate because she wanted to hang out with Jay, so she marched over to Sean and his friends AGAIN, with me tagging behind, and said "Hi....Sean, right?" Then she "subtly" excused herself to go and get a drink of water, and Jay tagged along, and this was my cue to stay and talk to Sean, but I couldn't. So I said "I think I'll get some water, too" and I followed Anna, and she said "HOLLY! THE POINT WAS THAT YOU STAYED AND TALK TO HIM!" She only had 25 minutes to hang out with Jay, so she FORCED me to go back and talk to Sean, so in a very un-me fashion, I confidently strolled over and gave some line about Anna and Jay wanting to be alone and me not wanting to feel left out, and was it okay to hang out with them for a while?"
And? And? I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat!
"...They all said sure, and maybe it was my imagination, but Sean sounded the most enthusiastic. So I actually SAT DOWN next to Sean and basically just listened in on their conversation! Sometimes I think Sean was looking at me, and sometimes he talked directly JUST to me."
Oh Internet, if only you knew how many times now I wish he wasn't talking directly JUST to me, times when he says things like "isn't it your turn to unload the dishwasher?" and "hey, one of the cats just puked."
So there it is: my teenage soul laid bare on the eleventh anniversary of meeting Sean. And now I'd like you to do me a favor---go and grab the closest 16-year-old girl you can find and give her a big hug. Tell her the boy she likes right now probably won't turn out to be the love of her life, he'll probably just be the ass that makes out with her best friend at junior prom, but that there's a small chance---a very, very small chance---that he actually will become everything she wants him to become. Perhaps, eleven years from now, he'll wake up before her every morning and bring her coffee when the alarm goes off, or drive her car to the garage at 7am to get the smashed window fixed, or admit that yes, he fell in love with her the minute he saw her all those years ago on the beach too, braces and all. And if he does, if he turns out to be someone worth keeping, you make sure you tell her how lucky she is, how it hardly ever works out like that, how incredibly rare and magical it is when it does.