Thursday, April 15, 2010

I've got your old ID, and you're all dressed up like The Cure...

“Shhhhh! Do you hear that?” I said as I walked around the apartment looking for the source of the music, “It’s the Violent Femmes! I wonder where it’s coming from.” It was a Sunday evening, and my roommate and I had only been in our apartment for a week or so. We had been busy settling in, and we had yet to meet any of our new neighbors.

It was a strange mix of people in the complex. It was close enough to the university to have students as residents, but that area of town tended to be a little sketchy, so the loner next door could easily have been a drug dealer, a serial killer, or a doctoral candidate. And if you have ever been on a college campus, you know it can be a little tricky telling them apart sometimes, especially if the doctorate is in art history.

I decided that finding the other person in the neighborhood who shared my love of the Femmes was paramount at that moment, so I stepped out into the back courtyard. The sound, which, I might add, was very loud, seemed to be coming from the apartment directly behind us. So what did this stupid eighteen-year-old girl do next? I pointed and said, “Let’s go over there!” So, with a complete disregard for the fact that we could very well be raped, murdered, stuffed into a garbage bag then unceremoniously thrown into the dumpster, we decided to pay a little visit to the strangers with the awesome taste in music.

We walked right up the stairs like it was no big deal and knocked on the door. When the door opened, we were greeted warmly with smiles by the Complete Strangers inside and welcomed into the apartment. Honestly, what guy hasn’t dreamed about a couple of single girls showing up at the door unannounced, and looking for a good time? This was a dream come true for them, right?

Did it frighten me to walk into what could have been a deadly torture chamber with three strange guys taking turns violating us? Nope, I just said, “Turn up the music, and pass me a beer!” (And at forty-one, I just thank God for the discretion that comes with age.)

The apartment dwellers were a motley crew: James, the oldest, wasn’t even a student. He was ditch digger for the cable company. My nickname for him was “PT” – Power Tools! (To this day, I have no idea how he found his way into this group of college kids.) Then, there was Greg. He was super-model-skinny with a long, stringy blonde mullet and an inflection in his voice that seemed to channel Jeff Spicoli. He was from a wealthy family, and I doubt his parents were aware that his motto was “Beer first, liquor second, and school somewhere around 13 or so." Stephan, the third guy in the group, was also sporting a blonde mullet, and I’m fairly sure his role was to whine about everything and make the beer runs for us. He was in touch with his inner Cure, and had the emo thing down long before it was ever thought to be fashionable. Lastly, the apartment’s only real tenant, some artsy guy named Bruce, wasn’t even there that night, so we partied in his honor.

The next afternoon, the gorgeous weather beckoned, so my roommate and I donned our bathing suits and hit the courtyard again with our blankets, beer and music. Of course, our new pals, The Desperate Boys Club, showed up to keep us company. As we were basking in the glow of our avoidance of school and work, a voice called to us from the balcony. It was the apartment’s only paying tenant, Bruce, back from a visit home. He was in a tee shirt, ripped jeans and was rocking his own brown mullet (again with the mullets!). We invited him to join us, and I can only speculate that the moment he laid his eyes on this pasty white slacker with big hair and too much lip gloss, Sculptor Guy decided he could never live without me.

Actually, that wasn’t quite the case. Sure, he was enamored of me, smitten even, but there was one little problem: he had a girlfriend. To most, this would have been a deal breaker. For me, it was a challenge. When I want something, you need to kindly step out of my way. It will be mine. I set out on my course to sabotage this doomed relationship by “accidentally” leaving my things in his apartment and generally being completely darling and irresistible while making sure he saw more of me and less of her. The poor girl didn't stand a chance.

It worked. (Really, though, did you doubt me?) My permed hair and large shoulders pads drew him in, but my sweet, Southern charm and talent for funneling beer hooked him for good. After a few years of dating and with college soon to be a memory, I told him that, in no uncertain terms, the time had come to buy me a ring and marry me. What? I’m bossy like that. He complied, and I’ve been barking out orders, and he has been pretending not to hear me ever since.

That sunny day in the courtyard when I met Bruce is as clear to me as if it happened last week. Time has marched on, and that brave (and somewhat reckless) teenage girl is nothing more than a memory. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed, but that fateful day wasn't just last week. It was April 15, 1987.  Thank God we outgrew the mullets and shoulder pads...


  1. Didn't Stephan steal a small red miata and leave state?? Wow....... Ever time I hear Violent Femmes, I think of you!

  2. You're right!! I forgot all about that!

    Greg is all cleaned up now - married with children and a big job and a big house. He's one of Bruce's Facebook friend. :-)

  3. I had a similar motto about the girlfriends of boys I wanted "That's not a deadend, it's just a speedbump". I was brutal, too. Very cute story! Thanks for sharing!

    I'm one of your fb commenters.

  4. What a great story! There is a lesson to be learned here. I think it's "Never underestimate the power of shoulder pads."

  5. Where you went right and I always went wrong: I moved from new jersey to California to find a Spicolli. You, rightly, went for "the only paying tenant and the doctoral student


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