While the ladies usually know me as a heartbreaker, I’ve had my fair share of getting my heart broken. The first time I remember getting rejected by a girl was Jenn in 4th grade. It was recess and I walked up to Jenn, who was with her friends Alyssa and Alex (which was my first mistake – going in alone against three terrifying eight year olds), and told her I liked her. She said that she didn’t like me, and having no idea how to react, I quickly told Alyssa that I liked her now before running away. Things with Alyssa and myself didn’t work out either.
But my first real breakup came two years later. Mary and I started dating because of the 6th grade dance. It was early December and my dad drove three of my guy friends and I to the middle school, where the cafeteria was turned into a wild dance floor. Ok fine, maybe they just moved the tables to the side and had one table setup for the DJ. But it was obviously magical. You know that classic movie setup? Where the girls and guys at the middle school dance are standing awkwardly at two sides of the room? Our school had the perfect way of getting around that awkward situation. They opened the gym up and filled it with a bunch of basketballs. So the girls hung out in the cafeteria while the guys ran around and got sweaty in the gym across the hall. It was really romantic.
Eventually, the guys got tired of basketball and made their way back to the dance floor, and this is when the magic happened. After a countless number of dancey songs, “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You” by ‘N Sync came on. This was my chance. I walked up to Mary and asked her if she wanted to dance. She said yes! There was a nice bit of slow dancing and then the song ended. We both went back to hang out with our respective genders, but now my ears were waiting for the next slow song to come on. The DJ announced last song, and of course “Last Dance” came on. Slow song! Nice! We started to slow dance again, but this is when I learned that “Last Dance” is really just a tease of a slow song and gets all upbeat towards the end. So we didn’t really get two full songs of slow dancing in, but it still meant we were a couple.
The next two weeks were marvelous. We hung out at each other’s lockers, talked in the lunch line, and get yelled at by Mrs. Ferree for laughing too much in English class. It was true love. Then I remembered Christmas was coming. I needed to buy her something. Something great. So I asked her what she wanted and she said the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack. Easy. No big deal at all. Of course, I didn’t have any money, so I went to the place I knew I could get things for cheap: eBay. I had just learned about eBay and it’s great deals, and I managed to find the soundtrack there for $5. Perfect.
The CD arrived a few days later and it was not great. The front of the CD case had shattered on its journey through the mail. Also, it looked like the CD was used, since it wasn’t in any kind of wrapping. This is when I learned that everything on eBay was not new. Now I had a used CD with a smashed jewel case and tomorrow was the last day of school before winter break. I would have to just give it to her and hope for the best. To this day I still wonder why I was not smart enough to go into my CD collection and just switch out a perfectly good jewel case for this smashed one, but my 6th grade brain just wasn’t working on that level. Here came Bryan with the used CD that had a smashed case. He’s a real winner.
The next day at school Mary showed up at my locker to exchange gifts. We swapped similarly looking presents and I unwrapped mine to find she had gotten me the 3 Doors Down CD. The new, wrapped, unbroken, 3 Doors Down CD. I was going to throw up. She opened my gift and I could only describe her look as confusion. I apologized and made up some story about how I had dropped it so it cracked and then I had to take the cellophane off to fix it, and she did her best to smile and thank me. Maybe we could get past this.
I spent the entire morning feeling like a failure, and then lunch came along. I was eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and saw Mary showing off a teddy bear to some of her friends at the next table over. Where did she get a teddy bear? I didn’t give her a teddy bear. I gave her the awesome Charlie’s Angel soundtrack she wanted. I subtly pulled aside one of her friends and asked who gave her the bear. She told me this guy named Alex got it for her for Christmas. Nice one Alex. Get someone a Valentine’s Day gift for Christmas. She didn’t even want a bear. Apparently she did want a bear, because when we came back from break in January she was now dating Alex, a fact that took me a few days of thinking that her and I were still dating to realize.
I am someone who is prone to developing crushes. I’ll find a girl who is funny and cute and if they give the slightest inkling that they may be into me I proceed to have a crush on them. Yes, this is probably something a four year old would do, but it all started back when I was four.
The year was 1993. I was starting my first day of preschool at Susanna Wesley School in Shelton, CT. My mom spent the morning getting me ready; She put me in a red polo shirt and moussed up my hair with a strong part to the left - it was the start of my greaser/bad boy look. Anyway my mom dropped me off at the preschool and all of a sudden I was left to fend for myself. No mom. No dad. No little sister. It was just me, the teacher, and fifteen other four year olds.
And it was AWESOME. The school had a sweet playground we would play on everyday and toys that were much more fun than my toys at home. The coolest part about preschool was probably the computer. In the back corner of the room there was a computer that, to my knowledge, only had one game on it. The game let you make people’s faces with different eyes, ears, noses, etc. and then put those faces on different bodies. The best part was the heads were comedically large compared to the bodies. I don’t know why we enjoyed this game so much but I guess that’s what happens when you are four.
One day I was working on a face creation and Kelly, a girl in the class was waiting behind me. After meticulously creating the face of the man I was making, I decided to stick his head to the body of a ballerina. Kelly cracked up when she saw this and I smiled. The next day Kelly and I built a tower together with cardboard bricks. The following day we shared snack together. I think sharing snack is the four year old equivalent of going steady, so it was at that point I realized I was in love.
When you get that ‘I may be into this girl’ feeling in your twenties, you usually tell one of your friends about it. But since I was four knew the other four year olds wouldn’t be able to understand the feelings I was having, I decided I would tell my mom how I feel about Kelly. This was a terrible idea. About a week or so into school my mom is driving me home and asks me if I’ve made any new friends. After telling her about my friends Eric and Tommy, I mention Kelly to her. She asks me to tell her more about Kelly, but instead of telling her anything else I just say “I’m going to marry her.” After laughing and prodding me a little more, my mom dropped the subject, but at least someone knew.
The next morning my mom is dropping me off at school when she passes by another mom coming out of the parking lot. They roll down the windows and start talking, and I realize IT’S KELLY’S MOM. I am squirming in my seat. I’m trying to make out what they’re talking about but I can’t clearly hear anything. Then my mom says a sentence I can clearly make out: “he says he wants to marry her.”
I froze. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily I was in the back seat and could hide my red face from Kelly’s mom. I couldn’t hear what she said in response but I knew it was over. Kelly’s mom would tell Kelly what I said and Kelly would never talk to me again. I decided I would do the smart thing and ignore Kelly now, that way she couldn’t ignore me later. This is the kind of ingenuity that only a four year old can come up with.
After that, things with Kelly were never the same. Sure I was friendly with her throughout elementary school, but I made it a point to not like her anymore because I am an idiot. In the 2nd grade I briefly had a crush on her fraternal twin sister Megan, but that never went anywhere either and it just wasn’t the same. Yes I still have crushes on girls today and still get scared of them finding out, but I’ve learned my lesson and no longer share my crushes with my mom.
Growing up, I usually avoided most things that dealt with singing and acting. I just knew they really weren’t my strong suits so I stayed away from them. When I lived in Connecticut, my family attended a pretty big Lutheran church in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Most Lutherans I’ve come across have some ties to Swedes, and the church put on a Swedish/Scandanavian play for the Saint Lucia festival each December. Essentially, December 13th celebrated this Saint and her feast and had some ties to paganism. This is what Wikipedia tells me.
Anyway, all the kids in the congregation had roles in the play. I think all the girls were either Swedish Girls or Lucia’s. The oldest girl usually played Saint Lucia and wore a wreath with candles on her head. The guys were either Swedish Boys, Lantern Boys, or Baker Boys. The first year I was in the play they had me be a Swedish Boy. This required very little acting on my part, but it did require me to wear a pair of red tights, which 8 year old Bryan did not approve of. 23 year old Bryan doesn’t approve of this either, but 8 year old Bryan really didn’t approve of it. I think there were tears involved when he found that out.
The following year I had high hopes for the Saint Lucia Festival. I knew my true calling: Lantern Boy. They just had to wear an acolyte robe and stand with a lantern the entire show. And my friend Joey was a Lantern Boy the year before and said it was so easy. When the cast list was announced after church one Sunday, I found out I was going to be…a Baker Boy. I guess this wasn’t the worst news. Joey was a Baker Boy too along with a kid a year younger than us. And I didn’t have to wear tights.
The first day of practice came along and we started to learn our songs. That’s right. This wasn’t just a play, it was a musical. And not an American musical; all of the songs were in Swedish. But that’s no big deal I can easily mouth my way through songs and get out of there unscathed. I had done that last year no problem. Then the director brought the Baker Boys the song we would be performing ourselves. The three of us had to sing a song alone!? I did not sign up for this. Give me the red tights back please.
After a few more practice sessions and a dress rehearsal, it’s the night of the big show. I’m in my baker uniform about to vomit in the wicker basket I’m carrying. I probably know 75% of the lyrics and have a 0% idea of what the lyrics mean. The show begins and we get closer and closer to our moment. Finally, we’re up. Joey’s on my left, the other kid is on my right, and the pianist starts to play the song.
The cue comes for us to sing and instincts take over. I start singing in Swedish to the tune and it’s going okay. I look over a Joey and he isn’t moving his mouth. I turn to the other kid and he’s wide-eyed at the audience with his mouth agape. That’s when I realize I only hear myself singing.
By this point I’m halfway through the song and have to keep going. Besides I’m not even in control of what’s coming out of my mouth at this point. It was probably Swedish, but it could have as easily been Chinese and I wouldn’t have known. I sing the last line and the crowd claps. Joey and the other kid quickly turn away from the mic and I follow. My bread basket is still free of vomit.
The rest of the play goes off without a hitch. Afterwards, a bunch of people I barely know come up and tell me what a good job I did. I’m sure they’re saying this to everyone, but I could have actually done a good job. To this day there’s still no way of knowing. What I do know is the following year we were rehearsing for the 5th grade musical at elementary school and my music teacher Miss Sylvester decided she was going to give me a solo in the musical. However, I ended up moving to New Jersey before the musical happened and to this day my only live stage performance was from the 1998 Saint Lucia Festival at Salem Lutheran Church in Bridgeport, CT.
Bonus! Here are the lyrics to the song I tracked down after some sleuthing on Google:
Vi komma, vi komma från Pepparkakeland
och vägen vi vandrat tillsammans hand i hand.
Så bruna, så bruna vi äro alla tre,
korinter till ögon och hattarna på sne’.
Tre gubbar, tre gubbar från Pepparkakeland,
till julen, till julen vi komma hand i hand.
Men tomten och bocken vi lämnat vid vår spis,
de ville inte resa från vår pepparkakegris.