The moment had come.
I was going to ask Kenny Logatti to the 8th grade dance.
I pulled the phone into my lap and rehearsed my speech:
“Hi Kenny, this is Alison from your English class, the one who sits behind you. I usually wear pink high tops. I was wondering if you were going to the dance on Friday, and if you wanted to go together.”
I thought about it a little more. Should I include my last name? (I was one of six Alisons in our grade.) Maybe it would be better if I didn’t mention my shoes. I stressed over every phrasing.
I crossed out the shoe part, and added: “from Mathletes.”
I decided that I would count to twenty, then call. Okay, fifty. I tapped out the first six digits of Kenny’s number, then let my index finger hover over the last one. For two hours.
The whole endeavor might have been easier if I had been a different, more confident, teenager—one without clogged pores, an overbite, and a body shaped like the letter “i.” But there I was, cold-calling a crush who was light-years out of my league, in an attempt to shape my own destiny.
Kenny knew I wasn’t cool. Back then, there were no Facebook check-ins to highlight my social activity, no Twitter followers to tally up, no Instagram comments to show my connectedness. Instead, I broadcast my status through my off-brand jeans, my small lunchroom cluster, and the bat mitzvah I wasn’t invited to.
My adolescence was filled with social missteps that to this day still make me cringe, but most of which aren’t permanently documented for posterity. Sure, one of my yearbook photos was a doozy: sky-high bangs, Pepto-colored lipstick, and my favorite shirt, a lavender button-down trimmed with comics (which years later, upon closer inspection, I realized were actually pornographic). Luckily, that picture won’t surface if you Google me.
It’s no wonder contemporary teenagers second-guess every right-click and left-swipe; their choices are preserved forever. With a simple tap, a call goes through. A text pings. A “like” surfaces on a Facebook photo. A Snapchat picture fades like a reverse Polaroid. Through it all, every girl believes that she is in control of her own image, steering her own ship. Only in this day and age, every mistake, every heartbreak, and the fluidity of every friendship follows permanently in her wake.
With ice-cold fingers, I entered Kenny’s phone number and listened to the phone ring once, twice, three times, until I heard the familiar click of an answering machine. Oh no! This wasn’t how it was supposed to go down! I frantically searched for my written speech, and then—
BEEEEEEEP! “Oh crap! Um, hi thisisAlison math class. Dance I wonderedFriday ifyou’regoing AAAAGH We could—” BEEEEEEEP!
And that was it. There was no redo, no chance to self-edit. To this day, I have no idea if Kenny ever heard it, since there was no notification of “message delivered.”
All that remains is the private memory of a teenage girl with enormous bangs, sitting on the edge of her bed twirling a phone cord and reading a crumpled speech, trying so damn hard to be brave.
A memory that I am now sharing for the world to “like.”