You’re sure you want to know about May 8th? It’s gushy, AND it’s about teenagers. Can you stomach that?
Then everybody into your sleeping bags, it’s story time!
On May 8, 1999, I met “Aardvark” at a Mormon youth activity. He was 15, I was one week from turning 14. He was wearing a Beatles baseball cap, and I adored all things Beatles. Aardvark was tall, dark, and underweight. I was hilariously naive, mousy, and eager for an adventure.
Two other memorable things happened that day; I bought a very loud, knee-length polyester coat, and I heard the Fastball song “Out of My Head” on the radio and was fascinated.
Aardvark lived in Kentucky, I lived in southern Indiana, and neither of us could legally drive. This left us with a long-distance relationship or nothin’. Over the next year and a half, Aardvark and I would exchange endless emails, spend hundreds of [our parents’] dollars on long-distance calls, swap tape after CD of music, and fall ecstatically, painfully in love. Confused and confusing, we were both sensitive and prone to depression— sometimes I could comfort him, sometimes he could help me. Sometimes we only made things worse.
I was obsessed with Aardvark. How could I help it? He was thoughtful, witty, beautiful, the first Mormon boy who’d paid me a lick of attention, and I was a middle-school dropout with time to kill. I could usually only see him once a month at tri-state activities for young Mormons, so most of our encounters were brief, public, and seriously disappointing. Still, we managed to steal some priceless moments, such as the first time we held hands (still one of my happiest memories) or the night we shared our first kiss in the middle of Main Street, standing under a full, orange October moon.
To be fair, we also had terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad times; being young, Aardvark sometimes said or did the exact wrong thing. I was constantly aware of the difference in our class and social standing. Then there was the week he completely shunned me because I admitted to having doubts about Joseph Smith— even though the confession was immediately followed by a promise to rededicate myself to gospel study and read the Old Testament, the damage was done.
May 8, 2000 marked one year since I’d first introduced myself to Aardvark. That day, I asked myself, “What would Aardvark and I do if we could be together?” Being young ‘n’ chaste, the obvious answer was “go to a park and play the guitar!” which I did with my little sister and Greyloon. Thus was Aardvark Day born.
Good times and bad, I loved Aardvark dearly. We sang and wrote songs for each other. We talked about getting married, being street musicians together, baby names. You know, standard mush.
One day in early January 2001, I was taking a bath when Aardvark called to dump me. We were too involved, he said, he had to break off the relationship before we Got In Trouble. (Translation: Had an opportunity for the sexual contact we both wanted so badly.) I kept detailed journals back then, but I was very, very careful not to write anything anywhere about that day; I was afraid to remember it, afraid that the date would weigh on me forever. Good call, younger self; I still don’t know the date of that fateful call.
Funny thing is, we were both Mormon and devout Mormons at that. (How could I be devout without trusting Joseph Smith? MAGIC!) We were not ALLOWED to date until age 16, so we convinced ourselves that being crazy about each other and communicating constantly did not constitute “dating”. This means that I never, ever got to refer to Aardvark as my boyfriend…. and when he left me, I couldn’t even call him my ex-boyfriend.
Don’t imagine that I handled Aardvark’s rejection gracefully. Aww, hell no. I threw myself at him for months, still tried to call, and even wrote an epic, highly regrettable letter on 21 pages of big ol’ legal-size paper. Ouch ouch ouch, I still flinch just thinking about it. I spared no shred of personal dignity, I was a mess for a long, long time, and I still have Aardvark dreams 2-10 times each month.
In hard-earned hindsight, I’m glad (“glad glad GLAD!”) my heart was broken at such an early age. From 14 onward, I knew love would feel like risking everything. I would never again enter a relationship without knowing what could happen, and I would never throw myself at a man who didn’t want me again.
There you have it, Smiley and Millie. While celebrating Aardvark Day every May 8 began out of love for that awkward teenage dreamer, I’ve kept up the holiday out of love for the brave, vulnerable girl I once was.
Take it away, Fastball.