Sex + Love

Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

The highs and lows of middle school romance.

The dance was on a Friday. Over the weekend, my relationship with Lewis ballooned in my mind into an epic and sprawling love story. I recounted over and over to my friends, twisting the phone cord in my fingers, the moment he gave me the roses. “And that’s when I realized,” I said breathlessly, as if accepting an award, “that it was me all along.” I interpreted the sighs from the other end of the call as swooning, but maybe they were just exasperated. I sat in my room and imagined what it would be like when we finally kissed, something I hadn’t done yet with anyone. I wrote our names together over and over again: inside hearts, in cursive, my first name with his last name—the works. I took sex scenes from the Stephen King stories I loved, like The Mist and It, and tried to shoehorn me and Lewis into them, stripping away all the killer clowns and inter-dimensional monsters. I stared at the roses he gave me, dutifully arranged in a vase by my mother, who seemed bemused by the whole situation.

I was so excited to finally have a real romance of my own. I couldn’t wait to have someone wait for me after class and walk me to the bus. I couldn’t wait to be important. I poured every ounce of energy I could muster into being in love with this guy whom just 24 hours earlier I rarely even thought about.

I should also point out that I didn’t speak to him at all during this weekend. We had each other’s phone numbers, but to me, speaking was unnecessary. Our love was too deep for that.

I woke up Monday morning ready to start my new life as an Official Girlfriend. I chose my outfit carefully—I wanted to look dreamy and fun and easygoing, which obviously meant twisting a neon zebra-striped bandana into a belt for my denim skirt. My heart was pounding as I walked into homeroom. Lewis was already there, sitting at his desk, leaning forward to talk to the kid in front of him, like the super-cool guy he was. He glanced up at me, and instead of throwing myself into his arms, I decided to play it cool by simply grinning at him and waggling my fingers casually. Lewis’s mouth twisted into a half-smile as he turned away from me and started a conversation with they guy behind him. He’s just shy, I told myself. My smile still frozen on my face, I made my way to my own desk, a few rows away from Lewis’s. I hadn’t even sat down when his best friend sidled up to me and said, dispassionately, “Lewis doesn’t like you anymore.”

It felt like my entire soul had just thrown up. I looked to Lewis, hoping for an answer or at least a little eye contact—some kind of acknowledgement of what was happening—but he kept his back to me. Apparently he’d decided not to like me just as abruptly as he’d decided to like me, and I had no idea what had tipped him either way.

The crushing wave of heartbreak that overtook me at that moment might have seem justified if Lewis and I had been married for six years, with a house and a dog. I sank into my chair and started sobbed uncontrollably. What had changed since Friday? What had I done? What was wrong with me? Wasn’t I a good girlfriend? I hoped that Lewis would catch sight of my tears and take me back, or at least say something, but he continued to ignore me. I was heartbroken for weeks—over what was essentially a three-hour relationship.

The end of my romance with Lewis was also the end of our friendship, and as much as I missed thinking of myself as somebody’s girlfriend, I missed our after-school walks to Hardee’s more. After that, I watched from afar as he pulled the same hot-and-cold routine on a couple of other girls at our school. I still don’t know why he pulled the plug on our burgeoning love affair after the dance. Maybe he didn’t like dancing with me. Maybe he went home and realized that he was a kid and didn’t want to be in a committed relationship. But I think the likeliest explanation is that he got everything he needed out of being secretly in love, and once it became a reality, it wasn’t as fun. And if that’s true, we had it in common: looking back, I realize that I preferred the fantasy of a relationship too. After the dance, I spent the whole weekend talking about him with my friends, and imagining torrid scenarios between the two of us, but I never once thought to call him.

After Lewis, I had actual relationships that lasted more than a few hours, but the reality of each one still didn’t match the romance in my head. Schooled by rom-coms and inclined to follow my thoughts on flights of the most elaborate fancy, I imagined every after-school peck on the lips to be the tip of an iceberg of unspoken passion, when these shy gestures were probably just expressions of hesitancy, or ambivalence, or fear. I was afraid, too. My fear of real, messy, awkward intimacy is part of what launched me full-tilt, again and again, into my crushes for years. Many years. After my third or fourth “grown-up” relationship crumbled because it was built on a foundation of Perfect Me + The Guy in My Head, rather than Actual Me + The Guy in Front of Me, I got myself a good therapist and started digging into why it was easier to be in a fantasy relationship. It turns out there’s a lot less risk involved, a lot less of you at stake when most of your love life takes place in your head.

I have no idea what Lewis is up to now. I’ve looked for him on Facebook, but he’s not there, and anyway, what would I say to him? My “relationship” with him was less about him and more about what he represented to me at the time: the idea that dating someone was a perfect, movie-ready series of romantic scenes, rather than two people getting to know each other and enjoying each other’s company.

When I think back on middle-school me, and how intensely she felt every one of my feelings, how I threw myself heart and soul into everything, including my dreamworld, I admire her. That girl had drive, a productive imagination, and the ability to commit herself fully to any idea that entered her brain. She just didn’t know how to use those things yet. But that’s what school is for, right? To learn. ♦

* That wasn’t really his name.


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  • nicholo94 February 18th, 2013 11:09 PM

    Oh wow, I went through something kind of similar to this in middle school. I think that everyone does at some point; it’s so much easier to have a fantasy relationship than a real one sometimes. Great article!

  • Dick February 18th, 2013 11:13 PM

    Love the “The Smiths” reference. :)

  • thefilmrookie February 19th, 2013 12:57 AM

    I had a short little middle school relationship too! In the 6th grade a boy from my hebrew school class “asked me out” via text message on our oh-so-cool flip phones, the day before winter break. I said yes. Over winter break we hung out once, and during that hang-out he never mentioned me being his girlfriend, nor did he mention it ever again after the day he asked me out. So, I guess be never “officially” broke up, so I guess technically we are still dating!

  • casey February 19th, 2013 2:22 AM

    i actually cried

  • Sorcha M February 19th, 2013 6:13 AM

    I remember a guy asked me out when I was 12 and I said yes and then avoided him for the rest of the day, before sending my best friend to tell him we were breaking up. First love <3

  • Libby February 19th, 2013 11:28 AM

    I’ve never had a boyfriend (I’m fifteen, so not exactly an old maid yet despite my grandmother’s worries) or been kissed, or even crushed upon.
    But I’ve had crushes — god, I’ve had crushes. There have been five boys altogether that have become crushes in the sense of being the object of my desire for a sustained period of time (mostly like six months, but one for about eighteen months?) and I’ve fallen in ‘like-like’ thousands of time for just a moment. There’s so much sexual tension between teenagers on public transport!
    So Emily, your experiences are really different to mine (although they are quite similar to a couple of my friends) but I still really identified with this, and with all the crazy emotions that come with those first intense teenage crushes. It’s such a strange moment in our lives, and we all seem to have such high expectations of it from the media, and it’s nice to see that it was just as messy and awkward and odd for other people.

    • inkandhonesty February 21st, 2013 10:46 PM

      When I read your comment, I literally breathed a sigh of relief. I’m 15, and none of that stuff has happened to me yet. And it seems like everyone has a boyfriend, or has at least been crushed upon. And I know having a boyfriend won’t validate my existence, but it would still be nice. I always thought I was a “late bloomer”, but I guess not.
      God, this is so sad. Oh well.

      • all-art-is-quite-useless February 22nd, 2013 11:58 AM

        Me too. I’ve just turned 16 and I know that boys liking me isn’t the be all and end all of existence and that everyone else hasn’t had a boyfriend, but it doesn’t feel like that. Thank god I’m not the only person in the universe who feels like this…

  • Amelia February 19th, 2013 12:39 PM

    eeeeep! waves of nostalgia coming over me after reading this: in my seventh grade english class there was this boy who was, as it would be, “the pervert.” through the grapevine, I’d discovered that his best friend had “liked me,” but he had never acted on it and all of a sudden the other boy asked me out and he magically lost all “perversion” and become the epitome of charming. so we went on a “group date” (because god forbid we had to have genuine conversation) where we watched that awful will ferrell movie, land of the lost, that made us feel oh-so-grown-up-and-knowledgeable-about-sexy-stuff.
    and the whole time while this was taking place, I was unsure of my status with his best friend who was also being rather flirtatious. and so we went more confused group dates to sky-high, the hip trampoline place, and when summer came we were informally dating.
    truth be told, the relationship was a lot more exciting in the gossip and dramatic whisperings that my friends and I threw around, and halfway through the summer while I was away at my cabin, I facebook message-d the guy (who was in mexico! with his best friend!) and told him that it wasn’t going to work out. it was as dramatically heartbreaking as it could be over a social networking site for the both of us. and looking back on our oh-so-public slow dancing at middle school dances, I realize now just how cold I was!
    ahh, taking me back to the warped and delightful romantic fantasies of middle school, THANK YOU ROOKIE!

  • poetess February 19th, 2013 12:56 PM

    Oh god yes– being told by the friend! I’TS ALL COMING BACK TO ME.
    My middle school boyf was pretty fearless, but I remember that to get my BFF hers, I had to do a lot of back-and-forth talk with her beau’s BFF.
    There’s something comforting about that web of connections between you and the other person, I guess.

  • Suzy X. February 19th, 2013 3:50 PM


  • hadley February 19th, 2013 4:19 PM

    i hate to admit that i was the one sending the friend to break it off.. eek looking back on that now

  • Lulli February 19th, 2013 6:17 PM

    This is actually happening to me right now. Well, pretty much.

  • Jolala February 19th, 2013 8:38 PM

    ♡Just what I needed to read yes yes yes♡

  • llamalina February 19th, 2013 8:57 PM

    i had my first boyfriend when i was 12. it lasted for three weeks, which isn’t bad for 7th grade. we held hands twice, i believe, and we broke up with each other over the phone. middle school romance was the best.

  • cammy-poo February 19th, 2013 9:07 PM

    I laughed so much through this! We were so dumb, but also so awesome in Middle School, right?

    But under all the funny/sweet is some really good advice. Nicely done. :)

  • momobaby February 19th, 2013 10:11 PM

    This so reminds me of my first boyfriend. We started going out in may, only hung out once outside of school, and didn’t see each other at all over the summer even though we lived in the same neighborhood :P

    But we were still totally in love because we texted

  • Kirsten Lipsky February 21st, 2013 11:42 AM

    I know exactly what you mean; my first kiss waswith a friend, but now it’s like he can’t even look at me. It’s my fault anyway for thinking he liked me; it was an emotional time in his life and I was the only one there for him. But how I’m not. And neither is he.

  • Gabbi Tolentino March 11th, 2013 1:38 AM

    this was awesome! totally relatable– totally me, which is important in these types of articles, to allow people to relate, i loved it (:

  • Mary the freak March 30th, 2013 4:11 PM

    this is all so true and relatable and amazing!

  • Birdie Love April 21st, 2013 1:38 AM

    I can totally relate to what you went through. It’s just another one of those Middle School romances…