1993: On the way to pick up your little brother from his “whack” basketball practice, you spot a girl at a local bus stop who goes to your high school. You recognize her as Melissa, one of the dancing “song girls” for the varsity football team. Like you, she’s a sophomore. She’s thin–even skinny–but with a nice girly figure. Her hair is teased up to the sky, her nails are painted, and her eye makeup is on perfect. She must have taken an hour to get ready in the morning. She’s carrying a three-ring binder and a textbook covered in a re-purposed brown-paper bag, which she’s hugging tightly against her chest. You play dumb, like you only kind-of recognize her, but you know her (and her looks) well.
2013: On the way home from school, you pass the Starbucks–like you always do–when you see a cute girl from your school coming out of there with one her friends. They’re both wearing loose sweatpants, with your high school’s name emblazoned on the side, and tucked into one of those pairs of Ugg Boots all the girls are wearing these days. You immediately recognize her as Melissa, since she’s one of the girls you’ve been eyeing from a distance since middle school, and is one of the most popular girls in the tenth grade. Not only that, she’s co-president of your school’s “Young Activist Task Force,” which made waves in the school paper last year for their stunts at their annual “body-image workshop.” She and her fat friend are both carrying Starbucks milkshakes in one hand and looking down at their iPhones in their other hand.
1993: You crush down your nearly paralyzing nervousness to talk to her. “Hey, I recognize you. You go to Grant High School, right?” Your voice cracks a little, but you plug along.
2013: Unsure about how to get your girl’s attention–and not wanting to interrupt whatever important thing she’s doing on her phone–you let the two girls walk ahead before dipping into a side street a block later.
1993: Melissa’s icy at first, responding to your question with the most tepid of yeses. But, with her bus nowhere in sight, and nothing to hide behind, she’s forced to field your weak game. You can see the anticipatory boredom in her face.
2013: You rush home, drop your bag without opening it, and boot up your computer. You load up Facebook, pull up Melissa’s page, and send her a friend request. You’ve been waiting for an excuse to add her, and this is perfect. You follow it up with a message that says, “Hope you enjoyed that frap today. ;)”
1993: You’ve picked up speed. After some stumbling in the beginning, you gained traction by bringing up music and dancing–which you pretended to not know she was into. Now you’ve realized that you have the same teacher for one class, at different times of the day. She’s laughing hysterically at your spot-on impersonation of Mr. Peterson and his infamous facial tick.
2013: You check your page three times that night, but no response. She’s probably busy. Or she set her phone down for a while.
1993: Melissa points out her approaching bus in the distance. Realizing that you’re running out of time, your voice trembles again as you say, “we should hang out some time.” When she smiles and gives you a sincere-sounding “yeah” in response, you ask for her phone number. She writes it down in big, girly bubble-writing on a piece of notebook paper, tears it off, and hands it to you. As she gets on the bus, you gingerly put the golden ticket in your wallet, having tried to memorize the number in case you smudge the magenta-colored ink with your body heat, drop your wallet, or get robbed on the way home. You’re so charged up, you actually run to your destination.
2013: Three days later, Melissa accepts your Facebook friend request. You’re relieved, but wonder why she didn’t respond to your message. You scroll through all 353 of the pictures in her profile and save your favorites in a folder on your hard drive. You masturbate to the ones from her recent beach trip.
1993: You’re scared shitless because it’s been a couple of days and you still haven’t called. You finally decide to bite the bullet that night. You tell your mom and dad that you’re going to make a call and ask them not to pick up the phone for the next few minutes, which prompts some annoying cutesy noises from your mom and an Arsenio-Hall fist pump from your dad. You then cover your bases by threatening your little brother with violence if he should so much as look at you while you’re on your call. You opt for the kitchen phone, since there’s more privacy there than in the living room. You dial the seven digits.
2013: Since your first angle didn’t work, you decide to try the side-door approach. You reason that commenting on one of her pictures or status updates should prompt the desired effect. But, no sooner had you started to look for the right place for your comment than you started to notice that all of her pictures have a long trail of comments from “random” dudes–most of them annoying compliments. You click through to their pages and see that she’s in a some of their pictures—at parties, out-and-about, or at school events. Is she “with” one of these guys? Who are they? What the fuck? You’re at a loss.
1993: A man’s voice picks up the phone. You immediately switch into adult phone-manner, which you were taught by your parents. “Good evening sir, is Melissa home?” You expected that to work, but he tells you Melissa is about to eat dinner and needs to finish her homework. You’re about to give up, but decide to double down, “Oh, I understand. I’m just calling about some school things. We’ll only be five minutes, I promise.” At your respectful tone, the old man softens up, despite his suspicions of your ulterior motive. He asks for your name and calls out,“Melissa, phone!”
2013: After having all but given up on Facebook, you strike gold a few days later. You get an invitation from her to one of her club’s activist events. You decide to go.
1993: You and Melissa have a surprisingly comfortable phone conversation. Gone is the iciness from the bus stop. You talk for about 20 minutes before before you start hearing her dad’s voice in the background. Before she gets off the phone, you roll the dice again and suggest you should hang out after school later in the week. She agrees.
2013: You get to the event late, but just in time to hear Melissa shouting a speech about “gender norms” and “female sexuality” and “rape culture” to her club, which is composed of fat girls, nerdy-looking hipsters, and a smattering of odd-balls. There are novelty cupcakes and other refreshments in the back. You figure you’ll get your chance to move in during the social part of the event.
1993: Your date with Melissa goes perfectly. You meet by the main gate after school and decide to go to a cool ice-cream place a few blocks away. After that, you go on a long walk along some of the quiet side-streets in the neighborhood, talking and laughing the whole way. At a certain point, with your fear completely evaporated, you decide to kiss her. As you move in, you can see she’s now the nervous one. It’s a magical moment you’ll never forget. You sleep like a baby that night, knowing you have her.
2013: After the rally, you make a beeline to the refreshments table, figuring everyone will funnel into that area. You plan on loitering there till Melissa swings through and then chatting her up. When she finally does show up, she’s surrounded by three of the hipster boys from the audience, boxing out any would-be interlopers like a presidential security detail. You recognize at least one of them from her Facebook wall. For the rest of the night, they never leave her side. You can’t tell how well she knows them, but she seems to enjoy being the center of their attention. The rest of the fat girls in the room talk amongst themselves. A few try to talk to you, but you deflect them deftly. Eventually, you concede defeat for the night and talk to a couple of them near the empty cupcake boxes. “How do you know Melissa?,” one of them asks. “Oh, we’re friends.”
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