You should know that I’m dreading this post. As I consider the subject matter, all the awkwardness and embarrassment that defined much of my adolescence comes rushing back in waves, and it amazes me that I ever got it under control enough to persuade a beautiful woman to marry me.
See, one of the reasons why You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is seared into my consciousness is that, at some point in time, I developed a debilitating crush on one of the girls who played Lucy. (I say “one of the girls” because there were three Lucys – one small cast Lucy and two tall cast Lucys. For the record, it was not the girl pictured with me in the preceding post where I’m brilliantly pretending to play the piano.)
“Crush” is an entirely appropriate noun to describe this phenomenon, because this sudden dump of teenage romance angst was like an anvil dropped from the top of the Empire State Building onto all of my reason, confidence, and common sense. I had had crushes before, but none were as heavy or as devastating as this one was. It fell without warning and squashed my soul into a gelatinous puddle whenever I came within twenty yards of this poor girl. It was almost physically painful to be in the same room with her, and I found myself unable to form a coherent sentence when addressing her directly.
Witness these examples:
Stallion to non_Lucy person: “Hello. Nice to see you. How have you been?”
Stallion to Lucy: “Yes. Hi, um, you see been. Sure. Nice? Fern, uh, me go now. Ugh. (Fern.)”
One of my friends took to calling me “Dribblenose” whenever Lucy came into the danger zone. She made me acutely aware of my every real or imagined physical flaw when in her presence. Just sharing the same planet with her reminded me that I was seven feet tall and twenty-two pounds, that my nose was the size of the Hindenburg, that my complexion looked like a relief map of the moon, and that three-quarters of my last meal was still lodged in the front of my teeth.
Yet somehow, inexplicably, word got back to me that Lucy was marginally interested in me, too, which made the whole thing exponentially worse. It put pressure on me to actually do something about the situation, and I had no idea what that something should be.
After sifting through a mountain of panic, I decided that it boiled down to the idea that I ought to ask Lucy to “go” with me.
I put “go” in parenthesis because use of that verb in this context bears no resemblance to its general vernacular in common speech. Back when such things were popular among my set, “going” didn’t involve going anywhere, like, say, “going out” would. It wasn’t even “going steady.” It was just “going.”
Near as I could tell, it was the formation of some sort of romantic attachment, but one with ill-defined parameters. The only concrete fact about “going” that I could figure out was that when you found out that one person was “going” with another person, it gave you license to giggle behind their backs. Beyond that, everything was sketchy. Was there smooching involved? (I hoped yes, but I was sure my lips would fall off and my face would explode if I ever made the attempt.) Maybe some hand holding? (Gallons of sweat on my palms would make contact difficult to maintain.) Did it require a certain number of telephone calls? Would I have time to write down all my sentences in advance?
I had a brief window of opportunity to pop the “will you go with me” question early in the rehearsal process, so, of course, I botched it. I couldn’t get the words out. I think I was no longer capable of speaking English whenever I considered making the attempt. So I tried to play it off by saying that “going” was a childish and silly thing, one which sophisticated folk like me would never stoop to doing. So my strategy to get Lucy to “go” with me was to utterly dismiss the idea as a ridiculous concept and hope that it would happen anyway.
Ah, good plan!
Alas, not all of my fellow castmates were as intellectually flatulent as I was, and so a guy named Ralph, who, as the small cast Charlie Brown was about head shorter than Lucy, asked her to go with him instead. To my everlasting horror, she accepted and thus secured Ralph’s place in my Pantheon of Hatred. I have no evidence of this, but I’m pretty sure Ralph became a terrorist shortly after the run of the show. Or a hobo. Maybe a terrorist hobo. One that dealt drugs and ate babies.
Of course, Ralph was no longer in the picture by July 13, 1985. (This final foreshadowing allows me to now change the subject, or at least end this discussion until another day. On second thought, let us not speak of it again. I’m been drowneding in flashback embarrassment as I wroted this. Me, um, fern been go hackeysack.)