In 1982, two things determined how cool you were: the size of your He-Man collection and your kickball skills. By the end of October, I had six action figures and one animal, Battle Cat. I was also a weekly team-captain for kickball. It was time for a girlfriend.
Dr. Hasenstab’s class was full of beautiful girls. I brought different parts of my He-Man collection every day. I was playing with Skeletor and Beast Man one morning before class. Like every morning, I played with them loud enough so people would notice me and ask me what I was doing. I had the characters ask each other about my other hobbies to increase the chances that others would find the conversations interesting.
“You collect stamps AND baseball cards,” said Beast Man.
“I have 12 different stamps from the 1930s,” said Skeletor.
Like every morning, I looked for girls who might be interested in talking, but the bell rang and nobody asked me about my action figures.
Brian, who now sat next to me, asked me about kickball. He and I were the only level 10 readers in Dr. Hasenstab’s class, but Robbie, Scott, and I were the best kickball players.
“You should pick me first for your team today,” Brian said.
Talking to friends about girls is tricky. We all pretended we hated girls. Whoever was able to hate them the most, was the coolest.
“That Sarah, sure is ugly,” I said while staring at her. She was six inches taller than me and pretty.
“Yeah,” Brian said, “if you pick me, I can play second base again this week and we’ll win.”
“She smells bad, too.”
“And I can kick first because I’m so fast and I get on all the time.”
I looked over at Brian because he wasn’t following our conversation.
Dr. Hasenstab talked the morning away while I looked at Sarah and her pig-tails and thought of all sorts of things to tell her. The bell for recess rang. Brian followed me out.
“Don’t forget to pick me for this week,” he said.
“I won’t,” I said.
Scott had the ball so I went out to the court. The other kids followed. I focused on who I was going to pick. Robbie first, then probably the other Robby or the other Scott.
Scott came with the ball, “I pick first,” he said. “I take Robbie.”
I turned to pick. I saw all the kids lined up. Brian had already started walking toward me. And then I saw her. Girls never played kickball, they went and talked at the jungle gym. But this week, this week Sarah and her friend were there. I smiled. Before I thought, I said, “I’ll take Sarah.”
All the boys ooohed and my face turned bright red. Sarah walked next to me and stood there. I could hardly speak. I didn’t high five her like I should have. I didn’t ask her if she wanted to see my He-man figures. I just stared. And smiled.
Scott picked the other Scott and I picked Brian. Brian played second base, but Sarah kicked first.
We lost the game, but on the way back to line up after recess, I reached for her hand.
“You’re pretty,” I said. She smiled. And she was my girlfriend.