Thursday, November 08, 2007

Singing my life with his words

When I turned fifteen, I experienced a sort of blossoming year for boyfriends. One boy I dated was a musician. He was two years older, a senior, and already accepted into a prestigious music program at an arts college. He lived in another town, went to a different high school, and our paths crossed by coincidence. He didn't normally hang out with our crowd, but for some reason, that night he decided to come to a party my friend hosted at her house.

I was a little annoyed that night because a boy I didn't like was paying too much attention to me and the boy I did like wasn't paying any at all. I blamed the first boy for co-opting all the space around me. I escaped outside to get some breathing room.

The weather was in that mellow, between seasons stage: a little cool, a little crisp, but not so much that you wanted a jacket. I find this sort of time invigorating, stimulating, a time when something is around the corner, and like a child at Christmas, I eagerly awaited the surprise.

I ducked around the corner of the house and leaned against the fence, just breathing. My senses were so tightly strung that they hummed, the way I think most teenagers are, but I knew enough to calm them down. I tilted my head back to stare at the stars. After a bit, I felt a part of the dark and the solitude, and then I knew I was about ready to go back inside to the party.

That's when he spoke to me.

"Please tell me you didn't come out here to cry," he said, disdain soaking the word cry.

He'd been standing deeper in the shadows, further around the corner, past where I was. So he'd been there the entire time. I hadn't been there alone. I felt a start of self-consciousness.

"Cry?" I asked witlessly, trying to get my center back.

"You like Robert, right? But he's hanging on that girl, the little blonde, what's her name?"



"She's hanging on him, she's a flirt."


I tried to figure out how to salvage my pride. I felt ashamed that he'd observed me so closely, and so accurately. I felt ashamed to like someone who didn't like me. I decided to try to redirect.

"I didn't come out to cry. I came out to get some air. I like the night, that's all." I told him, my voice defiant.

He stepped closer and I saw he was the new girl's older brother. The one who never came out with us.

"What are you doing out here," I challenged.

"Getting some air. I like the night, that's all," he said, slightly mocking.

We started talking. He was different. His hair was a little longer than other boys, his clothes more rock than prep. He was a slightly broody, intense musician type, interesting and intelligent. He drove me home, and we sat under a fat moon on the front lawn. The past summer I'd attended a special program for gifted kids at a local university. One course I took was astronomy, so I talked about the stars. And he listened. He didn't mind that I was smart, he was too. He didn't mind that I wanted to talk about real things, he did too. He told me about his music and I was intrigued. When he leaned over to kiss me, I didn't pull away. He told me he'd call me. When he did, I agreed to a date. And then he was my boyfriend.

For a while.

The intensity became overwhelming, the broodiness suffocating. I was fifteen and not ready for too much of anything. I got the feeling that no matter what, his feelings would always be stronger and more intense. His life was already over an edge that I couldn't completely comprehend yet, but what I did scared me in a way.

In my heart, I knew we needed to break up, but, as teen girls will do, I called a war council with my best girlfriends. They agreed.

I decided to do it over the phone. So, with my good friend beside me (I know, horrible, but I was fifteen), I dialed his number. I nearly chickened out when he answered, but my friend poked me (her job) and I plunged into my careful speech about what a great guy he was, but we both wanted different things and I thought that we needed to break up. We argued, but I stuck to my key phrase. My free hand twisted my bedspread into a crumpled wad, my knuckles white with suppressed emotion and words, things I kept back to not wound him worse. By the time the call ended, I thought he'd hate me forever.

I had no idea what this would set in motion.

He never spoke to me again, but he spoke to plenty of other people. He smeared my reputation, and shared private things. The things he said...they made me horrible. His sister helped.

I decided to confront him, get this to end, but he wouldn't speak to me. His sister would, though. She told me he was leaving early for college and that broke her heart, and it was all my fault. She ended by saying I was a bitch who'd ruined her brother's heart and she hoped I would die. She told me I'd get what I deserved, and hung up.

She had the reputation of the sweetest girl, so popular.

A month later, a friend tentatively called me, one of the few from that group who still spoke to me.

"He's written a song," she said, nervously, "It's about you. It's ummm pretty sad. I think maybe you weren't that nice to him. We're all a little worried about him."

And I realized then that those he hadn't turned against me with his anger would now be gone from his sadness.

My only crime? Not liking him as much as he liked me.

That song haunted me more than anything he or anyone else did. He played it often, in many places. People told me he used my name in it, too, so everyone would know who he meant. It was a good song, I heard, although I never heard it myself. It would be good, of course, he was a talented musician, already accepted into a prestigious music school. The school, I heard, he threatened to not go to because what was the point.

I began to get angry. Nobody had any right to do any of this. Couples broke up all the time. I quizzed my girlfriend who confirmed that any breakup is sort of heartbreaking but that I hadn't been cruel or vicious. I'd even agreed to let him say whatever he wanted about the break-up, she reminded me. To my horror. I'd never meant any of this. I'd meant say it was mutual, to save face.

My one attempt to defend myself was so abysmally received that I dropped it. I realized he didn't own all of my life. I lived in a different town, went to a different high school. So I pulled back, focused myself locally, and thank goodness for that option. When he went to college, things died down pretty fast and fortunately teens move on to something new fairly quickly.

Believe it or not, I had sort of forgotten many of these details, until I read Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin's new book, Dedication.

In the book, Katie's first love took their relationship---and all of its intimate details---and put it to music, becoming a super star. It made me stop and think. My old boyfriend never became a pop star (that I know of. In fact, I have no idea what happened to him) but what if that song...what if it was playing on the radio, his face and his words in magazines?

Who was your first love and how did it end? Or did it? Or your first break-up? Did it affect the world around you, or only you?

If you want to know what I think about the book, click here to read my review!

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
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painted maypole said...

oh, oh, oh do I ever remember my first breakup. Largely because I recently pulled down my old diaries when I discovered a fellow blogger was at the same university I was, to see if I had been in a class she TAed. So I just recently reread all of the heartbreak, and our desperate and painful attempts to remain friends (which ultimately, worked I guess, because we are still friends, but oh how painful it was, and the agony I felt as he went on to date girl after girl after girl...)

Jen M. said...

This was wonderful. Wow - I am pretty impressed at your prowess at such a young age ;) Although I am so sorry you had to go through all of that drama. Yikes.

I was the fifteen year old who daydreamed about boys writing songs for me as I read a book in my room and popped pimples. Sigh.

Mommy off the Record said...

I had a boyfriend that dumped me by never calling me again. I would have rather had him at least call and tell me he wanted to break up. Instead, one day I just never heard from him again. We were in a long distance relationship so it wasn't like I could go over to his house and try to find out what happened. And I was too proud to call him if he wasn't going to call me.

Years later when I saw him again, he accused ME of never calling him and therefore breaking it off.

Anyway, your story was interesting to read. I don't think you deserved any of that! And I can't believe his sister helped him smear your name. Jeez.

Mary-LUE said...

It is too bad that artistic and emotional angst is sometimes allowed to excuse bad character. I feel for the 15 year old you.

While my teen break up story is entirely different, I so related to the nervousness you felt before breakking up with him. I felt the same way once. I was determined to be done with the boy but saying the words? It wasn't so easy. I finally screwed up my courage one day at his house and said the final words. The part I'm a little embarassed about is my practically skipping down the sidewalk afterwards. I was so relieved that I was a little giddy.

Family Adventure said...

Julie! Dude! You had a *song* written about you and your vixen ways. Nothing I can say about my first love can possibly top that! So I'm not gonna... :)

Momish said...

You have such a way, Julie of expressing the heart's complexity. What a horrible experience for anyone, but for a teenager more so. I will always have a permanent scar on my heart from my first love.

Aliki2006 said...

I'd love to read that book--I'll have to look for it!

I just wrote about that very topic (first love, break-up) in a recent post ("Love in a Time of Flux") so I won't launch into that sad tale here...

Julie Pippert said...

PM, oh, oh yeah, the trying to stay friends after a breakup because really, you must think well of the person, right, to date, so to lose the relationship is one loss but to lose the person completely too? Oy.

I did not love that boy (the one in the post) but there were two who I did and I won't lie about that. One wanted to be friends with me and although it seems sad to lose touch, he so broke my heart I had to say no to the friends thing. It wasn't working. First, it led to two reconciliations that never should have happened. Those hurt us and other people too. Second, I wasn't moving on. So I had to cut. And run. The other, well, it was the same in reverse. He cut. And ran. Oh my goodness, that is another story altogether LOL.

And you kept a diary of it. Did you just feel it all over again? Or was it like something that happened to another person? OMG am I prying? Sorry!!


Jen, I spent plenty of angsty times in my teens, too. Lots of times in my room with books. I did not feel as if I had any prowess at the time LOL.

And trust me, that song? Not the song ANYONE wants written about them. Dear God.


MOTR, oh that sucks. The old "melt away and become invisible." That really is the lowest, but then to lay it on you!

As for the sister, I can understand family loyalty but that's carrying it too far imo too. She's really the one who pulled the "Oh I won't come if Julie's there...she's so HURTFUL" ostracizing tactic, which sadly worked. He barely needed to lift a finger.


M-L, thank you sweetie. You know, I sort of felt sorry for that girl, too. She was so enamored of the idea of a Big Romance. And that first kiss under the fat moon was like out of a novel or movie.

But yep, it wasn't there and the part I left out was the giggling--- nerves and relief---I did when I hung up. I wasn't GLAD, just, well, you know...

I'd never blame you for a skip in your step. BTDT!


FA, OMG to this day I am NOT happy about that song. I mean, hey if it immortalized my creative soul or soulful eyes or beauty or something but NOOOO it's all about how I suck.

I just got reminded (thank you someone who I will not name LOL) about Lili Taylor in Say Anything, incessantly strumming her guitar and whining about her ex-boyfriend Joe.

LOL I don't think it was quite like that or that bad (please dear God no).

I hope.


Momish, wow, what a compliment, thank you. Oh hon, scarred hearts. Someday, that sounds like a story. You know I was trying to figure out what did more damage: unrequited love or mutual love that didn't work out.


Aliki, let me know what you think of the book! And you tell your tales? I lay awake at night dreaming for talent to come to me like that.

Jeanette said...

I cannot tell you how your words reach've just got such an incredible voice. Even this, where the experience you write about has nothing to do with me or my life - I feel like I am part of the story. You have a gift.


Suki said...

Me, still a teen. And wondering whether or not to acknowledge the first ever "break-up"... or the third. No one knows about them except my boyfriend, LOL!
So... I think the first one can be safely talked about. Biasedly. An idiot got another idiot to ask me out on his behalf. I told the second idiot - "I can act". I was all of.. 13. No, 14. Completely innocent. And that arse took that for a "yes". And then we spent some time in a park singing in the rain(I know, I could have been raped right there but who knew?! I didn't even guess that might happen back then. I didn't know my "boyfriend" was around when the other guy took me out) And then they asked me double-dating a week later at an amusement park. I said no. And avoided them ever since.
That's the Relationship that Never Was.

My second - first acknowledged - breakup was weird. Another Relationship That Never Was, really. Will blog about it some day if I could be bothered. And that was barely a year ago.

Yours was a beautifully written account. :). And I'm glad my ex isn't like yours, LOL! He was too passive to make even that effort! I told him we weren't working out, and all he said was "distance". Gah.

Julie said...

My first love lived up the street. We played together as kids and as we got older we flirted with the idea of becoming boyfriend and girlfriend -- played at it sometimes in middle school and wrote notes to one another and all -- but never really went for it. I sometimes imagined just how I'd kiss him in his garage if I ever got the chance. Other times, I couldn't believe I was actually thinking of kissing him. It seemed too weird.

In the end his family moved away while we were in ninth grade and I heard later that he'd done a lot of drugs in high school and then become born again in college. I have no idea what he's up to now.

Your post totally reminds me of My So-Called Life. Funny how high school love is everyone's business, isn't it?

Jeff said...

I second Jeanette's comment. Great writing.

I know the brooding musician type you refer to because I grew up with and hung around with nothing but musicians. Fortunately, the kind of friends I gravitated toward were the fun-loving type who didn't take themselves very seriously. Although in retrospect they probably could have been a little more serious.

Hope said...

I am afraid...even if I watned to break it off with someone I always waited for them to to it instead and then kicked myself for not having the balls to go ahead and ending it first...yup young pride in all it's glory. I wouldn't go back to highschool if someone threatened to rip my finger nails out.

Sober Briquette said...

I can't bear the unfairness. It would have made me cruel.

Kellan said...

No - no songs written for me. Most of the boys I dated just walked away and never looked back. Just the way it is, I guess. Great post - see you soon.

Gwen said...

ouch! Everything seems so much bigger at that age.

My first real heartbreak happened in eleventh grade when the boy I'd liked forever and ever finally dumped me at the end of the year. We were completely wrong for each other, and when I run into him/hear from him now, that's confirmed for me. Sadly, I don't think he feels the same way. He crops up into my life every now and then with these cheezy e-mails hinting about what a mistake he made all those years ago, letting me get away (Dude! it was 20 years! get over it), and how he's never felt for anyone else like he did (does?) for me. But here's the crazy part of the whole story--I'm 80% sure he's gay (not that there's anything wrong with that). Someone joked me with recently that I should change my blog tag line to "Gay Ex-boyfriend Stalker Approved" or something like that, which was really funny to us, at the time. But you can see I didn't take her advice.

TSR said...

Singing can be a wonderful way of getting a message out. It can be religious, political, spiritual message, or shows someone how much you love them. I just saw a website about Estonia’s Singing Revolution –; this is quite inspirational. People came together to revolt against Russia using song.

Julie Pippert said...

Gwen, no doubt (no pun intended) so much bigger at that age because, frankly, the world is so much smaller.

Wow...ex-boyfriends looking you up after 20 years. I KNOW that trumps the "Julie is an Evil Bitch" song story LOL. So he's probably gay, not over you, and presumably not involved with anyone else? 20 years later. Babe. I think you should give him a bone; send an autographed photo.

Then write the "Girls Guide to Boyfriend Attraction" bestseller.

And don't change your blog tagline.


I ran into Big Bad Ex at Harvard T one day. I nearly passed out. I thought he was in Estonia. That's about all I've got.


Kellan, that requires a suspension of my disbelief. You're hot, smart, funny and nice. Believe you me, NOBODY wants this song written about them.


SB, it's lucky this was about 100 years before kids knew they could go postal. Bad crack. I was pretty furious, more than anything at the people who went along with his program.


Hope, eh you know, it's kind of a tough call. But as far as back to high school? I'd rather chop vegetables for a year.


Ah yes, Jeff, thanks for knowing who I mean. I preferred the fun-loving type, too. And yes, in retrospect, I could have taken it a little more seriously in some places (and a little less in others LOL).


Julie, that's kind of sweet. Learning to flirt and all that with a friend you trust. Oh My So-Called Life! Loved that show! I would have totally gone for Jordan Catalano...LOL. Actually, lighten his hair a little and hey! Maybe I did LOL.


Suki, "distance" eh. Well young love can be strange.


Jeanette, thank you, wow!

the dragonfly said...

My first love, my first was heartbreaking, but it really was mutual. We were only fifteen and lived about 20 minutes apart (by car) and phone calls were long distance, so that was part of it. Plus, we were great as friends, but when we were dating we made bad decisions. (not the bad decisions you'd think. I'm talking about ignoring homework and stuff like that.) We actually did stay friends, although we've drifted apart, and he was at my wedding and I was at his. The funny bit is that he was always the first person I called when I was having "boy trouble" and I was the first person he called when he was having "girl trouble." I like that.

Thanks for sharing. You have a lovely voice.

Cathy said...

I switched colleges and left town to get away from mine. That sudden and dramatic move pretty much summed up both the relationship and its demise.

Horrid. He was horrid. The ending was horrid.

I wouldn't wish him on any woman.

I hear he's a good dog owner though.

Gunfighter said...

My first breakup barely even touched me, let alone the workd around me.

As for her... she recently moved to the Washington, DC area, and Googled the heck out of me, apparently, and tracked down my email address.

In 2005 she wondered if I ever thought about her... as flattered as I was, my answer was a curt "no, not really"

Hello? 1980 was a long time ago... taking my virginity doesn't mean a lifetime bond... only a memory of a few fumbled minutes.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I had several insignificant relationships in high school...but my most painful breakup was with the guy I dated off and on throughout college. I loved his almost a sick, codependent kind of way. We had the typical, immature fiery, kind of relationship....but I always thought I would end up marrying him (even as I was breaking every dish in his kitchen....did I mention he had locked himself in the bedroom with ANOTHER GIRL? Yeah....healthy!) Anyway, as much as it HAD to happen....I can still remember the absolute devastation when I realized we were going to be together! Thank goodness I ended up with someone like Mr. Mayhem....but at the time, I thought my world was ENDING! All his friends were convinced I cheated on him with Mr. we started dating not long after our final split! REALLY.....the audacity...ME!...cheating on him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGH!

Emily said...

I NEED to link to this -- it is about one person caring more than another -- just the situation I've been writing about.

niobe said...

I've gone over this so many times, but it still hurts.

Steve and I were dating. I loved Steve. Steve didn't love me.

I had endless talks about Steve with my best friend, Sarah.

One day, Steve called me and told me that he had been secretly seeing Sarah.

I cried and cried. I never talked to Steve or Sarah again.

Steve and Sarah got married and have a beautiful little girl.

Even now, I still miss them both more than words can say.

melissa said...

My first breakup was really intense, and then I got back together with him in college. The second time was even worse.

And I would rather wax my head than go back to HS.

Lawyer Mama said...

Well, I poured my heart about my first love recently. You know how that ended. It's still stings just a bit. I guess the first one always does.

Niobe, I'm so sorry. (((HUGS))) It's one thing to lose a boyfriend, but to lose 2 best friends to each other. Oy.

slouching mom said...

You told this story so very well, Julie.

Angela said...

I think you know I'm coming to you by way of and Chani are the last of her blogroll that I have begun to visit more often, and I'm so glad I am. This is such an incredible story, told so heart hurts reading it. And given that I am in the process of being a bit *smeared* someone who is also known as very sweet and helps to know I'm not alone. I just wish that this sort of thing ended after high school. It doesn't. *Ack*