We were both only ten years old, but already she had a deep understanding of human emotion. She must have caught the pain in my eyes or maybe she saw me look away too quickly when they held hands. Whatever it was, she understood how I felt. Perhaps she understood so well because she had felt the same way. The fact is she knew I was hurt that the boy I had a crush on passed me by in favour of another and that all the cute boys we knew were pretty much ignoring me. She saw it and she understood my insecurity.
We all used to hang out together in the neighbourhood, ride bikes and build forts, that sort of thing. I don’t remember who started it, but somebody asked somebody if they wanted to “go out” and then suddenly everyone was pairing up; everyone except me. “Going out” in those days didn’t actually mean you went anywhere with each other or did anything together. You might hold hands for a minute or two but that was about it.
It was a popularity thing and because no one had asked me to be their girlfriend my self esteem was plummeting. I felt pretty devastated. She recognized all of this. She was my friend and she didn’t like to see me sad so she came up with a plan to make me feel good again. Looking back I have to admit it was pretty clever for a ten year old. One day at school I found a note folded in my desk. It said:
You are pretty.
Your Secret Admirer
My heart beat faster. I looked around the classroom breathlessly trying to guess which boy had left me the note. I could hardly wait to tell my girl friends about it when we walked home after school. We all poured over the note trying to get clues from the handwriting and took turns guessing who it could be. She eagerly offered her guesses too. I could barely sleep at night wondering who my mystery admirer was. A week later I found another note:
I really like you.
Your Secret Admirer
I was bursting with anticipation. Who could this boy be? My friends were all asking around but coming up with nothing. The pressure at school was building. We were all talking about it but not getting any closer to the truth.
Then one day one she told me she knew who the secret admirer was. She confessed that it had been her all along. She explained that she only did it to make me feel special and popular and that she saw how hurt I had been when nobody asked me to “go out”. She said she didn’t mean for it to get so out of hand and she was really sorry for starting the whole thing. She begged me not to be mad at her, but I was. I wouldn’t speak to her for a couple of weeks. Not only did I feel like an idiot for believing in the notes but now I really knew for sure that no boy liked me. I was too young to understand how kind her actions really were. I needed time to cool off. About the time I started speaking to her again a boy did ask me out. I was a “girlfriend” finally, and the best part was I didn’t have to touch him or even talk to him if I didn’t want to – and I didn’t . (How things would change.) Needless to say it didn’t last very long or mean very much in the big picture of my “relationship” history.
She was at our 30 year high school reunion. As soon as I saw her I rushed to put my arms around her and told her how pleased I was to see her again. It was long over due but I wanted to thank her for the kindness she showed me when I was an awkward gangly ten year old with low self esteem. I was grateful for the opportunity to tell her how I now understood just how kind and thoughtful she had been and I will never forget her for it.