By Mckay Williams
I didn’t stand a chance. I had fallen in love with them before I’d even known what love was. They ruined being prepubescent, the girls of 90s TV. They’d convinced me that all I had to do was be myself and the beautiful girl would be mine forever.They were full of shit.
Topanga. Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul…
She was everything I’ve ever wanted from a girlfriend. She was beautiful and quirky. That smile, those eyes. Those jean jackets. She’s amazing! I made it my mission to track her down and make her mine.
I found her in a fourth grader named Angela. Angela wore a yellow Fritos sweater and a sideways baseball cap every day and listened to bands like The Cranberries and The Smashing Pumpkins, because the 90s were excellent for fruit and gourd based bands. She smiled at me once when we were playing Four Square and my heart literally skipped a beat. She must have cast some sort of Ouija board spell. It was magic. It was love.
Then I saw her holding hands with one of the Paul twins. It doesn’t matter which one, they were the cool guys. When we played Ninja Turtles, they were always Raphael and Michelangelo while I had to be Donatello. I mean, seriously, can you even name one Donatello piece? He wasn’t even the cool artist of the group. My fourth grader heart was broken. The lesson I learned there was never smile at the pretty girl, because she’s just going to love the cool bad boy turtle anyway.
She was Ava-Celeste, the eighth grader with the holy name, an angel sent by Holy Mother Mary just for me. I first saw her reading a chemistry book under a tree between homeroom and fourth period. Surely she was trying to break into the mysteries of her GC-161 exposure. I spent the whole semester trying to catch her melting into a pool of mercury and slipping under a door, but she was too fast for me.
After a year of worship I finally met her. I was running to class and there she was, just standing in front of the water fountain. I had the perfect plan. I was going to borrow a pencil and then run after her to give it back after school. She’d want me to walk home with her, we’d probably hold hands. We’d be married by next Tuesday, for sure.
“Uh. Hi.” Her voice was backed by an entire choir of cherubs.
“Do you have a pencil I can borrow?”
Just like that my whole plan was ruined. I had to think fast:
“Oh, here… do you need to borrow one?”
“Uh. I thought you didn’t have one.” SHIT. SHIT. SHIT SHIT SHIT. “You’re so weird.”
She didn’t even turn around and walk away, but more scooted sideways so she could keep an eye on me before going to her class.
I saw her once after that; she was sitting under our tree with Aaron Fox (of all people), her foot just slightly touching his. The lesson here was obviously, never speak to women. Ever. Under any circumstances. They’ll use Vulcan logic and then foot canoodle with a basketball player.
Two years later I’d moved on. Alex went her way, I went mine. She’d gone to high school in Seattle and dated the goobery kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun, while her sister dated The Joker. It was a strange time for the both of us.
Suddenly I realized it was never about the magic of Alex but her accessibility. What I wanted was the girl next door. I wanted Donna.
She was way, way too cool. Look at her, that red hair blowing in the breeze. She was there, right next door the whole time. It was meant to be.
Donna appeared in the form of Kelly.
Oh, Kelly. You hung with the cool kids, but deep down you were a total nerd. You would smile at me, you would talk to me and I didn’t say bone-headed things. One time, on Valentine’s Day, you even kissed me on the cheek! Forever was a certainty for us.
We’d talk on the phone about this and that late into the night but it was always about her boyfriend. That guy. He wasn’t really a threat to me, because Kelly and I were madly in love. Besides, her boyfriend was even more uncool than I was, even if he did have long hair and dimples for days. So, I just started telling everyone she was my girlfriend.
Problem was, she wasn’t my girlfriend and her boyfriend thought it was totally weird that I kept telling everyone she was. Eventually the stakes had to be raised. Not only was she my girlfriend, but “we were totally making out in the light booth of the theatre.” Then “I totally got to second base in the backseat of Scott’s car.” Then finally “We totally did it at Ben’s party.”
This apparently crossed a line and Kelly never spoke to me again. Lesson being: Don’t say you’re sleeping with girls when you’re not.
Actually, that last one was probably a pretty valid lesson.
Maybe it wasn’t them as much as it was me. After all, I was focusing my entire romantic life on the staff writers at Nickelodeon and Fox. Maybe the real lesson was that love doesn’t fall into place in elementary school and float effortlessly into post-college wedded bliss. Maybe you’ve got to run through a few Kelly Kapowskis before landing your Joey Potter. Maybe you go through a few Potters before landing your Kapowski. I don’t know, maybe you even end up with Patti Mayonnaise. I’m an open minded guy, I wouldn’t judge you. Point is, I was too quick to give up on the women of the 90s. Maybe they have something to teach us all.