I Feel Like I Win When I Lose

Sure, I’d seen blondes before.

In Mrs. Husman’s 4th grade class, Kim Ladson was the blondest blonde I’d ever met up to that time.

But I never recall being as impressed by the sheer blondness of blondes until we’d moved to Minnesota.

When I began high school in the fall of 1975, I became fascinated by a long-haired blonde in my class named Julie Peterson. Of course you can’t swing a dead cat in Minnesota without hitting a Peterson, a Nelson, a Somethinborg or Otherlund. Seriously.

I saw Julie every morning in homeroom before we dispersed into whatever day our modular schedule had prescribed for us. She seemed so placid, so pretty, that I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

In truth, I couldn’t stop thinking about blondes since the summer of 1974.

After meeting Peter Martin at summer camp, we started hanging out over at his house, stealing his dad’s cigars and smoking them in a fishing boat out on the lake.

A camp-out on July 6, 1974, led to story that changed me for, well, if not the next four or five years, then maybe the rest of my life, at least by how I thought about stories and their power.

The diary entry that day reads: “We pitched a tent and slept outside. We talked for a little while.” While that doesn’t go into a lot of detail, that night he told me a story, one so compelling that I later fictionalized it in a short story I wrote for a high school creative writing class. I titled it “Roundabout,” after the Yes song.

Peter was a storyteller, and probably the best kind since his audience was an audience of one.

Earlier that summer he’d met two Swedish sisters on vacation in Minnesota with a family on a foreign exchange program. He said he’d fallen in love with the oldest sister, Linda, and they arranged to meet up to kiss and cuddle in the summer night down by the dock at Woodend Shores. I couldn’t believe how lucky he was!

I had so many questions. Was Linda and her sister still around? Could I meet them? Could we all get together and…? Well, you get the picture.

That summer ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo,” which blasted from AM radios seemingly every other hour. The opening bars, driving with that heavy beat—the wall of sound with what now comes across as shrill and whiny “Wah, wah, wah, Waterloo…”—were unmistakable.

“Waterloo” became the aural representation of Pete’s story.

I never got to meet Linda or her sister, but later, at the Evangelical church our family attended, I met another Linda, daughter of an Orono boat landing owner. She had long blonde hair and reminded me of the Swedish girls, the first days of high school and homeroom with Julie, and a band fronted by two women who tied the entire myth together in my head. My fascination with blondes has since been replaced with a rock-solid adoration of brunettes.

But going on sixteen, I had yet to ask a girl out on a date, and was shy beyond belief. With churchgoing Linda, I depended on the confidences of my friends to help me “win her over.”

The myths of just what romantic partnership meant were vaguely forming, and the ’70s were a strange time for romantics. You usually went overboard, or ran in the opposite direction.

I took matters of the heart very seriously—likely still do—so that rejection was especially painful.

Acceptance, whenever or however it came, whether in holding hands or a quick kiss, was blissed-out bliss.

~ by completelyinthedark on June 26, 2011.

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