Category Archives: Flashback


In 7th grade, I took a Ballroom Dance elective. I’d never been interested in Ballroom before, but it was a cool class, one “everyone” took, so there I was.

We only ever danced to two songs — an awful, breathy Britney Spears remix of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, and Sammy Davis Jr’s The Candy Man. It was a disjointed playlist, but efficient: one song for the Cha Cha, the other for Swing.

It’s Cha Cha time, and in a stroke of luck, I’ve been partnered up with an 8th grader, a really cute boy with an Italian name so perfect it could be on a pasta box.

I stand there, worrying my hands will be slippery when he goes to hold them. I am annoyed, because they were perfectly dry before I started worrying about this.

The teacher begins demonstrating the Cha Cha, which requires the girls to move their hips a little. Hip-moving comes naturally to me, I know this from my other dance classes, and I wonder if he’ll notice. He does. My hands become slippery-er.

He starts joking and flirting as we step forward, cha cha cha, backward, cha cha cha — star-crossed partners amidst a sea of peers in a brightly lit gym on a Tuesday. He comments on how well my hips move, saying I’m such a natural dancer, it’s like he is “tresmatized.”

I stop for a moment, breaking our rhythm, because tresmatized is not a word. I know which word he means, of course, and cannot tell if he is joking or not.

He’s not joking, and I wonder if I should correct him. It feels like two paths are appearing before me.

I don’t correct him. How can I? He is Marco Niccoli.


Happy Birthday, Hot Stuff

It’s my first kiss’s birthday today. Skylar, with an A.

We were at his house cuddling on a lopsided LoveSac. His friends were there playing pool. The lights were mostly off except for a bright blue TV screen, remainder of a movie.

I wore faded boot cut jeans without back pockets, a suede belt with big metal grommets from The Buckle, and a soft tan shirt that hugged my padded bra perfectly and just barely covered all of my stomach. My hair was waved.

Skylar was hot. That was pretty much all I knew about him, and that he had kissed a lot of girls already.

I wanted him to kiss me. I wanted to call him Sky.

He kissed me on the bean bag and I pretended to like it, but what I was really thinking was, GROSS.

And, This can’t be right.

Why have they made all this fuss?

Do I have to do it again?

Smile, look pretty, you’ve been kissed!

Sky and I ‘went out’ for a few months maybe. We kissed twice.

And the reason I remember his birthday every year is because of the gift I tried to buy him. I went to Target to get something, with my mom because I couldn’t drive.

I found this tacky bright red t-shirt with a red pepper that said, “HOT STUFF” on the front. I thought it would be a funny gift. So I bought it, along with something else I can’t remember (cologne?) but ended up getting too nervous to give it to him.

Would he think it was funny? Would he get me?

So began that years-long quest.

Can I make this joke? Can I be me? Will he get it?

I kept the shirt shoved up in the highest, unreachable shelf in my closet, in case I wanted to give it to someone else at some point. But most of the time it was best to not take the risk. Smile and look pretty.

A few months before getting married, Mother demanded I finally clean out my closet, and in the midst of stuffed animals and book reports we found the shirt. She started giggling. “Remember this?”

I did.

“Do you want to give it to Scott?” She tossed it to me.

I laughed as I looked at it again. Would Scott think it was funny? Scott gets me.

But I found myself disgusted by the thing. Perhaps because the joke is 13 years old, or maybe it wasn’t that funny in the first place?

Maybe because it is a remnant of a thankfully bygone era, one of braces and padded bras and school dances, and later make outs and break ups and witty banter over text message, of trying to find the version of me that could catch whatever Him I was currently chasing.

I gave the shirt away, but I think I may always remember March 15th.

Happy Birthday, Hot Stuff.