It was happening: my Molly Ringwald moment. It was 1986, and the 17-year-old love of my life was going to ask me to prom.

Like any star of a John Hughes teen romance, I had endured my share of indignities. But soon it would all be worth it. Soon I would be slow-dancing to Spandau Ballet’s “True” in a strapless black and white taffeta and tulle dress with the boy of my dreams, our asymmetrical hairdos in perfect alignment.

I had met Glen a year earlier while shopping at City Center in downtown Minneapolis. My pals the Fromme twins were looking for their junior prom dresses. Those petite, giggling girls had enjoyed more luck with the boys in our hometown of Prior Lake than I had. Even though I was the driver, I was just along for the ride, giving style advice as they tried on — and rejected — gown after gown.

Then, suddenly, as we circled the third floor of the downtown mall, the twins spotted some guys waving up at us. They knew them from working at Valleyfair the previous summer. We went down to meet them, an escalator ride to destiny.

Glen and I were instantly drawn to one another. Maybe it was our matching new wave haircuts. Maybe it was the mood lighting at Sbarro pizza, where we eventually found ourselves. Whatever it was, I was in love for the first time since my first-grade self made googly eyes across the lunchroom at Jared, an oblivious second-grader.

Only this time the feeling was mutual. Glen and I began the kind of intense high-school romance that had my mom in Prior Lake calling his mom in Mounds View to discuss curfews.

He made me a mix tape of songs by Ministry and New Order and the Cure. I drove across town to watch VHS tapes he made of MTV’s alternative music video show “120 Minutes” in his basement. He drove across town to watch my VHS recordings of “Friday Night Videos” in our downstairs family room. We played mini-golf. His mom photographed me with a baby squirrel his family rescued. We were adorable.

And then, after nine months, it was over. A soccer player from Mounds View named Amy had stolen my spiky-haired man-child. It was Christmastime. My theme song was Wham’s “Last Christmas.” “Last Christmas I gave you my heart,” I sang. “This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special.” Only there wasn’t anyone else.

I sobbed pathetically on my mauve and green floral comforter. I let my mom stroke my hair. I took solace in the fact that his friends were on my side. I made spring break plans with my friends. And I began to heal.

 

Prom season begins

In March, I went to Florida with six of my best girlfriends. We met some boys from Canada. Glenn with two n’s had long tawny hair. We walked on the beach at night and he kissed me. By the time I got home, I was over Glen with one n.

Until he started calling. He told me he and Amy had broken up. He asked me to go to the movies. We went to a $2 flick and shared a platonic pop. He called again and asked if I was going to prom. I said no one had asked me yet.

The next day, I went to school full of anticipation. Could it actually be happening? Me and Glen together again? A prom dream come true?

At lunchtime I went to the a la carte line and got my usual mini-doughnuts and chocolate shake. As I walked toward my table, Patrick seemed to appear out of nowhere.

I was standing in front of everyone, and a perfectly nice guy from my friend group was asking me to prom. It was horrible. I felt everyone’s eyes on me. And I did the worst thing I could do: I started to cry. And then I ran out.

That night Glen called and again asked if I was going to prom. I told him I had been asked but said no. I asked him if he was going and he said yes, he was going with Amy. I asked him if he would be interested in going to my prom with me. He said no. He couldn’t afford two tuxes.

At school the next day I apologized to Patrick and we decided to go to prom as friends.

When Glen called again it was to tell me he had mono and I might have been exposed. Soon I felt the lethargy of mononucleosis set in, and I was too tired to care about Glen or much else.

I slept. I zoned out to daytime soaps while my friends were in physics class. And when prom day finally came around, I rallied. I put on that strapless black and white taffeta and tulle dress and I smiled for Patrick and the cameras.

But the glands bulging in my neck told the truth. My life wasn’t a teen romance. At best it was a sitcom. And I would be well-served by finding the humor in this and all the romantic disappointments to come. I had the kissing disease, but it was the wishful thinking that made me sick.

 

Heidi Raschke is a longtime Twin Cities writer and editor with tentative plans to write a book about growing up as a professional wrestler’s daughter. Follow her on Twitter: @heidiraschke.

 

ABOUT 10,000 TAKES: 10,000 Takes is a new digital section featuring first-person essays about life in the North Star State. We publish narratives about love, family, work, community and culture in Minnesota.