Sealed With A Kiss by
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Prompted By Embarrassment

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I will admit that I have done many embarrassing things in my life. I’m sure that at least some of you can relate to that. The realization, whether sudden or gradual, that you have said or done something stupid, followed by the feeling of your face getting hot, and the knowledge that it must be turning beet red. Then desperately hoping for a hole nearby that you can crawl into.

If you say something embarrassing, you may be able to deny it plausibly. That's not the case if you embarrass yourself IN WRITING!

The way I usually embarrass myself is by talking about someone in a too-loud voice when it turns out that they are within earshot. Sometimes it is clear that they have heard, and I have to scramble to explain that I didn’t really mean what it sounded like I meant. Other times I am not so sure they did, and then the question arises whether to do anything, or just pretend I never said it and hope that they either didn’t hear, or are unsure whether they heard what they thought they did. In my clearest memory of this type of embarrassment, I am walking up the stairs in my high school, on my way to Spanish class, and we are complaining about the Spanish teacher. Just as I loudly say something derogatory about him, one of my friends whispers, “Suzy, shhh, he’s right behind us.” Oh no! I never knew for sure whether he heard me or not, so I just tried to be a model student after that, hoping he would forgive me if he had.

At least if you say something embarrassing, you may be able to deny it plausibly. That’s not the case if you do what I did on one memorable occasion – embarrass myself IN WRITING! Here’s the story.

It was my second year at National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan — 1962 — which means I was turning eleven at the end of the summer (late August birthday). I can’t remember where at camp I met this boy named Eric, whether he was in one of my classes or at some other activity. I have this vague feeling of seeing him at the waterfront, but I know they had separate lakes for the boys and the girls, so that probably isn’t right, unless they occasionally had co-ed swims. Maybe other NMC campers can enlighten me on this. I’m not sure why I decided to go after him – it may have been that all the girls in my group were picking out boys to like, and I picked him. But I didn’t know how to flirt with him (they should have had a class on how to flirt), and was trying to figure it out. Then I found out that he liked a girl named Frances. Frances had blond hair in a pageboy haircut, like the Little Dutch Boy, and was much cuter than I was. She liked him too, and they became boyfriend and girlfriend. I was crushed. I kept hoping they would break up, but they stayed together all summer (at least as much as that very regimented camp allowed boys and girls to be together).

Some time that fall or winter, I had the idea of writing to him and telling him that he should be with me instead of Frances the following summer. I don’t even know how I knew his address, but I did. Actually, I can still remember his address now, almost six decades later. I looked it up on Google maps today to check my memory by seeing if there was really a house with that number on that street in New Rochelle, and there was. And this is what it looks like! Holy cow! If I’d known I was sending a letter to a mansion like that, I might have been more intimidated. But send it off I did, with SWAK on the envelope.

After what seemed like an interminable amount of time, but was probably only a week or so, I got a letter back from him. It was very friendly and polite, thanked me for writing, and said something like it was hard to know what the summer would bring. I showed it to my mother, and she said it was such a good letter that she thought HIS mother must have drafted it.

By the time the next summer rolled around I was mortified at what I had done. At camp I quickly saw that Eric and Frances were back together. I figured he had probably told her about my letter, and I did my best to avoid both of them all summer. NMC was such a huge camp that this was not that hard to do. At the end of the summer, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought my embarrassment was over.

But wait, it gets worse.

Fast forward to the fall of 1968, five years after that last miserable summer at NMC. At some point after I arrived in Cambridge for my freshman year of college, I made the shocking discovery that Eric was also a member of the freshman class! What were the odds of that?! This same kid, who lived in New Rochelle, New York and had gone to camp with me in Michigan was now in college with me in Massachusetts. I’m not sure if I saw his name somewhere first, or just ran into him, but there he was, instantly recognizeable. I was mortified all over again. Would he remember me, and/or the letter I sent him? It was a while before I got up the nerve to introduce myself to him and ask if he remembered me. He had a vague recollection that we had gone to camp together, and had written to each other, but not the specifics. Obviously it wasn’t as big a deal to him as it was to me. And his mother probably did write the letter he sent to me. We became friendly but not real friends in college, and did not go out with each other (the way we would have if it were a movie instead of real life).

I just looked him up in my most recent reunion report (the red book). He actually lives in California now, although in the San Diego area, nowhere near me. He is a psychiatrist, has a wife who is not named Frances, and two grown kids. I wonder what became of Frances.

 

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Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Oh, Suzy, aren’t those early encounters with the opposite sex just mortifying? Were you a Junior or Intermediate that summer? It is true that the little kids were very tightly regimented and watched like hawks. But there were still co-rec activities, maybe a cook-out with the boy’s camp down by the waterfront, so your recollection is possible.

    As Intermediates, there were “Coke dates:” boys could invite girls to meet them at the Melody Freeze for something to eat before the evening activity. I was never invited on one. The girls in the cabin would help the lucky invited girl to primp for her date (always wearing the uniform). In High School Division, every Monday night, we had a dance on the tennis courts (no uniforms…we’d go to the practice huts to make-out), had no supervision on Main Camp, so could actually go on dates, make-out with the guys, etc…being an older camper was a different world.

    At the end of camp, we were also provided with a print-out containing address info of every camper who attended each summer. It was a very long list, so that’s how you would have his home address.

    I love the “SWAK”. Very “of the moment”, as your song title implies (I remember the song too…longing for the love left behind over the summer). Amazing that Eric and Fran were still an “item” the next summer (those romances usually didn’t last), but even more incredible that he showed up years later as your classmate at Harvard! What are the odds? Great story, full of twists and turns.

    • Suzy says:

      Betsy, thank you so much for the explanations! I probably should have asked you before writing the story, but maybe it’s more fun this way. I was a Junior the first summer I mentioned, and an Intermediate the next year. I sure don’t remember anyone having “Coke Dates” when I was an Intermediate, but maybe it was just that nobody I knew was invited to one. How interesting that they gave us a print-out of everyone’s address – was that just everyone in your division, or everyone in the entire camp?

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        I think Coke Dates were a pretty rare occurrence, which is why everyone in the cabin was so invested in helping the attendee get ready. They happened, maybe, once a week, strictly a boy ask girl affair.

        The address list was for EVERYONE who attended camp that summer. I think I still have the one from my last summer, but did not save them from previous summers. We also got a professionally printed “program book” each summer (I DO still have them for each summer I attended), which listed every performance for every group throughout the summer, every member of every ensemble, and, by city and state, every camper who attended (though no addresses). Probably faculty and staff as well. Really a complete look back at the summer.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    A really astute observation of the greater risk of putting something embarrassing in writing. And a terrific example of it.

    I also really liked the idea that you followed up on the situation, both in college and recently. (That doesn’t count as stalking, right?) Now, of course, I’m trying to think if I knew anyone from New Rochelle named Eric who was in your class.

    I am so happy you were able to determine — first the following summer and then in college — that the embarrassment was over. To me, that sort of closure is the most important thing with embarrassments. As you will see from my story, I had to check out obituaries just a couple of years ago to be sure with mine. May we both now be able to enjoy the rest of our lives. (Unless, of course, you bump into Frances.)

    • Suzy says:

      Surely you’re not saying that looking someone up in the reunion Red Book could be considered stalking? Isn’t that the whole point of those books, for classmates to be able to read about each other, sometimes at ridiculous length? Eric only wrote one paragraph, at least in the 2017 book. I haven’t gone back to check earlier books.

      Your line about bumping into Frances made me laugh out loud. I did look for her on facebook yesterday, but I wasn’t sure of the spelling of her last name, and there’s a good chance she has a different last name now anyway. So I’ll just have to wait for fate to intervene.

  3. Suzy, I hope your embarrassment over Eric didn’t really ruin your summer!
    And now that he’s a psychiatrist I’m sure he forgives your girlhood blunder!

  4. What an adorable story, Suzy, and so well written it felt like a teen movie even with the tepid ending in Cambridge. Kids just pick a romantic partner without much idea of who they really are, and they sometimes even change partners from day to day. That this couple made it through the summer and on to another one makes me think they were just lucky. I “went steady” — love that term — for a couple years (as I remember) in elementary school and we never even kissed, although I wore his ring (heavy, with a horse’s head on it) around my skinny neck. My eyebrows shot up when I saw the picture of the house…holy cow indeed. I love the idea of your envelope with SWAK arriving there. Innocent/not-so-innocent. You were bold and went after what you wanted, you little hussy, you! It’s funny how these kinds of things stay with us…but thankfully not with him as he had no memory of your boldness. A really enjoyable story…and a perfect ending. Frances, call us!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks Barb, “felt like a teen movie” is the highest compliment I can imagine for this story! It never occurred to me until right now, but maybe Eric actually did remember my letter and pretended he didn’t to spare me any further embarrassment. That would have been a really nice thing to do!

      “Frances, call us!” I love it, you are so witty!

  5. Marian says:

    I love how you say “mortifying,” Suzy, and what a cute story (at least now, I can understand your feeling back then). At least you can follow up into adult life, but what an incredible coincidence that Eric ended up at college with you. And that house!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Marian. Is mortifying not a word that is commonly used? I hate to tell you how often it comes up in my conversation! And that house, I know! I gasped when I saw the image on Google Maps last night. Wish they had pictures of the inside too.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I love your story about saying something and then discovering the person you were slamming was right behind you. When my girls were figure skating, I made a rule that they couldn’t talk about anyone until we were safely in the car. Should have told that to my mother-in-law, who remarked at a show that one of the skaters was pretty fat. Her mother was seated right behind us.

    Aren’t pre-teen crushes the worst, Suzy? I had one and wrote this boy’s name all over my notebooks. But he was with another girl, and ended up marrying her. I’m sure he never knew how I felt about him, not that he would have cared.

    • Suzy says:

      Laurie, that’s a great rule, don’t talk about anyone until you are in the car! Talking about a HS teacher when you are on the way to his classroom, as I did, is probably about as dumb as it gets! And writing a boy’s name all over your notebooks – I’m definitely guilty of that. Or worse yet, writing Mrs. [his name]. Yes, I did that too!

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