She was 15, and I was 13 which, highlighted the wide maturity gap between us!
To most, it was clear that I was clearly out of my league. Yet, I stubbornly refused to acknowledge the obvious. Sheena's favorite phrase was, “I will never date little boys.” Those words always felt like a nuclear weapon heading towards the space between my eyes and still make me quiver as I vividly remember hearing those words more than 50 years ago.
The phrase was both emasculating and a veiled threat that if I ever slipped into that category, it would mark my failure as a young man and threaten our relationship.
Not surprisingly, the grass looked greener and the bird's chirping sounds always sounded better when I was with Sheena. Her smile always brightened the sky, even on the most overcast day of the week.
I looked forward to each moment with her, even if I was suffocating when I was around her. My biggest fear is that I would say something that would break my cover and that she would find out that I did not measure up to her maturity standard.
In my part-time job at Kentucky Fried Chicken, I would daydream about her during my entire work shift. At times, I was snapped back to reality, as it was slowly taking over my life.
As Friday approached, Sheena asked me to come over after dinner to the park across the street from where she lived. Of course, I continued to pinch myself as I waited to commemorate the fourth week of our dating relationship. The one-sided nature of our relationship was evident because whenever I asked to see her, she was always busy and could only see me whenever she suggested we could meet.
As I quickly finished dinner, I told my mom, I would be going to visit my girlfriend. She said, "please don’t stay out too late. " I said, “please stop, I will be fine, this is a special relationship for me." Mom responded by saying, “whatever son, never let a woman control your life,"
How ironic, I thought. I should never let the love of my life influence me because she was a woman, but it was okay to let my mom (who was also a woman) tell me what I should do!
I left at 6:15 PM and arrived at the park by 6:30 PM. She lived just 15 minutes from my apartment. As usual, my heart was pounding, and my nerves were on a razor’s edge. She looked even more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. Nothing could be better than spending time with the girl of my dreams.
We talked about how our day went and our plans for the weekend. I told her that I had to go to work the next day at my KFC job. She seemed ambivalent about my job and the things that I said were going on in my life.
That made me feel even more nervous as I sensed I was not meeting her standards. I asked her if anything was wrong, and she looked up to the sky and said that I should be more serene about life and enjoy the moment. “Mayday, mayday,” I said to myself. It was clear that I needed to transition to other more impressive topics.
She was my aphrodite, and nothing I was saying seemed to be catching her attention. When I asked her, “is there anything wrong?” She responded by saying, “nothing, stop acting like a little boy.” She had no idea, but those words, cut me like a hot knife slicing through a bar of soft butter.
“Oh no,” I said to myself, “maybe I will never be able to convince her that I am as mature as her. And if that happens, I will lose her forever, and my dream to spend the rest of my life with this goddess will be gone forever.”
So many things were racing through my mind that I simultaneously felt sick and light-headed. As I turned towards her, I noticed a disgusted look as she said, “Who is that?"
At first, I was confused because all I could see was both of us in the park. We had been there for a few hours, and we were both oblivious to anyone around us.
But as I turned around, I saw that my mom had appeared and said, “Anthony, it is 8:30 PM, and about that time of day when you need to start thinking about heading back home. “ I did not want to make a scene, but at that moment, I hated my life, my mother, and everything around me. I told Sheena, “I need to head back now, but I will call you tomorrow and explain everything.”
Truthfully, I knew the end was near as I jogged home. I left my mom in the dust and headed back home. When I got back home, I told my mother that she had just destroyed the most important relationship of my life. To which she responded, “stopped being silly, she is not good for you. You just met her a month ago. Look at yourself in the mirror, you have been a nervous wreck since you started dating her, and she is taking over your life and not allowing you to be yourself.”
Of course, none of that mattered since she was the love of my life. I remember crying myself to sleep that night. The next day, I called Sheena after I got home from work to explain the misunderstanding, and she replied, “there was no misunderstanding whatsoever.” She had always suspected I was a mama’s boy, and I had just confirmed her fears. She said, “our relationship is over, and you should look for someone closer to your age.” She made it clear that she was moving on and would be looking for a real man.
I nearly died when I heard those words but as painful as those words sounded, Sheena was correct, I was too young for her, and nothing I could ever do would prove otherwise.
It was the most embarrassing moment of my life as life had played one of the cruelest jokes on me. I avoided dating anyone for over two years as I recovered from this heartbreak. Every song I heard while we were dating was a sad reminder of our relationship, prompting me to avoid listening to the radio.
Sadly, the story also circulated throughout my neighborhood, and I became the source of the best dating jokes ever.
More than 50 years later, I now realize that being in a one-sided relationship walking on eggshells is unhealthy irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman. Yes, I regret losing the love of my life, but I certainly don't miss the stress I felt with my unattainable goddess of love.