Cute Couples.

There are a couple of high school students on the bus I ride home from work, a boy and a girl. They always sit together. They seem nicely matched: they both wear rumpled dark hoodies, and he sits and draws in a sketchbook while she reads graphic novels. Sometimes they don’t even talk for the entire trip, but every day, when her stop comes up first, they share a quick kiss. I don’t stare, but it’s cute and I’m happy for them. And it brings back memories from high school—specifically Juliette, who was in my Latin class. She also rode the bus with me.

Normally riding the bus was an hour of unbearable misery, but when Juliette and I started sitting together things got a lot better. We chatted and laughed and generally had a good time.

To say that when it came to looks Juliette was out of my league would be a gross understatement. Forget leagues. Metaphorically she would have been a football pro while I, with my acne and awkwardness, was bottom rung of a Tuesday night bowling team. And I had already learned a lesson that Harvey Fierstein put so well when he said, “See, an ugly person who goes after a pretty person gets nothing but trouble. But a pretty person who goes after an ugly person gets at least cab-fare.” It was a school bus, though, so Juliette wasn’t expecting me to pay for the ride.

If you are or have been a teenager maybe you’ll understand this: knowing I had no chance with Juliette in a romantic sense took all the pressure off me. With her I was a witty, charming, suave gentleman, whereas with any girl I was actually interested in and thought I had a chance at dating I was Hedorah the Smog Monster. And it didn’t bother me that Juliette talked to me about the guys she dated–she was extremely selective, because she could be, but still managed to get stuck with some creeps, while I could talk to her about a bad breakup I was going through and share really bad song lyrics I’d written, but that’s another story.

Somehow Juliette and I always found ourselves sitting behind Kate and Brian, a pair who weren’t quite as mismatched but vehemently denied they were attracted to each other, creating a whole will-they-or-won’t-they vibe. And then, after a band trip, it became clear they did and, as it turned out, would continue to for some time.

That first day after the band trip we watched Kate and Brian hold hands, kiss, and swoon over each other. Then Juliette turned to me.

“I’m so glad they got together. Aren’t you?”

I preferred their sarcastic bickering, but, yeah, if they were happy then bully for them. Juliette went on.

“Of course you and I would never get together like that.” A smile played across her dewy lips and she gave me an intense stare. “Right? I mean, it could just never happen between us.” She put her hand up and played with her hair a bit.

“Right!” I said, maybe a little too vehemently. “Not us!” It would be, I knew, what Bloom County‘s Opus described as a Billy Joel-Christie Brinkley match, and look how that turned out.

As an aside, yes, some of the most poignant and useful relationship advice I’ve ever gotten has come from a gay playwright and a cartoon penguin.

Juliette and I continued to ride the bus together and continued to laugh and talk, but gradually we drifted apart. I started getting rides home with a friend who had a car and she, well, I don’t know. I wanted her to be happy. I still hope she is, but I knew even our friendship wouldn’t last. We had so little in common beyond riding on the bus together and, silly as it may sound, it was my senior year and I was saving myself for college, where I hoped I’d meet someone more like me.

There’s a saying that as you get older your greatest regrets aren’t the things you did but rather the things you didn’t do. While there are a few missed chances I regret I’m still glad Juliette and I never went beyond friendship even if the tension of possibility remained out there. Sometimes it’s better to just leave a good thing as it is.

That’s a bit of advice I learned from Hedorah the Smog Monster.


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  1. Arionis

    Great story! I’ve been in the “friend zone” before too. Sometimes it’s all cool. Other times, not so much. It kind of reminds me of the old 80’s movie “The Last American Virgin”. As a kid I figured out how to illegally hook up HBO and it was the first time my friends and I saw nudity in a movie. That will leave an impression. How did I get from your nice story to nudity in movies? Sheesh I am hopeless.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Being in the “friend zone” has its advantages, mainly the lack of pressure. And thanks for the flashback to “The Last American Virgin”. That was a weird and fun film that ran the spectrum from screwball comedy to serious drama, if I remember correctly. I think the funniest and also most unnerving part was when the guys all ended up with crabs and tried to drown ’em in the pool. There’s a good reason to stay in the friend zone.

  2. Allison

    I was the training wheels. I had a few guys date me, then break up with me to try their new skills on the girl they really liked. Or, they’d befriend me to put in a good word with one of my friends.

    I had fun, I had my teenage romances. I’m glad to be 42.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It sounds like you learned quite a bit from those experiences too. And now you’re a professional trainer, although not a romantic one. Using you as an unwitting wing girl, though, is a pretty underhanded trick.

  3. Jay

    I was lucky that my high school bestie lived in my neighbourhood and made our long commute to school bearable. I’m not usually much for reminiscing, but it is nice when seeing something run-of-the-mill like that can make you smile.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It is nice to have someone on the commute who makes it bearable. I got lucky later in high school that I hitched rides with friends with cars, but it is nice to have a little pleasant nostalgia.

  4. sathwika

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Ann Koplow

    I’ve had male friends all my life and I’ve avoided getting together with them “like that” (to quote your Juliette) in order to preserve the friendship, which was so valuable to me. Thanks for another valuable post, Chris.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      We’re very fortunate that life has taught us that, contrary to what Billy Crystal said in When Harry Met Sally, it’s entirely possible and even rewarding for men and women to be purely platonic friends. And also contrary to what George Costanza said sometimes “coffee” really does mean coffee.

  6. mydangblog

    That was my son for a while but he finally found an awesome girl who loves him as much as he loves her. Talk about a cute couple!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It always warms the cockles of wherever my cockles are to hear about people who love each other. I’m glad your son and his girlfriend have made a cute couple.


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