That’s right. His name was Judd. And whatever visual image you have conjured upon hearing that name is most likely accurate.
I was around 10 years old and lived right in town, in a neighborhood swarming with kids. Mostly boys. During the summer months, they would come play at my house in our backyard. Soccer, baseball, hide and seek, tag and dodge ball. My little sister would sometimes get in on the action, and my parents were always milling around the house, raking or cleaning gutters, or vacuuming their car. Whatever it is our parents did when they puttered around the house on the weekends.
This day was like any other day at my house with kids coming and going from next door or across the street, jogging over hollering ‘Hey Mr. Goodman’ to my dad or waving to my mom through the porch window. We had all agreed to play a game of dodge ball as we had so many times before, but this day would soon prove to be a day of memorable lessons in Love.
He wasn’t a regular at my house like some of the other boys who frequented my back porch, asking if I could come out and play soccer. He was also a year or two older than me and most of my friends, which made him 11 or 12. A big difference in adolescents. As his name suggests, he was a husky almost chubby kid who seemed to be always perspiring and clammy. And it was now August. He had a weird tooth in the front of his mouth that stuck out from the others, and he wore a gold chain that seemed to always be stuck in the sweaty creases in his neck. Oh Judd. Poor, poor, pubescent, putrid Judd.
For some unknown reason, Judd thought he was The Man. He had a cocky strut about him that I can only deduce he got from having an older brother around. He sauntered into my backyard and got in on the game making small talk with the other boys.
Being the arrogant little Tween that he was, he sent one of the other boys over to me and had them ask me if I wanted to be his girlfriend a mere ten minutes into our game of dodge ball. Don’t ask me why I said “sure”. I guess I figured that our relationship would be like any other Elementary School relationship I had been in: The boy sends his buddy over to ask me to be his girlfriend, I tell them yes, he goes back and tells him my answer, and then we don’t ever speak to each other again.
But Judd had other plans. Immediately upon entering into our new roles as “boyfriend-girlfriend”, Judd decided that I could no longer play dodge ball, but now had to be protected from the ball. He proceeded to wrap his arms around me and deflect any and all balls that were aimed in our direction. Standing against the back of my garage, the other boys would take turns chucking the balls our way and my hero Judd would block them with his arm and then quickly place it back around me so as not to leave me unattended for even a minute. Or, he would deflect them with his foot, sticking it out just in time so it wouldn’t hurt me.
Having never been this physically close to a boy in my life, I could smell his dirty-pubescent boy smell. I could feel his clammy and sticky arms around me and hear his breathing as he worked hard to protect his feeble new girlfriend from getting hurt. But most of all, I could feel his pride at playing the role of Protector. Provider of Safety. This was his job in his mind. This is what boys did. This is how they showed they’re love.
Twenty minutes ago I was in the game, but upon accepting the role of “Girlfriend”, I was not only placed into the role of Damsel in Distress, but I played my role perfectly. I shrunk from the on-coming ball feigning fear. I winced as his hand narrowly intercepted the barreling object, and I stood perfectly still in his sweaty, clammy, chubby arms while he reveled in his Machismo. I’m pretty sure he must have had asthma because being my protector was really making him start to wheeze and I was beginning to lose faith in his ability to hold up his end of the bargain.
Eventually I could take it no more and pried myself from his grasp.
Halfway through this game of dodge ball, Judd suddenly decides that it would be fun for he and I to go into my clubhouse that was attached to our garage. It used to be a horse stable way back when, but now held things like our croquet set, our Shop Vac, my dad’s golf clubs and a few posters of Ralph Macchio that I taped up to make it “homey”.
Taking my hand, he led me into the tiny room with just one window. We proceeded to play some kind of quasi-dodge ball game with the other boys through the window, until he then decided that it would be fun to squat down below the window. And stay down. Out of sight. I was 10, and therefore confused as to why he wanted to stay hidden from the other boys, until suddenly, as we squatted on our heals, he leaned forward, put his mouth on mine and I felt his tongue awkwardly and eagerly trying to pry my lips apart.
Without even thinking, I cocked my right arm, pulled my head back and lunged at him in a punch/slap/shove that caused him to fall into the corner of the club house and have to catch himself against the wall. I can remember the feel of his flabby cheek against my hand and the heft of him falling against the wall as I screamed in his face.
Just who the hell did Judd think he was?
He sucked at dodge ball. I would have eventually gotten nailed in the face with the ball if I hadn’t freed myself from his wheezing, gulping arms, and we won’t even talk about his ‘romantic gestures’.
After poor, stupid Judd clamored back on to his feet, he came bawling out of the club house that he was going home and that he was breaking up with me. Too bad I was already back playing dodge ball with the other boys who were too young to be interested in the drama of relationships just yet. Too bad that poor Judd still thought he was still my boyfriend even after I slugged him. Too bad I actually had a crush on one of the other boys who had no clue I existed other than someone to play dodge ball with.
At 10, I had my first ‘real’ relationship. It lasted 45 minutes and I learned three things:
1) Pretending to be something that you’re not so that someone else can feel good about themselves is the quickest way to misery.
2) If a boy has to trick you into kissing him, then he will most likely be an atrocious kisser.
3) If someone dumps you because you wouldn’t do either 1 or 2 consider yourself lucky that you dodged that ball and know that down the road you’ll eventually meet and marry the guy who took you on the three dates and still didn’t even try to kiss you. You’ve simply got to get out the ones who can’t handle your heat and keep the one who easily catches it in his hands.