march 2011


A Summer Love Story

Cupid At the Tetherball Court

By Jessica Ann

I don't exactly recall it being difficult for me to make friends as a child, however I was quite shy right off the bat. Needless to say I was so nervous as my mother drove up the winding driveway to drop me off at summer camp. I didn't know how I would make friends or even if I could make friends. I had originally begged my mother to let me go to this camp because my best friend was going and we wanted to spend the summer together. So much for that plan because shortly after my mother had paid for my attendance, the so-called best friend bailed. This is probably the reason why I don't remember who that girl was and I'm sure she was no longer my best friend after this fiasco. So here I was, going to a camp where I would know no one. Funny thing is that this is not the last time that this would happen to me.

I must say the setting was beautiful and tranquil. Set off a busy street in a bustling town, you'd never know what laid beyond the wooden fence separating it from the hectic pace of traffic. As we wound our way under hordes of shade trees and picnic areas my heart beat faster. I was excited and scared to death at the same time. As I got out of the car, my mother may have given me some words of wisdom, but I'm sure I wasn't listening. All I heard was the screaming and banter of a whole park filled with kids. Some were younger than I, and some older, but it appeared I would be in the more older crowd, though I was still only eleven at the time. Of course, I was going to be a big shot soon because my twelfth birthday was right around the corner.

Bryan Hyland, ‘Sealed With a Kiss,’ 1962, a #3 single, written by Peter Udell and Gary Geld, originally recorded by the Four Voices in 1960.

So life went on at summer camp as usual. I made friends easily and I'm sure an enemy or two also. I hung with the popular girls, the cute girls, the girls the boys would tease and follow. Unfortunately for them, I had my eye on something else. Here I was not old enough to drive, but already flirting with an older man. Yes, that's right, he was older. He was attending camp that summer for the first time and he was too cute for words with big bedroom eyes (no, I didn't know what that meant then--I believe we called them puppy dog eyes at that age), shoulder length straight brown hair (shoulder-length hair=a parents' worse nightmare in the late ‘70s) and an athletic build. To top it all off, he was a Junior Counselor, something I would return the following summer to do myself. Now keep in mind, when I say older, I only mean he was fourteen or fifteen. Of course that meant too old in a parent's eye, but what they didn't know...(sorry mom).

tetherballDay after day I did what I could to get his attention. I realized he was more interested in flirting and hanging with the women counselors, but they still saw him as a 14-year-old boy. Here I was, flat-chested (pretty much) and rough around the edges. I was a tomboy and some moments weren't going to be pretty, but boys were supposed to like girls who were athletic. One of those moments was not merely a moment, but a day after day affair. It was the tether ball competition. For some reason that was the game at this camp. The matches were fierce and could turn ugly very fast. I myself was quite good but was no competition for Patricia. She and I became fast and best friends when we met on the first day and I think that was mostly because I was the only girl who could give her a run for her money, other than her sister, when it came to tether ball. However, there were always the boys that had to get in there and make it nasty. One of them was a boy named Sandy who had tried to get Patricia to go steady with him, but she wasn't really into that sort of thing.

I, however, was still focused on my pursuit of the Junior Counselor. One day, while on a hiking trip, which a group of us would do daily through the woods, I got the opportunity to talk to him. He knew I liked him and was finally showing some interest in me. I was so excited I could hardly stand it and when he asked if he could talk to me, I thought I was going to faint right then and there. I didn't though and we began to hang back from the crowd a little so we could talk. As we became further away from everyone else he had grabbed my hand and we stopped walking. Without saying anything else to me, he leaned over and kissed me on my lips, the sweat from his upper lip getting all over me. I thought it was great and gross at the same time. This wasn't my first kiss on the lips, but it wasn't more than my second, maybe third. He then looked at me and told me flat out that he would go out with me as long as I French kiss. Can you say "ewww?" There was no way I was doing that! Granted, I did have my birthday and I was a whopping twelve years old, but still very much a prude. I couldn't even fathom doing what he was suggesting, so I told him I didn't do that and I ran away. I ran all the way back to the camp and of course got in trouble for leaving the hiking group. Did they have no compassion to the ordeal I just went through? I needed support and comfort, not punishment.

Gary Lewis & The Playboys, ‘Save Your Heart For Me,’ a #2 single in August 1965. Written by Peter Udell and Gary Geld, the same duo that wrote Bryan Hyland’s 1962 hit ‘Sealed With a Kiss.’ Hyland originally recorded this as the B side of his 1963 single ‘I’m Afraid to Go Home.’

Humiliated now because the story of why I wouldn't go out with the Junior Counselor had spread like wildfire through the camp, it took everything I had to look these people in the face. I'm not sure what it was about my now soiled reputation that peaked his interest, but I was soon approached by Sandy--yes, the bully at the tether ball court. We played a few games and I beat him so bad, most boys would have punched me and walked away. But here was this boy, cute, curly blond hair, who was being compassionate, loving, caring and attentive. He stuck by my side for the rest of the morning trying to make me feel better. I began to wonder why the girls he asked out wouldn't go out with him. There didn't seem to be anything wrong. I mean I was getting so much attention from him, it was great. Eventually, the inevitable happened. He asked me to go steady with him. I was blushing and thrilled, but yet I told him I'd think about it and let him know.

I pulled my best friend, Patricia, aside and told her that Sandy had asked me out. I remember her commenting that he was cute, but that he had already asked her and possibly another girl to go steady. I didn't care at that point. Maybe I was hoping to make the other guy jealous, though that bridge was burned with that whole French kissing thing, or maybe I was just trying to make myself feel better. I thought about it for a while and challenged Sandy to another game of tether ball and when he beat me on this game, I advised him that I decided I would be his girlfriend. Soon word spread throughout the camp as he excitedly told everyone he came in contact with. Funny thing is I don't think he ever came near me until it was time to get on the bus and take our daily trip to the local pool. I guess going steady automatically gives the unspoken consensus of what you do. You sit together on buses, at lunch and near each other in class. Maybe you hold hands and possibly share a kiss. I however was only as far with this guy as allowing him to sit on the bus next to me on the way to the pool. This was enough to make it official to everyone though that yes, we were going steady.

Finally, after a long and arduous bus ride to the pool, we were there and I could get away from my new "first love." The pool happened to be my home, not his. I was constantly working on perfecting my diving skills and no time to play the giddy girlfriend. So I'd climb up on the diving board, spot Sandy watching me from the benches at the side of the pool, and instead of feeling the usual butterflies of pride and nervousness about my new "boyfriend" I felt more disgusted with myself for agreeing to go out with him. I was seeing the annoying nudge that I had avoided most of the summer, the guy that no one else would go out with and here I was, his "girlfriend" and it wasn't out of pity and certainly not because I really liked him either. Not even a couple hours into this newfound relationship could I fathom why I was going steady with this guy. I then caught the eye of the Junior Counselor, whose name completely escapes me anymore, and realized what my summer love had come down to. I settled. Here I was, at the ripe old age of 12, settling because I couldn't be with the one I wanted and do the things he wanted me to do. So yes, I settled, for all the right reasons for me, but all the wrong ones for Sandy. He told me he loved me that day and that is probably why I can remember his name and not the other guy's name. However, at such a tender age, that was his biggest mistake of our courtship. Before we left the pool that day I had run up to Sandy as quickly as I could and told him I wanted to break up with him and then ran away even faster. Although my first summer love lasted only a few hours, they will always be memorable ones.

Posted April 21, 2008 at Associated Content from Yahoo!

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024