The Boy 'Genius' and the Southern Belle
When I was 14, my family and I moved from a small town in Michigan to West Palm Beach, a tourist haven in South Florida. I loved the palm trees, white-sand beaches and tropical climate, but I was even more amazed by what happened to me in school.
I became popular overnight. In Michigan I was a B student, but Michigan schools were more advanced than Florida schools, so I was viewed as a genius at Palm Beach Junior High School.
I hadn't been popular at my Michigan school, partly because I didn't care about popularity but also due to the fact that I was a bit of a nerd. I was a chemistry nut and other kids my age weren't interested in chemistry. They were too busy forming snobbish cliques and trying to impress each other with fashionable clothes.
Pam Riberdy had been my first and only girlfriend in Michigan. She wasn't bad looking -- not beautiful, but above average -- and she was smart, which I liked. But I wasn't in love with Pam or even have a crush on her. She was just someone who didn't gag me to hang out with. We did stupid things like go bowling (geeky!) and we occasionally kissed (mushy!), but we never dreamed of going all the way. My having a girlfriend at age 12 came as quite a relief to my father, who had been terrified he was raising a mama's boy/homosexual.
It was different with Carol Normandin in Florida. She was the prettiest girl in our junior high school and I was smitten the moment I laid eyes on her. She was tall and thin with a beautiful baby face and she looked as French as her last name sounded -- dark shoulder-length hair, lovely brown eyes and a heart-stopping smile. When she told one of her male teachers she was 14, he embarrassed her by saying he wished he was 15.
I was surprised that Carol wasn't stuck up in the slightest. Despite her stunning good looks, she was friendly to everyone and humble about herself. In Michigan I wouldn't have had a chance with a girl that gorgeous, but Carol was completely accessible. She was my kind of girl.
She was one of the many students who flocked to me to ask for help with their chemistry homework. I was flabbergasted when she said she wanted us to become close friends. For the first time I appreciated the hidden value of knowledge -- impressing beautiful girls! I was the skinny genius from Michigan riding a wave of new-found popularity in the tropics. It was the high point of my young life.
Carol was an only child (like me) whose family lived in an upscale neighborhood of West Palm Beach. I lived in a mobile home at the edge of the Florida Everglades, but that didn't matter to Carol. We went on dates whenever I could scrape up enough money and she behaved like an absolute sweetheart. She also dated other guys, which made me a little jealous, but I really had nothing to complain about. I was grateful she went out with me as often as she did.
Aside from her physical beauty, Carol was graceful, athletic and smart with a paradoxical self-deprecating sense of humor. I had heard about southern gentility and Carol struck me as a genuine southern belle.
I felt bitter and depressed when my parents got divorced a year later and my mother moved the two of us back to Michigan. She practically had to drag me along hog-tied. She didn't understand how much I was giving up to leave Florida. I would lose Carol and become a nobody once again in Michigan.
I wrote to Carol from time to time and she answered my letters, but long-distance romances don't work and eventually we both stopped writing.
However, I never forgot her. At the age of 19 I returned to West Palm Beach and the first thing I did was look up Carol. She was still as beautiful as a model and the right height for that profession at 5 foot, 11 inches. Unfortunately, she was also engaged to be married in a few weeks, which dashed my hopes that we could pick up where we had left off 4 years earlier. Even worse, she was marrying a balding guy from New York who was 30 years old!
I gave my congratulations to Carol and her fiancee and I never saw her again. I didn't try to stay in touch because it would have reminded me too painfully of what might have been for me and this exquisite southern belle.
Ironically, I got married within a year myself. It has always tortured me to wonder if this happened because I was on the rebound from Carol or because I sincerely loved my wife.
"The earth was made round so we can't see too far down the road and know what is coming." -- Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Last edited by starrwriter; 03-17-2007 at 08:14 AM..