Ned Weinstein* was the white, Jewish incarnation of Steve Urkel. He was a scrawny kid with a mass of brown hair that someone, presumably his mom, attempted to part on the right side. He had a turkey sandwich for lunch every day, and wore button-down shirts in the 1st grade. By the 2nd he had decided what he wanted to be when he grew up—a neuroscientist.
He also, by age 7, was completely and totally sure that I was the girl he wanted to marry. Meanwhile, I barely even acknowledged his existence. My first memory of Ned was in my kindergarten class. We were sitting down on the cherry red carpet for story time, and I noticed out of the corner of my eye that another kid had taken the big blue cushion I liked to sit on. Ned came to my rescue. “No, that’s Kate’s pillow,” he said to this other little boy, with such force that said kid jumped up and rushed to the back of the mat. I probably didn’t even say thank you.
From then on, even though I only have a handful of random memories of him, Ned was a part of my life. We went to the same summer camp—I vaguely remember once agreeing to be his canoeing partner if he’d stop parting his hair for a day. Since we were both kids who were quickly put on the “smart” track in school, we were in the same advanced classes together. At least once a day, I would feel like I was being watched and would turn around to see him staring at me, head rested on his chin.
Ned’s devotion to me lasted all the way through elementary school. One day in 5th grade art class, I was seated at a table with him and about five others. (The seats were assigned, of course). We were making tin foil collages, when out of nowhere, he said that he could remember the exact time—to the day and minute—that he met me. And proceeded to recite it.
Naturally, I never even slightly gave Ned a chance. I was an elementary school student on the cusp of popularity, and was too busy forming crushes on the same three cute guys that all the other girls were crushing on, too. By the time middle school rolled around, I’d moved on to skater boys and Kurt Cobain wannabes who skipped class and smoked cigarettes in the woods. I pretty much ignored Ned until high school. At which point, I still never would’ve considered dating him. Besides, he ended up getting together with a hippie girl in the drama club.
Even though I haven’t so much as seen Ned or heard his name since senior year of high school, I’ve thought about him more in the past two years of my life than I did for the 13 years he was semi in it. It took me a little while to realize why he pops into my mind on occasion these days. The past couple of years—while filled with successes, and laughter, and amazing times—has been a period where I’ve faced a lot of rejection. On magazine articles. On book projects. On jobs, before I was lucky enough to find my way to The Frisky. But mostly, I’ve been single and there has been a lot of rejection from guys. Every time a potential love interest doesn’t call, or says, “I don’t think we should see each anymore,” or does something to prove that he’s not the awesome person I am looking for, I find myself thinking about Ned. It gives me a little reassurance that it’s not me—that I am good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, there will be men who genuinely love me. Because he did, and he barely even knew the good sides of me.
I hear so many women around me talk about how they’re so fat and so ugly when obviously they are the opposite. I’ve honestly never felt that. I’ve always felt beautiful. Part of that probably has to do with my awesome parents and friends, but I think at least a certain percentage of that confidence comes from Ned constantly telling me through my formative years how lovely I was.
Without me even realizing it until now, his adoration meant a lot to me. I just hope that my constant brush-offs didn’t have the opposite effect on his self-esteem.
Out of curiosity, I just Googled Ned. And I am proud to report that he is now—and I should have seen this coming—a neuroscience professor at a very big deal university. I think I’m going to write him now. It’s about time for that thank you.
*Name has been changed.