I grew up in a conservative Indian family. This meant anything with a Y chromosome was off limits. Don’t look at boys, don’t think about boys, don’t talk to boys, don’t even think about talking to boys. No dating, no making out, and definitely no sex. I was to be a good Indian girl, get good grades, get into an Ivy League school and marry a nice Indian boy.
All of this would have been fine if I grew up in India. But I was raised in suburban New Jersey. So my priorities as a teenager were short skirts, cheerleading, big hair, (this was Jersey after all), and, of course, boys. The only problem was I didn’t know how to approach guys because I didn’t have any proper examples. My parents got married after three dates in what was basically an arranged marriage. Clearly, they were of no help at all.
So I turned my attention to the only other sources of information I had: fashion magazines. I read every issue of Seventeen, Sassy and YM religiously in the hopes of discerning some clues about the opposite sex.
Senior year I got a job at the local movie theater. This meant I had to serve popcorn and nachos to a bunch of bratty kids and their even shittier parents, while wearing a super sexy tuxedo with bow tie. I looked completely hideous in the uniform, but it was my first taste of real independence, so I was more excited than a dog in heat. I became friends with a couple of the girls who worked at the movie theater, Jodi and Karen.
My solution for my absurdly early 9 p.m. curfew was to lie. I would say I was working late at the movie theater which would take me at least until midnight. If I wanted to stay out really late, I would pretend I was sleeping over a friend’s house. My parents always bought the story, hook, line and sinker. Thankfully my dad was obsessed with technology so along with being one of the first families to have Internet, we were one of the first to have cell phones. This meant I no longer had to give a phone number for where I was staying, (which would have been disastrous as 99 percent of the time as I was lying), and they could reach me at all times. It was a win-win situation.
When Karen and Jodi had invited me to go clubbing in Philly, I made up my usual cockamamie story about sleeping over someone’s house, got dressed up in my most fabulous outfit, and drove over to pick up the girls.
“Omigod, Rachel we have the perfect guy for you,” Karen gushed as she entered the car.
“You do?” My ears immediately perked up.
“Oh yeah,” Jodi chimed in. “He’s like totally cute and you’re totally his type. He’s so nice. Him and his friends are meeting us out tonight.”
When we arrived at the club in Philly, I made sure to yank my shirt down a bit so I had some cleavage, and carefully apply some more peach-flavored lip gloss just in case he was actually cute.
“Rachel, come here!” Jodi grabbed my arm as she lead me over to the bar where lo and behold one of the cutest guys I had ever seen was standing. Jimmy was six-feet tall, tan, with long, brown hair and piercing blue eyes. He looked like he walked straight off the set of a daytime Soap. I couldn’t believe my luck. I was finally going to break the repressive chains of my parents with Jimmy’s help.
“Hi,” he said and reached his hand out.
“Hi” I said coyly, shaking his hand in return.
We continued chatting for awhile. Good taste in music? Check. In good shape? For sure. Tattoos? Totally! Cute Jersey accent? Definitely. He was a little bit older than me — in his 20′s — but so what? I had a mission to accomplish.
After all my copious reading of teen mags, I knew I couldn’t converse with him for too long lest he lose interest. I had to excuse myself briefly while he pondered how mysterious and enchanting I was. So I told him I needed to go catch up with Jodi and Karen.
“He totally likes you,” Karen said.
“Omigod, like yeah, he totally does.” Jodi added.
“Um, yeah he totally he does. He asked for my phone number!” I squealed. Jodi and Karen squealed in response.
“Let’s dance sexy so Jimmy notices.”
“Okay!” I shouted with glee.
The rest of the night continued like this. A back and forth of sexy dancing with each other and chatting it up with Jimmy. By the end of the night I was positive I had him in a frenzy. I just knew he was going to fall madly in love with me. We made out briefly when we parted ways, which in my head totally sealed the deal.
“So when can I take you out?” he asked, moving the hair out of my face.
“Ummm, well I have off on Wednesday.”
“Wednesday it is. I’ll call you.”
When it came time for our big date, I lied as usual to my parents about my plans. We went to dinner at Houlian’s for our first date. After dinner, we headed to the movies in his convertible silver Mercedes.
“So what exactly do you do for a living?” The only people I knew with nice cars were my parents and their friends, so I was wondering how someone his age could afford an $80,000 car.
After a moment of silence, he said, “Uh, I work for my uncle.”
“Oh cool, doing what?”
“Oh you know. A little of this a little of that. So what are you going to study in college?” he asked changing the topic.
“Oh I don’t know. Maybe finance. Did you go to college?” I asked.
“Nah, never saw the point.”
The next day at work, I was still on cloud nine. Jimmy was hot, older, and drove a totally awesome car. However, I was still wondering why he wouldn’t tell me what exactly he did for a living. So after I finished telling Jodi about all the glorious details of our date, I decided to ask her what the 411 was while we were prepping the cheese whiz.
“Oh you didn’t know? He’s in the mob,” she replied as if she were talking about something totally normal and mundane like paper clips.
“He’s in the what?!”
“The mob,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Like the mafia?”
I might have been mildly rebellious and totally boy crazy, but this is where I knew I had to draw the line. Being the good Indian girl I was, I knew I had to fix this mess fast. I had never read any articles in my magazines about breaking up with a criminal, so I was forced to formulate my own plan of action.
Two days later he called on my cell phone.
“Hey gorgeous. It’s Jimmy.”
“Oh hi!” I said nervously. Do NOT fuck this up! I thought to myself.
“I had a great time the other night and I wanted to see if I could take you out again.”
I had briefly thought about confronting Jimmy with my newfound information, but I was scared he would have to kill me once I found out the truth. And I had so much to live for; college, frat parties, keg stands, and the like. I hadn’t even lost my virginity yet. So, I went with my original plan.
“Um, I have to talk to you. I’ve been feeling kind of funny lately, so my parents took me to the doctor. And (deep breath) … I have leukemia.”
I had read a book called Six Months to Live when I was in fifth grade about a girl that was dying from leukemia. So, I figured it was as good an excuse as any.
“I have leukemia and I’m really sick. I have to undergo chemo in a week. I need you to be there for me.”
I was pouring on the neediness. According to YM, guys are not big fans of commitment.
“Wow, that’s heavy. Man I hope you feel better. Is your hair going to fall out?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe.” I said solemnly.
“Oh shit, you know what I gotta go. I’ll call you later, OK?”
He never called again and I never imagined I would be so relieved to be rejected by a hot guy.