I was five when I first told a boy I loved him.
It was kindergarten – my most sophisticated year ever, the same year I’d accidentally tasted wine for the first time and learned grand things like how to write my name and make chocolate pudding – and I was smitten.
Before school, I’d never spent much time with children my age. There was my younger brother (at this time, he was a boring one-year-old who happened to share my birthday but couldn’t do anything cool like play Barbies with me) and my cousin (whom I lived with and who was like my brother, except he was a year younger than me and I could make him do awesome things like swear and lie).
The rest of my time was spent with people at least five times my age or older. I liked to think of myself as a classy five-year-old – I did, after all, own a Disney tea set.
So my first encounter with my peers was slightly fascinating, slightly confusing. At five, I already knew that carrying a Barney backpack was poor form. Others did not seem to know this and proudly donned Baby Bop lunchboxes and sang the “I love you” song. I wasn’t concerned with trivial things like purple dinosaurs. I knew all about relationships from the refined programming that I’d seen on television: soap operas and talk shows. I knew that relationships were the end-all, be-all, and I was behind in life because I was five and I needed a boyfriend.
That’s where Danny came in. It was my first real venture into a real-life person with eyes a different color than brown (nearly my entire family, aside from my grandfather and an uncle has brown eyes). I was in love. From the way his hair was always sticking up in the back like he’d just gotten out of bed and didn’t have a care in the world to the way that he, too, knew carrying a Barney lunch-box was soooo not cool, I knew this man should be my boyfriend. (Though I had no idea what real boyfriends and girlfriends did, aside from look at each other longingly.)
Being the shy, introverted, but clearly-full-of-emotional-turmoil child that I was, I decided that simply telling him wasn’t enough. I had to write it to him in a letter, much like I’d seen in the movies. I used free time one day to make a card that was short and sweet: “Danny, I love you. Love, Crystal.” At the end of the day, I marched up to him (in probably a more confident manner than I’ve ever done anything since) and said, “Here.”
School was let out and off we went. I didn’t think much of the letter when I got home, except that I knew now he also had to tell me that he loved me and then we could love each other forever or something, whatever that meant.
The next day, when my mom picked me up from school, my teacher and my mom called me away from my friends, giggling. They held up the letter. I was mortified.
“Did you write this?” My teacher asked. I remember being so embarrassed that I just ran away, leaving them giggling. I wondered how they’d gotten that note and why they felt the need to intrude on what was clearly going to be a lasting relationship.
Danny never did say he loved me back. Perhaps it was the ethnic tension that may have emerged if he had – he was white, I was Puerto Rican (probably the only in the town, aside from my family). Or maybe it was because I was really kick-ass at drawing giraffes, and he was intimidated by my budding art skills. Or maybe it was because we were five years old and had no clue what being “in love” actually was.
Whatever the case, it didn’t discourage me. It just taught me not to throw the words around so carelessly. I didn’t say them again to another boy in a serious way for fifteen years. But it was glorious.