Have you ever watched a TV show and been vividly reminded of something from your past? Finn on Glee looks like a mash-up of two of my exes. I can’t help but see the similarities, though neither was musically inclined… We’ll call the x-men James and Ryan. Both were summer loves and both were a dream come true in my teenage world.
The first was a skinnier version of Finn. James was a coveted item. He was an artist, but in the end was full of himself and not interested in commitment. Although I was finally feeling self-assured and released from the grips of the ugly duckling phase, I still felt that I was not his type. He wore hair gel and smelled good. He drove an Eclipse, which was the hot car at the time. I saw him as a preppy guy, though his friends were anything but. I assumed he was too attractive to like me, probably from years of little infatuations being met with rejection, knocking me down to size. We met through mutual friends. I was a high school outcast, so if you are who you associate with, we were on par, but as a 16-year-old, I didn’t see that.
James fell for me and I was pinching myself through the entire, short-lived relationship. I thought it was so mature of him to sneak into my school to have lunch with me at the beginning of the school year. (We attended different high schools.) He was caught and kicked out (actually given some sort of restraining order and would not be allowed back for football games, dances, etc.), but what mattered was that I had this action from him telling the world, “a hot guy from a posh, private school is taking risks to be with me. ME: the cast-off!” Ultimately, he lost interest and I learned that I can’t be in a relationship with another artist. I admired his drawings and he could’ve cared less about mine. He was used to people fawning all over him and his creations. I didn’t run into him again for two years. He still looked the same, though I didn’t see him as the unattainable god I once had. In fact, I thought he was kind of pathetic. He hadn’t gone off to art school or done any of the “great” things we both thought he would.
The second Finn wasn’t such a pretty-boy. I met Ryan while I was in my first year of college. I sat across the classroom from him in English II. I was with a small group of girls I had known for years who went to community college right after high school instead of going off to a university. His group of guys were the dual enrollment students, taking college courses during their senior year of high school. These students are destined for big universities straight away. I knew who he was simply because it was a 30-person classroom. Also, we had to give speeches and participate in debates. He probably knew me the same way. That, and the fact that I was overconfident at the time and frequently wore club attire to my daytime English class… We never directly spoke and I was distracted with other relationships to really think anything of him. I thought he was attractive, but that’s where it ended.
About a month after the semester ended, I visited my best friend at the coffee shop where she worked. In conversation it came to light that a co-worker of hers was best friends with Ryan. I felt this seize-the-day attitude coupled with that aforementioned overconfidence, so I asked her get Ryan’s phone number for me. The more I remembered him, the more attracted I was and considered fate to be upon us. There in the parking lot, I called. He answered, knew who I was immediately and wanted to go on a date. Was this happening? From the beginning he was gaga for me. (This was exactly why I got into the habit of being the one to call the guy; there is an entire generation of guys who may be interested in you, but fear rejection and never ask you out!)
Short as our relationship may have been, we were serious about each other. It was too crazy for my 19-year-old mind to process. Ryan was a baseball player in high school, which was kind of a big deal. He had won a scholarship to a private college in West Palm Beach and we both knew he would be going off the school there in the fall. I started contemplating going to the state school in Boca Raton, just an hour away from where he would be. His main concern was that I was going to meet someone better and dump him. The truth was that he was out of my league, or so I defined it at the time.
Ryan was one of the first guys to pay for everything for me. He took me out to dinner constantly. We went to movies, to parties, to baseball games. He took me out of town for my birthday. He took initiative, held my hand and opened doors for me. He had golden boy good looks, and was a total Southern boy. I thought we were so good together. Ryan was everything I thought I wanted.
I met new people through him, all of which were popular in high school, none of which I would’ve befriended without him. I met one of my best friends through him, and she remains a loyal friend to this day. We would all stay up late partying and go to The Smoke House for breakfast early in the morning. We would party on the beach just like in the movies. We created traditions together. I did find myself worrying that he would wake up and realize he was with a drama geek. We spent so much time at the beach as he and his friends skim-boarded and surfed, that I wondered when he would realize that he could have any tan, athletic, Hawaiian Tropics girl out there. (We were in Florida, so maybe Hooters girl is more appropriate…) I would publicly tolerate him chewing tobacco while our female friends would tell him how gross it was, simply to show how “laid back” I was. I did everything to show him that I accepted him, even his bad behavior, and I believe he knew that I worshiped him. When we were alone, we had no issues, but in a crowd, he had something to compare me to. And then the summer ended.
Ryan moved while we remained a couple. Our phone conversations were fewer and fewer as the college parties began. I could tell he dreaded my calls. On my end, my coffee shop best friend had moved away, along with everyone else. Overnight, the two people I loved most were gone and neither kept in touch. My girlfriends at the state school encouraged me to take a road trip over and see life on the other side. Ryan invited me over as well, though not with as much enthusiasm. When I got there, I was not the trophy girlfriend. He was not showing me off. He had tacky, silicone-filled, swimsuit models covering his walls. Ryan was more than distant. I was an obligation. This is when I got to see the hypocrisy of his Christian university at its finest. Though I was not able to be in his room after visiting hours because of my sex, I witnessed gaggles of girls climbing the balconies to get into the guys’ rooms all along the exterior of the building. Chances were high that Ryan’s room would have been one of them if I had not been present.
I ended up having an awesome vacation with my girlfriends and my fate was sealed to go to the state school come spring, but once home, Ryan broke up with me. I actually had to pry an answer out of him. He told me he had visited with me to see if he still wanted to be in the relationship. And the answer was no. I spoke with his friends back home and they all said that he was ditching them, too. He was clearly changing. Or maybe I had been right to stereotype all the while. Maybe he had always been this shallow and was just having fun, feeding me lines through his last months in our hometown.
I saw him at parties at twice in the next year and both times he avoided me, treating him like I was beneath him. The second time, he brought his girlfriend. She was wearing a sundress that I owned, that I was busting out of all over when I wore it. She was tan and petite and preppy-looking. I was loud and pale and 150 lbs. I was a tall-ish girl in heels with a fabulous haircut and new fan club. I was untouchable at the time because I had just returned from a vacation to Queens where I was hot shit. And I was wanted at that party by my girlfriends. I haven’t seen Ryan since.
I don’t see Ryan as having been out of my league when I look back on it today, as much as being an entirely different breed of human than me. I can’t change my values on a dime. Our priorities were different. I do believe that a baseball player and an eccentric type can co-exist, but he didn’t value me. There were fleeting times when I thought he did, but a person who values me, does so 24/7.
My “Finns” were not the storybook character of Glee, but I’m reminded of them every time I watch the show anyway.