I learned some important love lessons from three men – okay, boys – named Rick. My dad, never one to be politically correct, dubbed them with the mob-sounding names, “Rick the Fink,” “Rick the Nose,” and “Rick the Polack” (who later became “Rick the Jerk”).
Rick the Fink
It was the summer between middle school and high school. My middle school friend, Rick, was going to a different high school than I was, and we were both nervous about fitting in. Rick asked me to see a new band; he raved about this band called “Styx.” They were playing in a high school auditorium, and the concert seemed exotic, a preview of high school life for both of us. Impulsively, Rick asked me to his homecoming dance. I accepted. And then we both went to our separate high schools and months went by. This was before girls called guys. I didn’t hear from him. The date of the homecoming dance approached. Then it was the evening of homecoming. Unsure, I bought a boutonniere, changed into a gown. And waited. I waited all night for a call that never came. I’m sure Rick found some willing girl in his high school. And I would have been fine with that because Rick and I were just friends. But I hated being all dressed up with nowhere to go. And Rick became “Rick the Fink” to my dad.
Lesson: Without communication, love doesn’t work.
Rick the Nose
On the bus to high school, I fell head over heels with a senior whose most prominent feature was his proboscis. He liked me, but he didn’t “like-like” me. He spent our bus rides telling me about his true love, a junior, a “real woman,” he would sigh. What he meant, I gleaned, was that she “put out.” No way I could compete with that. But then, halfway through the year, Rick the Nose and the “real woman” were over. But instead of seeing what was under, well, his nose, Rick turned to another girl, a senior this time. I would watch her in the halls, trying to figure out what she had that I didn’t. And the truth was, she was just an ordinary girl, much more plain that the real woman.
Lesson: You can’t make someone love you.
Rick the Polack (later the Jerk)
Rick had a blue Corvette, blonde hair and blue eyes and his clothes hugged his body more than the other boys’ did. He seemed older, superior. Our first big date fell on a night when out-of-town family had come to stay. My mother reluctantly agreed to let me go on a date during their visit but cautioned me to be in early so I didn’t wake the house. The hour of my curfew came and went and Rick, taunting me, drove slowly, asking me whether I was going to let my parents treat me like a child. No, I responded, wanting to be an adult. We got to my house an hour late. The house was dark and I crept in. My mother appeared at the top of the stairs. “This isn’t you,” my mother said, shaking her head. My dad changed Rick’s name that night to “Rick the Jerk.”
Lesson: It isn’t love if they try to make you betray who you are.