It was somewhere around 6th or 7th grade and my girlfriend was a cute curly-headed girl named Wendy Binstead. In the early 90s when this relationship blossomed, there were 3 ways to talk to someone. Only 3. In person, on the telephone, or through mail. So for me, there was a certain excitement when the phone rang. Usually the call was for my parents, but for the few seconds before someone answered there was always a chance it could be her. There was an air of wonder when the mail came, as well. Oh, I got a Valentine’s card from her once and the front said, “For my special guy.” Wow. I was over the moon about that one. I was a guy. Not a boy. Not a 7th grader. A guy.
She and I talked on the phone a few times a week, I suppose. And to this day I remember asking her pretty much every phone call, “Do you still like me?” I’m not sure why I asked her that, but my suspicion is that I believed at some point her answer would be, “No.”
I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Thinking back to those conversations makes me laugh, but also a tiny bit sad that I was so shy and not so confident. Why can’t a good thing keep going? Why did I think it would come to an end sooner or later?
The 7th grade Ben is all grown up now. But even at age 37, I still want to be liked. That’s part of my personality. I’m still shy. I have more confidence, but I also still care about what people think of me. It affects how I think about myself, whether that’s totally healthy or not.
On these phone calls with Wendy, I also remember long periods of silence. It sounds awkward now, but it wasn’t awkward to me back then. Maybe there was comfort just knowing that I was “with” her, like that lone fact was enough, whether we talked or not. This common occurrence was an early sign that quality (or quantity) time was something I valued.
Someone wanted to be with me, and even today, that’s more valuable than gold… and words, too.
-Out of the Wilderness