I got into a little bit of trouble back in high school.
Like many teenagers, I viewed parental absence as an opportunity to have parties. Not the kind of out-of-control, house-trashing, toilet paper-strewn, beer-soaked ragers from the movies, but small get togethers (still beer-soaked) that I hoped wouldn’t compel the cranky next door neighbors to tattle.
(Those neighbors had it in for me from the start, I think, though an egg thrown at their window [doesn't that sound quaint?] by a foolish boyfriend did not help matters. He always denied having done it, and isn’t around anymore to confess, but I’ve always known the truth.)
It was autumn of 1990, my junior year, and the homecoming dance was approaching. My mother and stepfather would be away, and so I eagerly volunteered my house for an afterparty. My date to the dance was not a boyfriend, just a friend friend, but I had dated one of the invitees a few months before, and we remained friends at that point. He would soon start dating another friend of mine. This kind of reshuffling of the pairs was pretty common.
The boy I had recently started dating didn’t go to my high school, but to an all-boys Catholic school. He and his friends knew many of my friends from elementary and middle school, so there was some social overlap. I invited him and his friend to come over the night of the dance.
This turned out to be a very bad decision.
Things were going well enough until the old boyfriend (OBF hereafter) said something snide about the new boyfriend (NBF), and the NBF’s friend stood up for him in the most effective way possible, which is to say by threatening to kick OBF’s ass. I will tell you that this very well could have happened; the friend of the NBF (let’s call him the Linebacker) played football for the aforementioned boys’ high school team, perpetual championship favorites whose players dwarfed the average 16 year old male. Almost every girl I knew then had a crush on him, including me.
Before the Linebacker took any swings, a friend of OBF (I’ll call him the Point Guard) entered the ring on OBF’s behalf and all of a sudden there was a heated standoff in the foyer, these crazy boys looking like wild dogs, their mouths foaming with pride and testosterone and Old Milwaukee. OBF was the first to bolt, out the door and up the street like a wide receiver going for a long pass he had no intention of catching. The Linebacker made chase, followed by the Point Guard, and I locked the door behind them.
They made it as far as the corner, where the fighting began in earnest. A neighbor saw them and called the police, but not before some damage was done.
To everyone’s surprise, the Point Guard won the fight, and his scrappiness was awarded with inalienable bragging rights plus two trophies: The Linebacker’s upper left canine and incisor. OBF suffered a fractured forearm if I remember correctly. And NBF? No athlete himself, he smartly sat the whole thing out.
There was fallout, including police interviews, embarrassing parental powwows, and a grounding that kept me from seeing much of NBF for several weeks. But eventually the storm passed and everything went back to normal, at least until the next teenage drama unfolded. Did I regret having the party? No, not really.
Recently when I was suffering a bout of major indecision a friend said to me, confidently: “You are an independent person. You can do whatever you want to do as long as you are willing to accept the consequences.” It’s a simple enough statement, and a true one. But sometimes, briefly, I forget that I am an adult, that no one is going to scold me for drinking too much or staying out late, that no one is going to ground me. That it’s up to me to stay grounded.