At Nineteen: Already a Has-been?

I have news: the Sophomore Slump isn’t a myth. I know. I lived it.

After a pretty exciting first year of college, at the start of my sophomore year, I hit the slide. Oh, I was going out some, but there wasn’t anybody special. Generally, life was good. I liked my classes, and I wasn’t as anxious about grades as I had been during my freshman year. But my social life slowed way down.

I was living with two other girls–that’s right; three of us crammed into a room meant for two. We had a set of bunk beds plus one other, and one closet for all of us. But we were great friends. I guess we had to be! One roommate was a morning person who, the instant the alarm went off, leapt out of bed with “Good morning! How’s everybody this morning?” (I cannot italicize that word enough to give it the proper emphasis!) I would groan and roll over, dying for just five more minutes of sleep. She was also the one who, when she answered the hall phone and it was for me–yes, there was just one pay phone for the entire floor–would scream, “Goochie! Phoo-oone!” at the top of her lungs. I didn’t like being called “Goochie.” But I loved my roommates, anyway. I still do.

This is what our room sometimes looked like:

After the ball is over . . .

But that doesn’t address the slump. I dated a football player briefly that fall. He thought he was God. (I knew how to pick ’em, didn’t I?) He took me to a drive-in movie and ran over the speaker. He asked me to be his date to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Do I need to explain to you what a huge deal that was? My parents didn’t understand it. They refused to let me go. The Big Football Player didn’t call me again, and I was crushed.

There was this other guy, though. He’d cut in at a dance back in the fall, and one afternoon after class, he offered me a ride to my dorm in his white convertible. He didn’t call me until the spring, and I thought he’d forgotten all about me. When he picked me up for our first date, he was driving an old Ford, not a convertible. A bird had hit the front grille, and he hadn’t been able to get the dead bird out. That car smelled awful! It turned out the convertible belonged to his sister. By then, it didn’t matter. He was a pre-med student, a Mississippi Delta boy with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen and a great smile. He wasn’t handsome, exactly, but those eyes. He was intelligent. He loved books and music. He had a great future.

If you had handed me a checklist of all the things I was supposed to look for in a mate, I would have checked all of them off. I’d been schooled in the primary goal, you see: to find somebody to marry who would give me smart children and provide for me well. My college degree was like a trophy. I wasn’t really expected to do anything with it, although my father had advised me to get a teacher’s license so that if something happened, I could take care of myself.

This New Boy and I dated the rest of our sophomore spring. I won’t tell you the end of the story. Not yet.

At what point did your life take a turn that would determine your future? Were you aware of its importance at the time?

Thanks to Jane Ann McLachlan for bringing us the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge!

Age Fifteen: “Where the Boys Are . . .”

After the so-called senior recitalwhich should have marked an end point, should it not?—the piano saga continued.

I played in a piano competition in Memphis the fall I turned fifteen. I was the youngest competitor, which should have told me something. Also, I’d refused to practice as I should. I went blank in the performance, just lost it several measures in. I started over and played fairly well, but the damage was done. I was humiliated.

My teacher for nearly ten years didn’t feel she had anything else to offer me, so my mother dragged me once a week to a nearby small college where I fumed for an hour under the tutelage of a young piano professor who forced me to play Bartok. I hated every minute. I had better things to do now. Those lessons lasted an interminable year.

Oh, but that summer!

By this time, my parents invited my best friend to go along on our beach trips. We usually stayed at Panama City Beach, in motels with names like Trade Winds and Surf and Sand. One year, we could see the amusement park just down the beach. We could walk there. (Chaperoned, of course.)

Here we are, prepping for the beach. And the second photo shows you what we found: a lifeguard. Cute, isn’t he? And he was mine!

Friend Sarah and I check out the beach. I’m on the left.


He had a friend, too, for my friend, which worked out nicely. We mostly talked to these boys when they were off duty during the day, but one evening, my folks allowed us to invite the boys up to the motel (my parents had to meet them, of course), and then we were allowed to sit around the pool and walk on the beach. I don’t remember this boy’s name. I never saw him again. But it was heady stuff.

I had gone from little girl a year before to full-fledged teenager. Still no dates. Still no kisses. But I was on my way!

That friend, by the way, is still around. She and I don’t talk or write often, but when we do, it’s as though we pick up where we left off. Occasionally, she’ll send me a photo from when we were girls together. I do the same. Friendships like that, and memories of beaches and lifeguards, don’t fade with time.

Is there a particular place you associate with the time when you went from child to teen? A particular friend or experience? Tell me about it!

This is the fifteenth post in the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge. Thanks, Jane Ann McLachlan, for the challenge.