by Nicole Crews
Me (at 13): Mother I need an evening gown.
Mother: What for?
Me: I’ve been invited to a dance at Woodberry.
Mother: Jesus Christ Nicole, you’re not Bianca Jagger going to Studio 54 — you’re going to a prep school dance.
Me: What’s the difference?
Mother: About 20 years and sequins.
When I was cleaning out my mother’s house I came across a stack of neatly sorted, handsome stationary secured with an orange ribbon. Within its folds I discovered the “he said” to my “she said” — the answer letters of my first epistolary romance. They were from my bad-boy boyfriend who, much to my parents’ delight, was tidily tucked away in Orange, Va. — some four hours away.
Not so tidily tucked was my friend “M,” who, much to my parents’ chagrin, was back in town, freshly bounced from boarding school du jour.
M and I would leaf delicately through our own perfume-scented stationary and write virtual tomes to our beloveds. Hers at Episcopal — mine at Woodberry.
Mother: If you girls spent as much time studying as you do writing those letters you’d be in graduate school by now.
Me: I’m learning how to write. Doesn’t that count for something.Mother: Just do your homework Barbara Cartland.
Me: Ugh. Barbara Cartland is not a writer. She’s a pornographer in period clothing. We’re going to M’s.
My friend M smoked in her room, ashed on the shag carpet, wore Lacoste tennis dresses with combat boots and chased stolen bourbon with mouthwash. She had a bound and engraved scrapbook given to her by her mainline Philadelphia grandmother which she used to display her impressive array of detention slips and letters of expulsion. She made Lolita look like a lightweight and would have eaten Courtney Love for lunch. She could also work a clutch, and in junior high school that was a highly marketable skill. In short, she was the coolest thing to hit our town since over-the-counter diet pills.
M: We should take my dad’s Jag and go see the boys.
Me: Um, crossing state lines in a stolen vehicle without a driver’s license might not be the best course of action. I think I can wait for the dance.
M: You’re no fun. Let me pierce your ears then.
Me: Ah, the art of the compromise.
M: Speaking of — did you get a dress for the dance?
Me: Yeah. It’s white eyelet and it has ruffles. It’s practically a christening gown.
M: Well at least you can wear pierced earrings.
Me: That should go over well with mother.
M: Just wear earmuffs.
Me: Until I’m 18?
M: At least.
From shoplifting dares to Cosmo sex-quiz prank calls to smuggling joints in our knee socks to second-story midnight leaps — we were well on our way to ruin. We were also damn lucky we didn’t get caught. My prep-school bad boy didn’t fare so well. His career at Woodberry morphed into a stint at rehab — and this was when rehab was more of a dirty word than celebrity rite of passage.
He’s since gone on to be a successful artist and functioning adult. In fact, I ran into his brother just the other day.
Me: Hey, you won’t believe what I found cleaning out mother’s house — a stack of love letters from your little bro.
Brother: That’s hilarious. Those were the days, eh? Back when you had to stand in line for the pay phone at the end of the hall to call your girlfriend.
Me: Yeah, no kidding. Not like today where the kids just send pics of their body parts.
Brother: That’s really sweet that you saved them — the letters.
Me: Well, it was a sweet time. Jane Austen vs. the era of the Kardashian sex tape. Plus it was early training for becoming a writer. I’m still working on it — but I have your family to thank.