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I Choose You, Pikachu
In the state of Wisconsin, in the small town of Minong, at Camp Birch Trail for Girls, a monumental event was occurring—the social. The event rolled around once every summer, and for those who attended an all-girls camp because their parents forced them to, the social marked the night after three weeks of anticipation to finally get away from all the estrogen and meet boys from the brother camp, North Star. For those who went to an all-girls camp because they were perfectly comfortable without the slightest interaction with the male species, the social was less highly regarded. For me, I came to camp as a “gonna-be-third-grader” and simply loved any excuse to dress up.
The day of the social, girls walked around camp in excited chatter, sharing hopes and concerns about the coming night. Straighteners and curling irons were plugged into all the outlets, and every cabin smelled of burnt hair. Clothes lay strewn across the floor as a result of hopeless endeavors to find the perfect outfit, and girls rummaged through every Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazine to find any perfume samples available. I chose a dress covered completely with bright yellow sunflowers that my mom had assured me was “absolutely adorable, honey,” and chose to style my hair in two high ponytails on either side of my head. Despite some concerned comments from my friends, I wore my outfit with pride. Many girls dedicated half of the day to this primping and preparation, and before anyone could realize it, afternoon had slipped into evening and the social had begun.
A line of yellow buses came down the long, dirt path, and soon hundreds of boys were flooding out. People were moving all around me, and I watched as older girls ran up and greeted old friends. The air became filled with the distinct smell of boy: copious amounts of cologne mixed with a hint of sweat for those who had forgotten their Old Spice at home. Boys of all ages moved about, but I stayed close to my pack of friends, afraid we would all get trampled any second.
Then I saw him.
I saw his shoes first, which were adorned with various characters from Pokémon, my favorite show of all time. Standing a few feet away, I reasoned that he was probably my height, plus an inch or two with the mess of curly, dark hair on his head. A milky way of freckles dotted his face like stars and deep brown eyes twinkled behind black-rimmed glasses. I thought to myself, He likes Pokémon, I like Pokémon. He has glasses, I can see, too. It did not take a fourth grader to see that we were perfect for each other.
Every love story that I had ever been exposed to came rushing back. Ariel had sacrificed her voice for human legs after one look at Eric. Snow White did not even see her destined prince before his kiss revived her. Cinderella and Prince Charming fell in love after a single dance together. The facts were all around me—love at first sight is possible and I had found my Prince Charming.
As I came to this realization, counselors herded everyone into a room fit to hold about one-third of the combined camps. I lost sight of my vision-impaired, Pokémon-loving soul mate and was pushed into the room that was glowing with iridescent disco lights. 80s music that might as well have come from the DJ’s own first camp social blared in the background. Regardless of the fact that the word “social” comes from “socialize,” boys and girls meandered in different directions, talking amongst their circle of friends on one side of the room, eyes shifting to the other side. Every so often, the brave soul, heart and thoughts racing, made the courageous odyssey to the opposite side of the room, lifted an inquiring hand, and asked the unnerving question: Want to dance?
Standing on my tiptoes, my own eyes searched in spaces between bodies until at last I spotted my prince once again. After a brief inner battle with myself, I decided to put my entire life on the line and make the journey across the room.
My insides shaking, I asked the question. “Wanna dance?”
My heart pounded to the beat of “All I Need Is a Miracle,” which I could barely hear with the sudden throbbing in my head. With every half second of suspense, my hand shook more in its vulnerable, suspended position in the air.
His eyebrows raised above the rims of his glasses before he exclaimed, “EW! You have cooties!”
Stunned, I felt myself back away into the arms of my friends. The bolts of my hardened heart became undone and I realized a desperate need for Mike and his Mechanics themselves to come and weld it together again. Though moments before my nervous system had been on the brink of collapsing due to the possibility of this rejection, I had still trusted the supposed strength of love at first sight.
I blamed the sunflower dress. And the high standards of Disney movies.