Thanksgiving Eve: It can be an unexpectedly ideal night for going out. The holiday that follows is low-stakes, non-religious, and includes a hangover-friendly eat-fest. Plus, everyone from high school is back home for the weekend. And who doesn’t have an unrequited high school crush? Angela Chase had her Jordan Catalano; Romy had her Billy Christianson. I had “Ryan” — and when I was 23, I made him my Thanksgiving Eve conquest. Our tryst was a moment of triumph and a source of holiday shame that I will never forget.
Back in high school, Ryan really was like Jordan Catalano: eternally swoon-worthy. He played guitar, wrote poetry, and had sad (maybe vacant) blue eyes. We exchanged longing looks during fifth period creative writing, but our relationship was a series of nonstarter flirtations. He was my white whale.
At 23, I was single for the first time in a while when I undertook the pre-Thanksgiving bar crawl. I saw my Catalano at the dive bar all the area high school kids congregate at over the holidays, a place that smells like bad decisions, where the shots are warm and cheap and the jock-jams playlist hasn’t changed since I graduated.
This was the first time I’d seen him in the flesh since the summer before college. He was there, hanging out, kind of by himself (always such a loner) —so I of course ditched my friend (and ride home) and made a beeline. “Ruth!” he said warmly, with a hug, and a hand that lingered on my waist. I told him he still looked “great.” He said he couldn’t believe how sexy I was now. In return, I asked him if he remembered that time he wouldn’t go to prom with me.
Drinks were purchased, life stories exchanged (He … was maybe making online gambling software and working on his music?). At last call, I asked him if he could give me a ride out to my parents’ house in the county. Him: “Yeah, sure.” He gazed soulfully and ran his fingers through the shaggy bowl cut he still wore.
An hour later, after a few more “remember this-es,” he leaned in for the kiss that I’d been passively fantasizing about for maybe eight years. In one smooth motion, he reclined my car seat, and all of the sudden we were dry-humping in the front seat of his mom’s Mercedes station wagon, in the driveway of my childhood home. I had one eye closed passionately, the other open to check for lights coming on in the house or passing cars.
This is where things start to get hazy, but also awesome. Our encounter was rushed and blurry, and as hot and awkward as the high school hookup of my fantasy. There was a flurry of pants unbuckling, making out, hair grabbing. He shoved my dress up to my waist. My boots were up on the dashboard. And, like many a boy, he couldn’t figure out my undergarments — he asked what he should do about my tights. “Rip ‘em!” I commanded, which I guess is a thing guys are into, because he ripped the crotch with glee, and we boned for what seemed like a lifetime of joy, but really it was like 45 seconds and Ryan was too overserved to operate his own genitals, let alone mine (or, for that matter, a car). So nobody finished with fireworks.
In our postcoital eye avoidance, I pulled down my dress and muttered something about how I should probably get inside. He muttered something about regretting not going to prom with me, and limo sex.
I considered the whole experience a win until I walked into the kitchen and saw my mom. It was 5 a.m., and she was putting the turkey in the oven. Now, as I imagined it at the time, I looked totally normal — like I’d just been upstairs sleeping and gotten up early to help her with meal prep. In reality, I probably stumbled in like a drunk Godzilla, my hair a post-sex tangle nest, my lips swollen to about three times their normal size, and my tights torn from crotch to knee. She took one look at me and immediately started crying. “Where have you been?” She asked. “Should I call the police? Were you — RAPED??”
I slur-yelled that I was a grown-up and she should stay out of my life, then stormed upstairs and passed out next to a heap of judgmental, glassy-eyed stuffed animals.
In the cold light of a Thanksgiving day spent avoiding eye contact with both of my parents, my night of joy suddenly looked a lot like a cautionary tale. But it remains my greatest conquest, though we’re still hours away from Thanksgiving Eve 2013.
Happy Thanksgiving. Please feel free to share your own stories of hometown holiday hookups in the comments.