At 14, I was accepted at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, an elite dance training and performance summer program in the tiny town of Becket, Massachusetts. The following summer I returned and met a young boy named Fred. He was the sixteen-year-old son of a pig farmer who worked in the dance festival cafeteria. I instantly fell truly, madly, deeply for him as we locked eyes while I stood in line waiting to fill my plate with cottage cheese, peaches, and French dressing. I hated the food but I loved seeing Fred.
I was quite skinny in my yellow leotard, which matched my blonde hair and yellow ribbon around my bun. Fred wore a white Hanes t-shirt, an apron, and a smile that melt my heart. I wanted to rip his clothes off right there—and with my eyes, I did. He felt it, and so did the entire staff, faculty and student body. We were the talk of the town of Becket, and within days, we were inseparable. I snuck out of my cabin at night and headed to the chef’s cabin where Fred used to hang out and drink beer. We dancers would blast A Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” Donna Summer’s “Bad Girl’s,” and Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”
That summer, I was finally comfortable in my own skin: raw, passionate and alive. Every time I looked in the mirror, I smiled. Fred brought out the best in me. With him, I felt wildly free to do, speak, dress, think, feel, and be completely authentic. He was extremely polite, humble and kind and he treated me with respect. I felt loved.
Fred wasn’t a dancer, but he understood them from working at The Pillow. He gave me a backstage view of the special world of Jacob’s Pillow where my mother had danced with Ted Shawn, the founder, in the 1940s and ’50s. As a staff member, he was allowed to drive the Festival car and would sneak me off campus to Friendly’s for ice cream sundaes. At night, he drove the ’72 Chevelle SS he’d saved for years to buy and took me to the Here U R Cafe to eat pizza and dance all night to Bad Company playing on the jukebox. At fifteen, I thought this beyond cool and romantic.
Fred’s sexuality oozed from his bones, with his strong biceps, tight jeans, and ripped flannel shirts. On our rides back, he kissed me, and I felt special and desired. I loved the smell of the skin on his neck and the touch of his curly light brown hair. Our sexual chemistry seemed perfectly matched, there was nothing fake or forced about our intimacy. I wanted him as badly as he wanted me.
The happiest I’ve ever felt was when Fred threw me a surprise “Sweet 15” birthday party. I had no clue he was planning it, and I was absolutely shocked when I walked into my cabin to find all the dancers and teachers celebrating my birthday. It felt more like a celebration of falling in love than turning fifteen.
For three weeks, we didn’t walk–we floated. I knew I wasn’t ready to have sex, but we certainly practiced and talked about it a lot. Our energy and lust at that age had few limits and we averaged two hours of sleep each night. We spent every possible moment together, yet the thought of being apart was always in the back of our minds.
When my mother came to pick me up on the last day of the festival Sunday, I was numb and only cried on the inside. I had cried saying goodbye to Fred, but to my mother, I kept it all inside.
When I got home, I told my parents I had met a boy and I was in love. He didn’t meet their expectations when it came to social standing, and they both rolled their eyes as if to say. “Heeeere we go again.” due to my older sisters’ dramatic dating history I didn’t argue.
Fred and I lasted a few short years. Youth, parental pressure and expectations CAN kill even the coolest car and tightest Hanes T-shirt but the feeling of freedom still lives in my heart.