Love Hurts

A neighborhood tour of one man’s dates with disaster

There is a house on the 51st block of Queen Avenue in south Minneapolis that is an average home in every single way except for one small fact: on the front step of this modest bungalow, I attempted one of the worst kisses in the history of teenage boys.

Even though I’m 40 years old, the memory of that night still lingers. This is because I now live right around the corner from the house, and walk or drive past it every single day. It stands as a constant reminder of the night that will live in infamy.

The nostalgia of our past romantic lives can be found in all manner of items. The ghosts of ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends live on in yearbooks, old mix tapes, and even ancient photos posted to Facebook. For me, though, it’s the physical locations that have a dramatic hold. The Twin Cities, for me, is a personal minefield of dalliances gone awry.

There is the garage off of Belmont Avenue in Minneapolis that was the site of my first kiss, delivered with the subtlety of a slobbering English bulldog. There is the second-floor bedroom in a house near Lake Harriet where I was flirtatiously invited up to a girl’s bedroom. Her parents were gone, and I was feeling frisky—until I learned she was a diabetic and just wanted to show me how she checked her blood-sugar levels. On the street corner outside of Liquor Lyle’s, I once drunkenly made out with a girl who had a mouth like an ashtray. In the alley behind the Malt Shop on 50th Street, I rode bikes with a girl…until I hit a parked car and pancaked myself off the back windshield.   

But nothing beats the house on Queen Avenue. It was the winter of 1990. I was a junior and had boldly asked a senior named Parker to a high-school dance. When I picked her up, she was dressed in Guess jeans and an oversized jacket with shoulder pads, and her permed hair poked out perfectly from under a cutesy little hat. I was all Dances With Wolves in my western barn jacket layered over my denim jean jacket. That’s right. I wore two jackets.

We spent a magical night at the dance jamming to the B-52s, screaming with Billy Joel that we didn’t start the fire, and slow-dancing to Sinead O’Connor. All of this led me to believe that I was destined to make first base.

At the end of the date, I nervously walked Parker to the front door. It was icy outside, and I was in well-worn Doc Martens. Just as we reached the front step, I watched Parker playfully spin around to kiss me. But I wasn’t there. I had slipped on the sidewalk and was flat on my back about five feet away, covered in a heap of snow and shame. Worse still, I’d cranked my head against the sidewalk and was woozy. Undeterred by the fall, though, I staggered to my feet and lunged at her like a hungry zombie. She reeled back in horror. Instead of locking lips, I bent at the waist in dizziness, my mind all syrupy from the blow to the head. There was no kiss, only an awkward hug. It was our first and last date.

Today, I’m happily married. But I still think often about all my bad dates around town. So, last year when my wife, Sarah, asked me what we should do for Valentine’s Day, I had one simple question.

“Wanna get out of town?” I asked.