Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First experiences are the most intense

I wonder why the things that happen to us when we're young seem to stay with us so much longer.

I have lived in Southern California -- the world capital of female beauty -- for 20 years, and I have met some incredibly lovely women, including world-famous ones like Jane Seymour and Annette Bening.

But I still think the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life was Karen Theurer, who I first saw when I was 15.

Strange, isn't it?

I worked 16 years as a sportswriter, and I attended some amazing events. I saw Villanova upset Georgetown at Kentucky's Rupp Arena for the NCAA championship in 1985, I saw John Elway lead innumerable comebacks for the Denver Broncos and I saw Fernando Valenzuela pitch a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium.

But I never cared as much about who won and who lost as when I attended football and basketball games at Woodson in 1965 and 1966.

So much of what happens to us in adolescence goes such a long way toward shaping the lives we have. I saw that with my own kids, who were much better adjusted than I ever was, and who survived high school with flying colors and have gone on to become successful adults at an earlier age than I ever did.

Let's face it. We were maelstroms of emotion in high school, and all too often we saw enemies were none existed, slights where none were intended.

All I can remember is that everything mattered so much. Even when it didn't matter at all.

I never dated anyone in our class when I was at Woodson. I dated younger girls, older girls and one my own age from another school. I was tyhe epitome of Albert Brooks' classic quote from "Broadcast News."

"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"

Of course it wasn't.

It still isn't, which is why it was a good thing I shed that part of my persona sometime in the '80s. It's odd, though. For all the intense emotions -- both good and bad -- I have gone through, falling in and out of love, going in and out of marriage, I don't think I ever cared as much or felt as intensely alive as when I was 17 and dating Cheryl Newman.

I can't explain it. I doubt if I ever will be able to explain it.