the makers of the 'get him system' promised discretion. after its first reference in the ad, they simply began refering to it as 'the GH system.' your purchase would be sent in a plain, unmarked manila envelope. no fear of knowing winks from the mailman, a sibling dangling your treasure over a gaping toilet bowl, or a lonely neighbor girl recognizing the package, swiping it, and making your 15-dollars-plus-shipping-and-handling moves her own. a few days later she's got a crinkly new perm, buffed white keds and a boyfriend who is ridiculously easy on the eyes. she leans into the drivers' seat of his yellow hotrod and gives him a dramatic kiss heavy on mmmmsss and stevie wonder head tilts. her boyfriend squeals away, she pulls her mirrored sunglasses down her nose -- she knew you were watching -- and says: "fyi, pista. it only took me six days. later!" and skips into the house because, like, her phone is ringing.
the 'get him system.' what if it wasn't a scam? what if there truly was some secret to getting the boy you want and keeping him? something like: before you meet up with your crush, try putting three dabs of bacon grease behind each ear. as he approaches, begin humming "enter sandman" in a way that is barely audible, yet still pleasing. if he asks you what you did that day, say that you went bra shopping with the hottest girl in school.
so we, two boy-starved eighth grade girls, ordered it. princess linda and i pooled our money and sent a check off to some company somewhere and then began the agonizing process of waiting 4-6 weeks for delivery. then we waited 4-6 weeks more.
it was impossible to not talk about the 'get him system' every day that we waited. but because we were sometimes surrounded by other boyfriendless girls, we made a code word for the package: scrunchy headbands.
"did we get the scrunchy headbands yet?"
"i wonder when we'll get the scrunchy headbands."
"maybe our scrunchie headbands are lost in the mail."
"once rob gets a load of my scrunchie headbands, he's going to be madly in love with me."
i must have pictured a factory receiving an onslot of mail from pimply teenagers all over the world. chaos and buzzers and steam everywhere. women in hair nets and rubber gloves, sorting and scanning and packing and fat men in a tight suit vests, chuckling into cigars, counting in fifteen dollar increments. our order must have gotten lost in the shuffle.
we sent them a letter.
a few weeks later, the plain unmarked manila envelope arrived. inside was a thin chapbook, that even at 13 years old i recognized as cheap and unprofessional. each page of the book had tips:
look in his eyes!
laugh at his jokes!
touch his arm!
as well as personal testimonials, i believe. on the facing page would be a photo of a quote-unquote hot guy: tight jeans and leaned against a car; bare chested, wearing sunglasses, holding a volleyball; feathered hair, collar turned up, fingers hitched in his belt loops. like someone had stolen the photo archives from kasson, minnesota's 1983 yearbook.
as for the secrets of kissing? i remember little more than the suggestion: tilt your head to the side.
a few weeks later we received another copy of the same book. and a few weeks after that, we got another. for awhile it seemed like we had hit the 'get him system' jackpot, and that this literature would continue to come for the rest of our lives.
we both kept a copy. mine went under my mattress. we gave the third copy to our friend hinz that spring when she graduated from high school.
i now believe that we sent a check to some 32 year old man who lived in his parent's basement. he would get hopped up on peach schnapps and tangerine diet rite, print out these instruction manuals, tear off the perforated edge of the paper, staple it together and stuff it into an unmarked manila envelope and maybe mail it. maybe not. maybe mail it three times.
i'm not sure if we thought it was funny, or if we thought it would work. i don't really remember who i was trying to get it to work on, either. i know that i never ended up dating the pinnicle of boy perfection: todd, the tom cruise lookalike who played goalie on the hockey team. as for princess linda, "[crush no. 1] still liked heather, and it turns out [dong] was gay."
but ever since i learned to tilt my head to the side, i've been a pretty decent kisser.