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Essays by Karen Anderson: Going Steady

Illustration by Kacie Brown

When I was 15 years old, I went to visit my cousin who lived about 200 miles away. She was older than I and going steady with someone named Steve. I yearned to go steady but hadn’t found anyone to share my yearning.

“I’m going to fix you up with Herbie,” my cousin said.

As it turned out, Herb was a pleasant fellow who kindled no yearnings but was somebody to see a movie with. And while we there, I noticed his arm was around my shoulders. “Maybe he likes me,” I thought.

“I think Herbie likes you,” my cousin said the next day. Nobody ever asked Herb and I never saw him again. But that didn’t stop me from announcing to my girlfriends when I got home that I was going steady. It was a lie, of course—not even a white lie.

But it seemed like a gift—this fantasy boyfriend from another town. My cousin didn’t know and even Herb didn’t know. This was just between me and my girlfriends, me and my insecure self.

A few months later, a guy in my math class asked me out. “I thought you were going with Herb,” my girlfriends said.

“Not anymore,” I said. “I knew it wouldn’t last.”

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.