I’m Marrying My Middle School Crush

Photos of Brian and Alanis via Chris Briggs (L), and
Alanis King and Brian Jones(R).

In the seventh grade, there was this boy. There are a lot of
“boys” at that age, but he was different. He was the only guy I
ever truly liked, because we shared a similar, more mature,
mindset. We were always together, and he made me feel like I
was supposed to be in his life. But I was sure I’d never get to
be with him.

That boy, Brian, looked really great in this bright-blue shirt
of his, and I, like most young kids, always felt inadequate. He
was adorable, I was slightly overweight. I got nervous about
everything, he always seemed so calm and confident. It was that
kind of love story people sing about, without the happy
conclusion, because he never liked me back—not in the way I
liked him. He was always quick to tell me that, too. I hung out
with him more than any other friend I had, but he always said
he never felt it the way I did.

It was kind of masochistic self-torture, to be honest, but
Brian was the kind of friend you wanted to keep around even if
you’d never have him in the way you wanted. It was like some
sort of years-long drinking-hangover cycle. Being with him was
great, but every waking moment afterward was spent fighting a
headache—a headache about the relationship I was missing out on
and about all of the awful self-loathing that surrounds that
kind of thing.

I kept on, though, because Brian was the only person I really
wanted to spend my time with. He joked with me just enough that
it wasn’t overbearing, he could make anything fun and the times
we got mistaken for a couple were some of the most rewarding
for my psyche.

To me, we were a perfect match. To Brian, we were a good pair
of friends who could call each other for a movie day or a trip
to Target. It was a heartbreaking thing, to always be there
with each other but never be with each other.

I liked Brian for a long time—years longer than anyone thought
I should have. The giggling group of friends who once loved
talking about my crush and saying we were totally
going to get married someday turned more hostile whenever I
brought him up. After all, I’d liked him for about seven years
by the end of high school. They were sick of hearing about it.

“Give it up, Alanis. He doesn’t like you back.”

“How many years have you liked him now?”

“Wait, you still like that guy?”

Yes, I did. There wasn’t anything I could do about it. I
couldn’t shake him, and I couldn’t explain to myself why that
was. I couldn’t explain it to to anyone else, either, so it got
to the point that I just gave up saying anything to anyone.

Years went by, and things never changed. I was always the
friend who kept quiet about ever being anything more than
friends, and Brian was always the friend who wanted to keep it
that way—just friends. It was miserable.

Eventually, I got better at suppressing my feelings. I was
great at telling myself I didn’t like him anymore, and I was
great at using his lack of dating others to qualify my position
in his life.

But when Brian did date others, I always realized that, yes, I
did still like him. A lot. It was a double whammy of bad.

I used to sit around and wonder how things would be in 20
years. Would I still be thinking about this guy I couldn’t get
off of my mind for almost a decade now? Where would Brian be,
where would I be, and what would it be like to see him with a
wife and kids and living some life in which I had no
involvement? Like I said, I was an expert in mental torture and
I just couldn’t cut him out of my life. I didn’t have that kind
of strength.

But that whole “wife and kids” thing never had to be a mystery.

The thing is, teen me had excellent taste in men and I just
wouldn’t let it go. I knew what was best, and I also knew as
early as the seventh grade that I’d either marry this guy or
never find one as good.

But for him, it took until the first day out of his teen
years—his 20th birthday—to realize the same was true for that
girl who’d always been by his side. He took me to his brother’s
concert on a Monday night, though I admittedly had the day’s
date wrong and thought his birthday wasn’t until the next day.
Something felt off that night, but I kept trying to bury it,
because I’d been burned by that type of thought too many times.

But then he kissed me.

We started dating about a month before I went off to a college
two hours away from his school. I’d already convinced myself
that in college, I’d finally meet great, smart guy who liked me
back. But I also knew that’s never what I wanted. I wanted
Brian, even if we had to see each other once every two weeks
for three years. Luckily, he felt that way too.

We just graduated college, bought and moved into a house, and
we’ll be getting married in November. He proposed after about
two and a half years of dating, in an off-limits area of a
state park and miles away from anyone else. There was no phone
signal, so we were the only ones who knew we were engaged for
an entire 24 hours. There’s something about that
feeling—sitting under the stars while the rest of the world
doesn’t have a clue.

We got engaged with enough time before we both graduated to
negotiate our jobs to land in the same place, and sometimes I’m
shocked that the life I’m living is actually real. This is that
boy—the one who always called me up when he needed a friend,
and the one who was always around for platonic Target trips
that he never planned to lead to anything more.

Brian later told me that it took dating a few other people to
realize how badly he got treated by them, and how I was the one
he always went to. And finally, after 10 years, he realized
what he had been missing out on. I wouldn’t trade waiting on
him for anything.

Plus, just imagine how surprised that giggling group of girls
from middle school wound up being.

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