Today in the kitchen, out of the clear blue, I thought about chasing Bobby Benshoff. Which sounds like a made-for-TV movie.
“A friendship changes suddenly… Love finds a way to last forever… Chasing Bobby Benshoff, tonight at nine on Lifetime Television for Women.”
When I was in elementary school, all the girls in my fourth grade class decided that we “liked” Bobby Benshoff. To “like” a boy meant that you were in love with him. To be in love with Bobby Benshoff meant that you would join a horde of girls who also were in love with Bobby. And if you liked Bobby, you were gonna have to work for it. You were gonna have to chase him at recess.
Someone started a game where the girls who liked Bobby would chase him around the Winterset Elementary School playground. You could practically measure that playground in square miles, so this was no kitten chase. We had an enormous hill. We had the “Tornado Slide” with its attendant jungle gym, monkey bars, and sand pit. We had a basketball court, hopscotch zone, swings, a track — even, weirdly, pull up bars (because second-graders are so into chin ups) and a crazy-dangerous slalom bar thing that no one knew how to properly use. This was our battlefield. For the long weeks that Bobby Fever gripped us, we’d all head out to recess, a girl would yell, “Go!” and poor Bobby would take off running for his life.
Bobby was the fastest runner in our grade behind Joel Loomis, so the challenge of keeping up with him was part of the game. But the giddiness of “liking” him with the possibility of catching him was the main event because Bobby was also the cutest boy in the school. We all thought he looked like a movie star. Dark brown eyes, great smile.** If you looked out onto the playground during Bobby Fever, you’d see a terrified, lone boy just paces ahead of a long line of running girls, squealing and shouting.
The game ended one day, not for lack of interest. Someone had grabbed for Bobby, made contact, and ripped a button off his shirt. It was a red shirt with a black pattern on it, as I remember. Bobby was shocked.
“My mom’s gonna kill me,” he said, dazed. He made part of his shirt into a little wick and tried to poke it through the buttonhole to keep his shirt closed. Not only had he lost a button, his chest was slightly exposed to the hounds of love, all of us trying to get a closer look while inching away to escape implication in Buttongate.
I wasn’t the one who ripped the button off. As I remember it, I didn’t think I was cute enough for Bobby to “like” back. I was popular for two seconds in fourth grade, but it was only because my parents were getting divorced and I was the first one in class that happened to. I was like an exotic zoo animal for awhile until everyone’s parents started getting divorced and wasn’t fascinating anymore, just depressing.
Bobby Benshoff, I hope you’re out there, contented and thriving. If you know anything about Google Alerts, you’ll probably get a notice that I’ve blogged about you — hope you don’t mind. Did your mom get mad about the button? It wasn’t your fault, exactly, though I have to wonder: Didn’t you kind of want to be caught?
**He kinda looked like Yuri, come to think about it.