• Jennifer Barnick

My Epic Summer Crush Fail


During my high school years, I spent every summer working non-stop at three different jobs. My parents were very strict regarding work—and it was drilled from an early age into my siblings and I that one must work hard in life if one wanted to live well and be a respectable person. As an adult I am very grateful for the early drilling and have tried to do the same with my own daughter. “No babies!” is a common thing I say when anyone I love (including my daughter) attempts to complain about how much work they have to do. I have zero compassion in that quarter.

My morning to afternoon job was secretarial work at my family’s business. My afternoon to early evening job was at a children’s museum where I did everything from teaching art classes to kids to doing bulk mailings and setting up exhibits. From early evening to very late night (mid-night to sometimes three in the morning) I worked at a Shakey’s Pizza restaurant. The pizza parlor was by far my favorite job of the three, and still today I miss the job. The summer between my junior and senior year of high school particularly stands out in my mind, as it was the summer where I would experience my very worst romantic failure.

It was always happy and fun to return to Shakey’s for work, as the skeleton, adult staff and management always kept the place feeling familiar and welcoming. It was always fun to check out who the new summer staff would be as usually we were high school and college kids that were only going to work for the summer. I saw him for the first time on my very first night back at Shakey’s Pizza. He was tall, had dark blond hair, blue eyes, and was very handsome. I fell for him immediately and was committed to making him my summer boyfriend.

Right off the bat, I began my war plan. My first flirt move was to wear tons of makeup to work. This was not an easy thing to do as I often had very little time between job #2, the children’s museum, and Shakey’s. I usually had to change into my Shakey’s Pizza uniform in the ladies’ room. So now, not only did I have to change my clothes I had to pack on as much makeup as I could in the little dimly lit bathroom without getting yelled at by my boss for taking too long. After a week or so it was clear I was not getting anywhere with just makeup, so then I added another move: asking questions. Every evening I would then make a point to ask him one or two questions like, “Do you have any siblings?”, “What school are you going to?” (he had just graduated from high school and was going off to college), or “What is your favorite pizza?”. And again, while we did grow closer with all of my question asking it was still very clear I had not yet managed to stir any romantic energies between us.

And then it happened: Pork Gate. I was standing nearby when one of the fellow high school summer workers asked my crush, “So, did you pork her?” It is very embarrassing to admit (as I was heading into my senior year of high school), but I did not know what 'pork her' meant. But it seemed important, so quickly I ran to the bartender and asked him discreetly what 'porking as in to pork her' meant. He was a middle school English teacher who had worked at Shakey’s for years during the summer in order to supplement his income. After I asked him he turned bright red, laughed, and said, “Jennifer it means to have sex.” Ohhhh. Quickly I ran back to the pizza making station realizing that I had left before I was able to overhear my crush’s answer. Needing to know, I turned to my left and asked the boy who had asked my crush whether or not he had 'porked her', “So did he pork her?” Immediately, the boy blanched and his eyes went really wide, and before I knew it the girl on my right threw down her handful of pepperoni turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, “No, we didn’t do it!” She then stormed off to the bathroom. Now even though I was stupid regarding the definition of 'to pork', I was not too stupid to see when someone was lying. Clearly, they had done it.

I was very sad for a few days—but more so my ego was wounded. However, being that I was from an early age told that one must work very hard and be cheery as they do it I had a completely new insight regarding the porking matter: at least it was evidence that he was not opposed to the local Shakey’s talent and that he did find girls in Shakey’s uniforms attractive. It was these two character traits of hard working and cheeriness that led me to my big break: the pizza restaurant had been unexpectedly invaded by hundreds of intermural softball players from various local businesses as it was the night of their final playoffs. The night was so insane that on several occasions we had to run down to the local 24 hour supermarket to buy ingredients as we had run out of several food items. At around midnight the manager was asking around if anyone would be willing to stay for clean up as it most likely would go until six or seven in the morning. Most of the workers at Shakey’s had other jobs or kids so they were not able. I (of course) said yes. And so did my crush.

As expected once the bulk of the workers had left and the hours began to pile a genuine, playful chemistry began to arise between my crush and I. We were telling each other jokes. There was even towel snapping! I could feel that all of my optimism and hard work was going to pay off and while there was only around three weeks left of summer—I knew I would be humble enough to accept that as marvelous romantic reward.

I can’t really remember when the moment happened. I think I had told a funny joke and we both were laughing sincerely hard. I think he even doubled over. I think I blushed a bit because I had not expected my joke to be so well received. We then were close to each other. I cannot remember if he walked towards me or if I had walked towards him or if we were naturally close to each other and only when he stopped laughing was it clear just how close we were to each other. There was then the moment—the ever heart pounding moment when you and your crush square off. Our faces were facing each other. Our toes were facing each other. I cannot express enough the ecstasy at that moment. It felt like carbonation. He then grabbed my shoulders, lowered his head to be closer to mine, and looked into my eyes and said, “Jennifer, you are just so cute!” He then released his light grip, shook his head, laughed, and walked away.

And that really was it. The next three weeks would be completely ordinary and friendly. He showed absolutely no sign that anything special or intense had happened. Indeed, it was worse that he was still just completely friendly and jovial with me, and it was clear he was very fond of all my question asking. As when I began to pull back a little in the face of defeat he would come around and nearly nudge me back to the practice of asking things like, “How long have you been playing water polo?”, “Are your parents still married or divorced?”, or “Do you like or dislike snow cones?”

Summer ended without romantic fanfare. The managers threw a little party for us departing summer help. It was nice and sweet. I never saw or heard from my epic summer crush failure after the summer staff goodbye party.

Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.” You can follow Jennifer on her Instagram here.

Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.