My first college boyfriend’s daughter is visiting western Europe

Got a FB message, could I give her some tips. Seems funny now but of all my college crowd but maybe one, I was the most adventurous, traveled the furthest away.

Sure, I type. How old is she again?

K is twenty.

Remember what we were doing when we were twenty? he types.

Yeah. We were in México. We started off together in Ciudad de México and I couldn’t breathe and switched to Guadalajara. Tienanmen Square was underway. The Berlin Wall was fixing to fall.

What I don’t say: we’d been broken up for a year. You were dating a mutual friend, who was in Oregon, working as a fire dispatcher during a huge forest fire. You never wrote her. She wrote to ask me if I’d seen you. When I got back to Mexico City for a weekend, you had met your future wife, but you hadn’t broken off with our friend yet. You swore me to secrecy; when we all got back to Texas it took you two weeks to accomplish the breakup. She knew I had to have known and she didn’t speak to me for a year.

Seems so innocent now, he types.

What I don’t say: your future wife was K’s mother. She wasn’t Catholic, like you, and she didn’t take your plan to save it for marriage anywhere near as seriously as you did. I fell in love with the man who was teaching my Spanish literature class at the university; we waited till the term was over, but still we slunk around, trying to prevent his colleagues from noticing. When we got back to Texas, you told me with frustration that you had broken your promise to yourself. I finished that summer intact, but only just.

What I think: Nothing about that summer was innocent. We were playing casually with things of which we had absolutely no understanding. We weren’t innocent — we were lucky. You most of all.

Yeah, I type. Tell her to get in touch, I’ll try to help her out.

I send messages to a few friends asking them for tips on specific places, and then I turn to the Internet to get an idea of what K is like. She was a pretty good swimmer in high school. She has multiple academic scholarships to a better university than the one we attended. She speaks Spanish and tutors underprivileged children.

And oh, oh. There’s a picture and oh.

At twenty, apart from her long hair — her father always had the ROTC haircut, even years after he’d quit — she looks just like he did, in 1989. Pale skin, sprinkled with freckles. Dark brownish eyes, a glare from the photo just short of impudent. Waves in her hair, tied down but not quite tame. Jaw: square, determined. Smiles with her mouth closed. Looks a little skeptical.

And on the phone: the same tone. The same directness. The same awkward laughter.

And the same shelteredness, that we all had back then.

How do I … find a train ticket? Find a hotel? Use the tube? Figure out which things I want to see? She’s been out of the country before, but not to western Europe. She has three weeks and a limited budget. Can she travel in Paris without French? (yes). Is it really safe to couch-surf in Ireland? (probably). Are the pickpockets bad in Spain? (common sense will guard you against the worst of it). Is the Eiffel Tower worth it? (on a clear day). Are European guys more mature than Americans? (yes, but they also expect a higher maturity level from their female partners). Can you have fun without drinking in Europe? (yes, but let me tell you my tricks for looking like you’re drinking when you’re not).

I tell to make sure her debit card has a chip. To eat tagine in Paris and curry in London — not only baguette and croissant and fish and chips. I tell her the sandwiches at Pret a Manger are a safe, familiar meal in a pinch. I tell her to skip the Tower of London and go to Hampton Court instead, to catch the free concerts at St Martin the Fields and to go to Westminster Abbey for vespers instead of paying to get in. To pack light and make sure she washes her hands a lot so she doesn’t get sick. To wear her ID close to her body. To buy health insurance. To label her pictures the night she takes them; otherwise she’ll forget. That the summer days are longer in Europe and that it’s safe to walk around at night in most places. To talk to strangers. To ask questions. To jot down what she’s thinking. To break in her shoes before she goes.

I think about what we were told before going to México and realize that no matter how useful the advice, it still won’t be what she needs. I wonder what things she’s playing with that she doesn’t understand. I hope they’re not too serious, or that she’s as lucky as we were.

Can I ask you a question? she says.

Ask away.

What was my dad like when he was my age?


Why do you ask?

He’s so serious now. He’s worried I’m not mature enough to do this by myself. Mom told him that when they were twenty they were in Mexico City and this is much easier than that, but he’s not convinced.


Who do you think is right, mom or dad?

Your mom, I say without hesitation.

Why is dad so worried?

I think … [pause]. Well, I hardly know you, I say. But I think he’s worried because right now, you seem quite a bit like we were then.

I can’t imagine that, K says.

Yeah, I laugh. I’m sure he’s struggling with it, too.

~ by Servetus on March 8, 2018.

14 Responses to “My first college boyfriend’s daughter is visiting western Europe”

  1. I hope your friends daughter has a good time. My 2nd son is going to Japan this summer to teach English though a program his college has. He will be 19 in a few days. I am ok with him going as he needs to spread his wings, but will still be nervous while he is gone. He and many others applied to get a spot to go. His one of three going along with one of my classmates. This was over 4 campuses. So two from the same campus for sure and not sure where they other one is from. He should have a good time.


    • One of my other classmates when to Japan to teach English last year and she is going to give them pointers, they also will have a meeting to help them out too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have a relative who did that. He met his lovely wife there. The sweetest young woman, with the most glossy hair, gorgeous skin, and a personality as beautiful as she is.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Congratulations to both him and you, Katie70 — any program having to do with Japan is always incredibly competitive; everyone wants to go there. I bet it will be really opening!


      • Thank you! He can’t wait to go. I know he told me while in high school if he ever got the chance to go somewhere he was going to try. Well he did great. He would also love to go to Europe and New Zealand. He has been to England before he was born, I was 7 months pregant.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You sowed the seed, apparently! 🙂 It’s good for people to go when they are young and less “settled.” It gets harder, later.


          • Yes I am sure that he is following my lead with travel. I have always been talking about England and watching British T.V. , eating British food and the like. Would love to travel again but now must wait to get done with school and get a good job before I can. Until I make different types of food and read about different places as my time will allow. I have told him to go while there is nothing stopping him from traveling.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Great writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow — thanks. I am honored that you read this. (I think of our connection as mostly benefiting me.)


      • Servetus,

        I think of our connection as mostly benefiting me.

        Not at all! Your comments on my blog always challenge me to go deeper (and sometimes just challenge me!). And your blog is an engaging portal into a way of viewing things I know little about, a valuable stream of novel thoughts for me. So thanks to you, too!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my. What a minefield, you navigated it very well. She is scared to death to be doing this now that it’s actually happening, but can’t admit it to him. He’s also scared because he knows exactly what is ahead. Especially if she’s just like him. I wonder what is going to happen when she’s over there, around all those young men who will seem so much better looking, more interesting, and sexier just because they’re different, and speak with an accent.


    • Thanks. I know I was nervous before going the first time and couldn’t speak to my parents about it, either; so things really don’t change that much. And I suppose the future is uncertain for everyone.


  4. That was really enjoyable, it read like an interesting, almost sad nostalgic short story. I hope you weren’t sad. I really enjoyed it.


    • Thanks. I wasn’t sad (we were only together for about a year, thirty years ago now, and he wasn’t the great love of my life) but I was shocked at how much her picture looks like him. For some reason that was a bit of a punch in the gut. Like I was looking at a picture of him. And jarred by the passage of time.


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