How Vanessa Williams Ruined and Saved My Life

This is a post from the "Queen of Broken Hearts." Enjoy!

The year was 1992. I was barely out of braces that had taken custody of my face for the previous four years. My skin looked like a proverbial pizza – deep dish, of course. Because, let’s face it: I was also a little fat.

I had enough friends to ensure I wouldn’t descend into adolescent hell, but the only boyfriend I could claim was one who went to another school and who, as luck would have it, wasn’t actually my boyfriend at all.

In fact, the only interaction we had had was when my brother and his sister – who, by this point, were living together in wedded bliss – left us alone for a few hours while we were being jointly babysat. We played Sorry, and said nothing more than, “Your turn,” or “Hold on, I have to pee.” 

John was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen. Star of his football team, his skin was perennially bronzed, his crystal blue eyes shining with a glow made possible only by the innate sense that life would be easy on him. His crooked smile gave you the sense that he had a secret, one you would never be lucky enough to know.

That night, he was bored and asked me if I wanted to play a board game. And I loved him.

Flash forward two weeks. In that time, my daydreams of our one night together gave way to stronger feelings of what I could only assume at the time was true love. Though we hadn’t spoken after that night, I knew that our connection was capable of overcoming time, space and even basic rules of courtship – oh, you know, just little things like seeing each other or talking on the phone. Or rather, talking at all. But that wasn’t necessary – our love needed no ordinary fuel to survive.

Sitting alone in my room on a Friday night – the T.G.I.F. TV shows blaring from my parents’ bedroom – I turned on the radio to drown out my thoughts. By this point, my love for John had grown into something forebodingly catastrophic  – I knew, in my heart, it would end horribly. And yet, when the DJ invited listeners to call in and dedicate a song to someone they loved, I picked up the phone.

“Hey, hey, hey! What’s your name and what song would you like to dedicate?”

 “Um” I stuttered. “I would like to dedicate…” – QUICK! Your entire romantic future hinges on this one song – “Can I, um, dedicate Vanessa Williams ‘Save the Best for Last?’”

 “Sure! Who is the lucky guy?” the DJ responded.

“His Well his name’s John Spearing,” I croaked. “I…I…I want to ask if he’ll go out with me.”

The DJ agreed, and my fate was sealed.


Of course, John never went out with me. In fact, he never actually heard the dedication.

But his friends did, and so did my entire grade school class. And when my sister-in-law called the next day to say he knew I loved him, I was devastated when her sentence ended there. (John is now happily married with a beautiful baby boy.) 

‘Forebodingly catastrophic’ can describe nearly every encounter I’ve had with love since that fateful missed connection.

For the 20 years since then, I’ve fallen in love, and out of love; had my heart broken and left some broken in my wake. I’ve had relationships that I thought would be the last, and those I knew were transitional until the next. 

You would think that at some point, I would learn to pull back, to not let myself be so vulnerable to attacks on my forever-beaten heart.

And yet, with every misadventure in love, I’ve strengthened my resolve. I know when my heart is on the line, and yet, I continue putting it out there. Sometimes, even further than the time before. And I’m better for it.

Just this past month, I got out of another (what was to me) significant relationship. Though it wasn’t long, it was important – and through it, I learned more about who I am and what I want than any relationship prior.

Though it will be awhile until I’m ready to date again, I’m comforted by the memory of the 10-year-old girl who, knowing her heart would be irretrievably broken, picked up the phone to share her vulnerability with the world.  That little girl is still in search of her boy – the one she saved for last.