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By Amy Phillips Penn

“Last night I could not stop thinking about a Big Mac. I finally had to get dressed,
go out, and pick up a guy.” —
Samantha, Sex and the City
 

Falling in love in New York is like falling in love with New York at its most complicated, and that’s a Manhattan mouthful.

You may think that you’re going to wind up with Mr. Right, but then he falls smack damn in love with your girlfriend, while you wind up marrying a man that you fixed her up with.

Go figure, or…why bother, when you can just go with the fateful flow? As if you have any other choice.

I have been in love more than once, and wish that it would stop right there. No daring rights on red lights and screeching halts at Heartbreak Hotel.

There is nothing like the nail biting high, the phone calls, the “what do you think he meant by that?” of a new love.

Free falling into love is undulating, exhilarating, unannounced and uncharted.

Once upon a time, I had a date with a boy named Harry, who went to Collegiate.

We were in East Hampton, and we found each other in the East Hampton movie theatre, at the duly deserved intermission of Gone with the Wind.

He asked for my phone number, called the next day, and we made a date for the next Sunday to go to the beach.

I did not find him even remotely attractive, but was not yet skilled at the ‘duck for cover’ rules of romance.

I ran into him that Saturday night at Mitty’s, a bar/disco in Bridgehampton. He was dancing with a girl I had met before, whom I instinctively disliked.

I was with someone else. Coincidentally, my date and I shared the same last name, but that was about it.

I made up my mind to cancel with Harry for the next day.  He was so ‘not for me.’

I overslept the next morning.  My sister’s nanny knocked on the door.

“Harry called to say that he was on the way over,” she said.

There were no cell phones or text messaging then. I couldn’t type out a quick, good/fair/excellent (think modern passwords) excuse.

I hardly sang into the shower, threw on a Lilly (Pulitzer, that is) shift, and conspired on how to spend as little of my Sunday as possible with him.

He picked me up in a car that was on loan to him for his job as a summer’s mother’s helper, and we headed toward the beach.

He was not any sexier by day than by night.

We went to Georgica Beach, where I prayed that I wouldn’t run into anyone I knew. I did, including great aunts who knew his family. They were impressed; I was not.

“Did you ever stop to think that everyone one this beach is different, that we are all unique?” he waxed philosophical.

Actually I hadn’t.

The bigger mystery is why I continued to see him for the rest of the summer.

“Harry is Technicolor,” my grandmother captioned him.

We went bowling with the boys he babysat.  My alley balls dropped and thumped down the lane. His were flawless.

He picked me up at work, at Anita Zahn’s Dance studio in East Hampton, where I was an assistant art teacher. He then took me everywhere and anywhere, from the Bridgehampton Drive- in to the Carvel stand across the street.

During the week, when fathers were in New York working, my mother, brother Harry and I headed to what once was a shack in Montauk. It had a simple sign that said “Lunch” and was burgeoning into a ‘not-so-well kept secret.’

I had my hair pulled back in Ali McGraw style, scarf around my head; Southampton hippie style.

Harry let me know that he preferred my hair loose. The bandana stayed.

My mother and brother had a bet that I would maintain Scarlet O’Hara before the barbecue manners, and eat like a lady.

I started with clam chowder, and then devoured a bucket of steamers, a lobster roll and a generous piece of peach pie.

Harry was impressed.

We dated throughout the summer.

He finished his job and went back to New York earlier than I did.

My brother and I took a train to New York, and Harry met us on the platform. I think it was Harry, anyway.

What had happened to Paul Mole and good haircuts?

I’m just wild about Harry had turned into Harry with a bad haircut.

My reaction registered on my face.

“I have a lot of football practices,” Harry countered.

A few weeks later, we agreed to “date other people.”

We were both relieved. The summer spell had waned into uniforms, math tests, and parental smothers.

Had I fallen in love, or fallen in love with being in summer love?

I’m not quite sure, but even if it was a soupcon of what being in love was, I knew that I would never be the same until I found it again somewhere, sometime, and with someone else.

Lightning doesn’t always strike in the same Hampton, but strike again it did.

Thank you, East Hampton.

I will always love you.

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