ABC’s The Goldbergs ended its second season last night with one of the stronger episodes of the season.
It took one of my favorite tropes — a strong-willed, emotionally closed-off father who finally openly admits his affection for a child — and completely turned it on its head. With Erica going away for the summer, Beverly forced Murray into telling his daughter that he loved her, only it didn’t turn into a lovely father/daughter moment. She didn’t say it back, hurt his feelings, and over the course of the episode, they discovered that — for them — there are better ways to express their affection than through an ‘I love you.” The ending — with the affectionate and knowing nod — was just as poignant and powerful as you might expect.
Meanwhile, Barry let an “I love you” slip out to his girlfriend, but instead of backtracking, he essentially browbeat her into admitting that she loved him, too. In typical Barry fashion, it worked, because they are the best sitcom couple of TV right now. Elsewhere, Adam worked up the nerve to tell his girlfriend that he loved her, too, and it was reciprocated. However, in a dagger-like Wonder Years twist, she also broke up with him, because she’s moving away for the summer … and possibly forever. Ouch.
It was a fantastic episode in a string of fantastic episodes this season, and it also reminded me of the first time I told a girl that I loved her. It was, as these things often were in my childhood, a humiliating experience. Her name was Kristen. I was in the 7th grade, and it came after my first hand-holding experience (I nearly crushed her hand), and my first kiss (there was chipped enamel involved, but that’s a story for another day).
Despite the disastrous first kiss in a movie theater during Crocodile Dundee Part 2 (terrible omen!), I felt exhilarated. I ran home, I called Kristen, there was some small talk, a lot of stammering, and at the end of the phone conversation, it just slipped out. Because I’m an idiot, and I feel things too fucking much, and I can’t contain them within myself. I watched too many John Hughes movies growing up.
So, I said “I love you,” sheepishly, but audibly.
There was a long pause.
Then I heard her put her hand over the phone receiver. She murmured to her friend in the room, “He just said ‘I love you.’” And then they giggled. I was in a closet with the door closed, because that’s where you talked on the phone when you were in the 7th grade, so I just crumpled into a pile of clothes.
Then there was another pause. Finally, when she lifted her hand off the receiver, she said it back quickly, all in one word. Iloveyoutoo.
Then she quickly hung up.
My heart splatted into my stomach. It was the happiest, most exhilarating moment of my life up until that time.
It was the last weekend of summer, though, and I never saw her again as my “girlfriend.” She dumped me two weeks later, or rather, she had a friend call her and dump me on her behalf. I was so sad, I listened to Richard Marx songs for two months. I stopped eating. I also hit puberty that summer, and the combination of the two meant that, when I returned to school in the fall for the 8th grade and saw Kristen for the first time since our first and only kiss, I was six inches taller and 30 pounds lighter. Suck it!
Related: I haven’t thought about that woman in years, so I looked her up on Facebook, like you do, and I swear to God, this was on her timeline:
That is straight-up cold.