Maneater by Kiran Umapathy

The following is an original story I read at the Hearts & Crafts Valentine's Market in Oakland:

You know how the smell of certain meals your parents cook conjures up memories? Like you can taste the food and picture yourself at the table in the company of your family.

Music has the same supremely rad connection to our memories. Sometimes I’ll hear a song and feel like I’ve time-traveled back in time to a specific moment where I relive the exact same feelings from the past. It’s the power of music on memory.

It’s not like I ever need a reason to bring up Hall & Oates, but Maneater is one of those songs for me. Hit play and stay with me here.

Picture this. I’m sitting shotgun in my dad’s ‘87 silver Volvo as he gives me a ride to elementary school one morning. While this should be just another day at school for me, it’s not. The 6th grade dance is coming up and I’ve decided today’s the day I’m going to ask my platinum blonde-haired crush Chelsea Fairbank to boogie. Her mom’s the school psychologist and Chelsea is the type of tomboy that plays touch football with the guys. My heart is already racing in anticipation, and whatever the answer, I just want to get it over with.

STAR 99.9 (my dad’s default radio station) is on and Daryl and John hit the airwaves with a tune that feels like it was written for this moment: Maneater. I’m even more nervous than I was (if that’s even possible).

(Oh-oh, here she comes) Watch out boy she’ll chew you up.
(Oh-oh, here she comes) She’s a maneater.

These dudes are right, just the mere thought of asking Chelsea to the dance is tearing up my insides.

I wouldn’t if I were you
I know what she can do
She’s deadly man, she could really rip your world apart.

God, if she says no, it really will rip my heart out. I’ll be devastated.

Mind over matter
Ooh, the beauty is there but a beast is in the heart.

Alright fuck it, I’m just going to ask her and find out. I walked into school that day on a mission. Come recess I was going to pull her aside, pop the question, and see what happens. Except Chelsea didn’t come to school that day, or the day after. I was slightly relieved I could procrastinate, but I later found out she was going with someone else (before I got a chance to ask her).

Though I’m no longer terrified of the opposite sex, every single time I hear Maneater, I’m transported back to that morning. It’s not like I’ve never gotten nervous again or failed to make a move, but I think it’s the first time I learned, that however filled with trepidation you are about a big decision, you ought to just go for it. Fortune favors the bold, and otherwise, you’ll never know.

Chelsea, if you should ever happen to hear this, I want you to know that you are forever Maneater for me. I have no clue what happened to you, but should we ever cross paths again, you can sure as hell bet I’ll be asking you for a dance to this song.


Someone after the reading asked me if I had ever looked Chelsea up. I said I tried when I first wrote this a few years ago, but didn't find her. What I didn't try was searching the one platform someone might be on even if they shun everything else: LinkedIn.

Well, I found Chelsea. It was crazy that she went to school in Boston some of the same years I did and moved to San Diego the same month and year that I left. I messaged her, and wouldn't you know it, she had no recollection of who I was, but remembered the guy she went to the dance with. I got curious about what happened to him and the internet told me he's now an NRA gun nut. Classic.