As I’ve come to look back and analyze my life in a series of vignettes, I realize there might be some valuable information in these stories for future generations. Some might even label them modern day parables. (O.K. maybe I’m just calling them that.)
Regardless of what you want to call it I’ve been called out by a fellow blogger for ruminating on the past. I see it less like that and more like I’m doing the world a favor by offering young people a warning.
When you begin to navigate the waters of dating, please don’t start out like I did. I didn’t start with a bang, but rather a silent acknowledgement of mutual like, followed by a concerned talk with parents needing clarification of modern “dating” lingo, only to end in agony two days later. The agony was very real, and not in a lovelorn way, but in a rather small, but violent way.
A bit of back story…
It was 1991, living in small town America there had been growing concerns of the Gulf War and how it would affect the future of not just our nation but the world. Operation Desert Storm ended quickly in February with a surplus of American flag pins. Everyone had one in their pocket, or in my case, in the pencil holder of my desk.
By the end of March my childhood concerns of recycling, rainforest deforestation, pollution and war were quickly dashed by surging teenage hormones. A new boy had come to town, and lucky me the new seating arrangement in class forced him to sit within reaching distance to my right.
As you can imagine, as some of you have seen my 7th grade picture, my self-esteem was not very high. 6th grade wasn’t much better. This was the year of V-cut bangs, which when tackled with a hot iron looked like a neatly curled tumbleweed resting on top of your head.
All of the girls in class reminded me of how lucky I was to be sitting next to the new boy. All I remember is sitting there nervously in a shirt that I thought looked Hawaiian and cultured, but really it was just covered in red and purple fruit.
One sunny recess, as I was playing tetherball a classmate walked up with a note in hand exclaiming, “Special delivery!” The note appeared to be a hand scrawled voting ballot. It read, “Will you go out with me?” with specially drawn boxes for checking yes or no. I was nervous and not old enough to vote, but this process was much easier leaving little room for rigging.
We had library after recess, again the girls in class reminded me of my good fortune. One girl even walked up whispering with elation, “Go for the gold!” When we got back to class, I don’t remember what I did after happily marking the box yes and passing the note back to him. All I remember was when the bell rang at the end of the day on Friday I had my first boyfriend. Next came the hard part.
When I got home I had to tell my parents. I told them I was “going out” with a boy. Their alarm and concern immediately made me wonder what was wrong. They sat me down and asked me to define “going out”. I explained innocently it is when a boy and girl decide they want to stand next to each other in line at the water fountain, talk during recess, maybe sit on the swings near each other and possibly hold hands in line. Honestly I wasn’t sure, I was going by what other classmates told me what “going out” was. An immediate sign of relief was displayed on my parents faces, they returned back to being happy and at dinner time dad made sure to tease me about having a boyfriend.
By Saturday night, the pressure was too much. I couldn’t handle the rigors of having a boyfriend at 11 years old. I was too young and had a whole life ahead of me, I didn’t want the responsibility of being tied down. What if I wanted to work for Green Peace? What if I went to Africa to help other starving 11 year olds? What if I went sailing with Jacques Cousteau to save the whales? I didn’t expect him to sit at home waiting for me to come back with tales of the world. Sunday night I settled into bed with the mindset of conclusion and finality in this relationship.
After the first recess on Monday it was done. We had officially broken up.
This sounds pretty cut and dry doesn’t it? It wasn’t. Apparently a few days after we broke up he already had a new girlfriend. Not only was she new, but she was also very pretty. Something ugly began surging in my body. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was the special “chosen” one, but very vengeful and jealous. Like maybe our whole weekend of “going out” (which was me sitting in my parents house by myself thinking) didn’t mean anything to him.
When the teacher had to excuse herself from the classroom, I decided to make a move. It was a move of revenge, not just for me, but to do something for all of the wronged vengeful American women and teen-agers. I looked no further than my pencil holder and found my American flag pin.
Back in the 40’s there were Archie comics where they talked about wearing someone’s pin. If a gal decided to wear a fellow’s pin, then they were dating. I had a very different interpretation on “pinning”.
While the teacher was out I waited for my former boyfriend to get up out of his seat. He of course got up to do something mischievous as the teacher was out of the room. Before he sat down I jokingly placed the pin in his chair where he would see it. Which he quickly handed it back to me smiling as the class watched. Just as he was in mid-air about to sit on his chair I thrust the pin where I knew his rear-end would make contact with it.
Bear in mind, I watched a lot of cartoons. Not only did I think this sophomoric stunt would be funny, but I thought even through my weird jealousy which I wasn’t old enough to understand, he would find it funny too.
As he shot up out of his chair, the teacher entered the room to find him bent over, stumbling to her desk while he was fondling his backside trying to find what became stuck through his blue jeans. He was in so much pain he couldn’t really make a sound but the entire time his mouth was open. The class was stunned and immediately I felt guilty when a classmate ratted me out.
However, the former boyfriend didn’t say a word. He was being the better person in all of this. I never got in trouble from the teacher, something tells me maybe she had enough of the mischievousness too.
The important lesson in this modern day parable is this; when you think someone is doing you wrong, never “stick” it to them. Happiness and self-worth is an inside job, don’t allow someone else be in control of yours. Follow your own bliss, don’t feel guilty about it and never wait 24 years to passively aggressively tell someone you’re sorry for your patriotic weirdness you inflicted upon them.
What silly guilt have you carried for a long time? Have you worked up the nerve to tell them you’re sorry?