Tag Archives: school

Boys Like Jerky: What I Wish Someone Had Told Me

4 Jun

There was another part to my piece last week about high school and whatnot, but I didn’t publish it yet because I figure if you’re reading this then you’re like me and have developed the attention span of a Peruvian fruit bat. Plus, I just wanted you to come back strictly for reasons of vanity. I don’t know why I’ve had teenagers on the brain other than I own one and it is exhausting. 

If there is one thing I could go back and tell my adolescent self, just one thing only, it would be that it was a really good thing your mom wouldn’t let you get that spiral perm. If I got to pass on just one other thing, it would be to say she was also right about suntan pantyhose. I guess the takeaway is that I should have given my mom a lot more credit than I did, but if I’d done that then, what would I have done in my 30s?

Teenage years exist only for socialization and learning to hold your liquor. Anyone who tells you otherwise peaked in high school and should be actively avoided at the office Christmas party. There is no permanent record. No one cares what grade you made in Algebra 3. A high SAT score is no more an indicator of a successful career in college and beyond than a well-functioning right blinker light is of overall engine health. You know what class was totally worth it? Driver’s Ed. The two-second rule of following is a lesson you will use forever. To this day the only thing I can tell you about an algorithm is Google, and I didn’t even learn that until I was an adult.

Yes, teenager, you think that just because you stayed at home on prom night watching John Hughes movies on the VCR and eating Doritos Cool Ranch that you will never be happy, successful, pretty, good in bed, funny, popular, have clear skin, and show that cute guy from geometry class how well you can do the Cabbage Patch; but as an adult you will find that when you ask people who went to prom how it was, they will all say that it sucked. If they do not, they are either lying or are of your grandparents’ generation when prom was a thing and not an excuse to dress like you’re in a gypsy wedding and throw up Boone’s Farm Strawberry in the parking lot of the Ramada. For the record, sometimes the special occasion to celebrate with a fine, lightly chilled bottle of Boone’s Farm is just that the 7-11 guy didn’t ask for ID. Celebrate the little things is what I’m telling you.

It is like a kick in the gut when I hear my friends’ teenage daughters obsess over their totally incorrect assumption that because they do not have steady boyfriends at 16, they are both boring and ugly. Girls, here’s the thing. Teenage boys are monsters. They’re not all rude or mean. I’m saying they are not human and they cannot help it. Why they ask your best friend out and not you is a mystery NO ONE can answer. I’m tempted to say boys go for low hanging fruit, but that’s not fair. Because you’re a sophomore in high school with a steady honey does not mean you’re willing to service the starting defensive line of the football team. It does mean there is something approachable about you that they didn’t see in, say, me until sometime in my mid- to late twenties when I turned into a honey badger and stopped giving a shit.

Here’s what I did instead of having a boyfriend. I got very involved in the drama department, I went to Youth Congress, I read a lot of Tama Janowitz, and my friends and I took horribly derivative and self-reverential black and white pictures of ourselves holding scarves and standing in cow pastures or in front of oil wells. I had time to do stuff. My husband tells this story of his high school girlfriend giving him the dreaded “let’s see other people” talk. There was a new guy at school and she was hoping for a date. My husband was scheduled to go on an annual hunting trip with his cousins. It was something he looked forward to every year. But, rather than go on the trip, have a great time, and not regret the weekend, he decided to stay home just on the off chance it didn’t pan out for his girlfriend and the new guy and she called to do something. So what do you think he did all weekend? If you guessed call the cutest girl in school and make out with her in the bed of a small Mazda pickup truck, you have obviously not been paying attention. He did not have a pleasant weekend. But it taught him a valuable lesson. If my husband had a motto other than “Always Have A Good Pocket Knife” or “Pie Is Good”, it would be “Doing Something Is ALWAYS Better Than Doing Nothing”. Also, on the hunting trip you can always eat jerky. And boys like jerky.

Would I rather have stared longingly at my boyfriend while he mowed the yard, did push ups, or watched Platoon over and over and over again? Yes. That is, at the time, exactly what I thought I wanted because that’s what I thought you did with a boyfriend. It seemed to be what my friends with boyfriends did. I am also told there is much sitting around watching boys play video games. But! I’d never have read Being and Nothingness in high school if I’d been half a couple, and in the long run, a clear grasp of existentialism has served me better than spending nights pretending I wasn’t going to let some meathead get his hand under my hilarious Psychotic State sweatshirt.

My point is that yes, you can sit around the house and obsess over how jiggly your thighs are and how no one will ever love you and you will die alone under a giant pile of Diet Coke cans and Allure magazines, or you can do something. And the thing about doing something is that you gain confidence. Which means you gain experience. Which means you might meet someone who also likes goofy golf or post-modern photo-realistic portrait painting. And that someone might actually be someone you want to spend time with. And that’s all that matters. The rest will sort itself out. Teenage Me didn’t believe that, and so I spent a lot of time mooning over functionally illiterate Rupert Everett look-alikes who got really pissy every time they were gently reminded there is no such word as irregardless.

Look, some flowers bloom later than others, some only open during the day, and some put out so much pollen you spend the season with a chapped red nose and eyes so puffy they look like they’re closed. Every flower is different. And if you think I mean “vagina” every time I write “flower”, we need to talk about growing up and calling body parts by their correct names.


I Know You’re There Because I Can Hear Your Little Brother Crying

31 May

School’s out for most kids. I know this because of the increase in posts about drinking from my Facebook friends who are mothers of school-aged children. I generally liked summer as a kid. My birthday’s in summer, I could sleep late, go to the beach. But come the end of July, my anxious brain would click into school mode and I would spend weeks obsessing over every detail of school life from where to sit in the cafeteria to being asked to explain covalent bonds in chemistry to whether or not jelly shoes were still the thing.

I don’t know if I was a popular kid or not. My schools were always so small that I never thought in terms of popularity because we all knew each other. Well, pretty much. My best friend senior year began dating this guy she seemed to have known since first grade, but I’d never seen until then. I was certainly aware there were The Kids For Whom Everything Was Easy and there was me. It’s just how you think until you’re, oh, 32. How WONDERFUL your life would be if you could turn perfect cartwheels like Judy, had the perfect amount of freckles like Monica, were still shopping in the children’s department in high school like Dana, and dated the cutest guy in the class like Molly. It’s not until you’re an adult you realize Judy threw up four times a day to stay small enough to be on the top of the pyramid, Monica spent five nights a week covered in lemon juice to fade her freckles, Dana was 40 before she got undressed with the lights on, and Molly spent most of junior year with a raging case of clap her asshole boyfriend gave her. Yes, there were some genuinely well-adjusted kids who were really smart, funny, cute, and had no anxiety about PE, but they are not the adults you want to hang out with now.

I have always been The Sarcastic One. At some point I became The Funny One, but I don’t think that happened until after high school. Actually, I can pinpoint when that happened. I became good friends with a girl I was not friends with in high school. The story she told about me was that I’d given her a ride home with another friend. She thanked me for the ride and I apparently said something like it wasn’t out of my way or somehow led her to believe if it had been a hardship on me to take her home, I wouldn’t have. She then thought I was a raving bitch until a few years later when we bonded over a case of Miller. That was when I realized the inflections I used in my head were not always articulated so clearly once I opened my mouth. Funny is a great way to mask sarcasm brought on by severe social anxiety. So I kept it.

There is an episode of 30 Rock in which Liz goes to her high school reunion thinking she was the one who was always picked on, but it turns out she was the total bitch. I have this fear. It’s not like I couldn’t have my moments. Sometime in junior high–this was when call waiting and three-way calling were becoming popular–I got a call from a guy friend. I believe he was “dating” (I use quotes because in 7th or 8th grade, what exactly does it mean to date?) a friend of mine. She and I were approaching critical mass. That is to say, she’d developed giant boobs. The only thing I’d developed was a unibrow, so clearly we weren’t going to be close much longer. He called and started asking all these questions about her. What did I think of her, really? What drove me crazy about her? After avoiding the questions as best I could, I heard the unmistakable sound of a small child wailing about something in the background. There were no small children in the guy’s house, but wait! My friend did have a significantly younger brother. The old Three Way Trap sprung by enterprising young sociopaths who are able to get boys to do their bidding. I mean, I was like 13 and saw through that one. So I did what anyone would do. I said, “You know, it’s so much easier to think of things we don’t like about people than things we do. I don’t really know how much longer we can be friends. She’s, well, you know how it is.” Obviously he didn’t. I was ready to throw something out about not being the kind of girl other girls like–totally untrue, by the way, but was fortunately saved from my own black heart when she finally spoke up with something about how she was glad she knew exactly how I felt about her. She smartly moved on from being friends with me, and I never said anything about making sure your little brother isn’t screaming about losing a G. I. Joe when trying to trap a friend into saying something nasty about you.

My takeaway from high school was one thing and one thing only: Boys are assholes. Proof? My brother had been tutored briefly by the very intelligent son of a friend of my mother’s. We’ll call him Mark. He was a couple years older than me and also very easy on the eyes. Within a couple of weeks of starting as a freshman in high school I got a call from a friend of the guy’s. We’ll call him Dick–for several reasons. Dick called to tell me he knew I was totally hot for Mark. I was not. Not that I would have admitted it if I was, understand. Mark was really cute and seemed like he’d one day make an awesome accountant, and Rules very clearly state you NEVER date the child of a parent’s friend. Never. Nothing good can come from that in high school. One little false positive pregnancy test and it’s Awkward City at the country club, right? Anyway, Dick was certain that I rilly, rilly super liked Mark. Yes, I said. I like him fine. He’s a nice guy. Is there a point? Well, as a matter of fact, Dick says, there is. “He likes you.”

Okay, first? Do 16-year-old guys really do stuff like that? That seemed a little weird to me even then. Second? Really? Couldn’t your after-school time have been better used by trolling your dad’s closet for porn? I thought that’s what guys did after school if there wasn’t soccer practice. I said, “Mark does not know me. He doesn’t. How does he know if he likes me and WHY would he have said anything to you? YOU don’t know me. I don’t know YOU.” I have to say Adult Me still high-fives Teenage Me for that one. The experience of my sociopath friend on the phone also alerted me to the fact that Mark was very likely either on the phone or in the room. Because I was not a total bitch, I also did not say anything like EWWWW! Like him? He smells like cheese! 

Unfortunately, it set a precedent in my world that boys were only to be admired silently from afar. Except for that one friend you tell everything to and who would never betray you even if you didn’t still have the pictures from that time in Panama City. You know the time I mean. It didn’t matter that your entire interest in a guy was the fact that he could rock a pair of 501s and was smart enough to tutor algebra, say nussing. NUSSING! For you and your unibrow will be humiliated and you will assume everyone in school knows about it. Which in this case was probably true. Although I’m sure the story he told probably sounded more like the plotline from Heathers and I was Martha Dumptruck. Because I’m a highly evolved individual with an amazing amount of therapy behind me, I hope that Dick is no longer, you know, a dick. The great thing about growing up is you don’t have to be the person you were in high school. THANK. GOD.

My stepchildren are 21 and 17 and the advice I’ve given to them is simple: Anyone who tells you these are the best years of your life is full of shit. Your high school and college years serve only as an object lesson in how not to be a raving asshat as an adult and how to hold your liquor.  It is inconceivable for a teenager to understand that as an adult NO ONE CARES what you made on your ACT or if you only got into your safety school. It is nigh impossible to believe as a 16-year-old drama nerd that, yes, there is actually a guy or two who thinks you’re the bees knees. Does it suck you don’t find this out until you’re 45 and married up to your eyeballs? Yes. Yes, it does. But face it, he’s probably a really nice, funny guy and you had your eye on Dumbass. You know, the one who called you the wrong name most of the time and never had money for gas or the movie he invited you to? When you got to college you had your eye on Sensitive Ponytail Man who wept for baby seals and also had his eye on Dumbass. So at least you had that in common.

I know I started out talking about summer and ended up with a bummer.  See what I did there? I just really hate summer. Also, I figure I wasn’t the only one who dreaded summer just because it meant school would start all over again in a couple of months.