Get to Know Me at 15* (Valentine’s Day)

“Yet another Valentine’s Day has come and gone boyfriendless. This is getting pretty pathetic. 15 years of life and not one boyfriend on the ‘sacred Feb. 14.’ I’ve actually only ever had one real boyfriend. It’s really pathetic because my sister who is four years younger than me has had three boyfriends.”

An apt depiction of my early teenage years: boy crazy yet boyfriendless, envious of my little sister’s love life.

*Stuff I wrote when I was in high school.

It could be worse

I lived in Madison, WI, for a year after I finished graduate school, and my husband and I resided in a neighborhood with weekly street cleaning from April through October.  On the two days per week our streets were being cleaned, we had to make sure we weren’t parked on the specified side of the street to avoid a fine of around $30.

Come October, I was getting really excited that street cleaning would end.  I would look at the street cleaning sign and think to myself how carefree parking would be come November.  That is, until we received this flyer on our car window one morning:

alternatesideDavid read the flyer first and said, “We’re going to have to move our car to the opposite side of the street every day during winter.”

I grabbed it from his hands countering, “No way, that can’t be true.  It’s probably only when it’s snowing.”

As I read and comprehended the reality of Madison’s alternate side parking, my heart sank.  Now, we would have to think about being parked on the correct side of the street SEVEN nights a week rather than two.

In the end, we probably got five or six parking tickets over the course of the winter, all during non-snow emergency times.  As winter settled in, though, I came to respect the alternate side parking program because there was SO MUCH SNOW accumulating over months and months during which the temperature did not rise above freezing.  If it had not been for alternate side parking, the streets would have become really narrow as snow piled up on either side.

Kissing Frogs

I recently told a story at Carapace about my first kiss, which happened on New Year’s Eve when I was sixteen with my then boyfriend.  I dated this guy for a few months, but we only kissed that one time.  I enjoyed the kiss immensely; however, he later described it as “not really” a kiss.

I enjoyed writing and telling this story because I am intrigued by the two themes that emerged from it: (1) how two people can have very different interpretations of the same experience and (2) how adolescents are generally pretty bad at communicating in relationships.

Reviewing my journals from this period of my life, I came across another detail of our relationship that I will add to the story the next time I tell it.  Namely, after we had kissed and after he had described it as “not really” a kiss, this boyfriend gave me a Valentine’s Day card with several frogs on it whose message read, “You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.”

I’m pretty sure that was his way of communicating that he was sorry that he’d never really liked me in a romantic way and that he hoped I had better luck in the future.

How do you procure A’s?

We were having a vocabulary lesson in my seventh grade reading class taught by Sister Diane.  She introduced the word procure.

“How do you procure A’s?” was what she asked us. But what we all heard was, “How do you procure AIDS?”

We shifted uncomfortably in our chairs, giggling softly under our breath, a bubble of nervous excitement blooming among us as our minds collectively turned to thoughts of     S-E-X.

The silence was broken when a boy raised his hand and delivered an answer our behalf. “Sex?” he said shyly.

“Sex?!” Sister Diane shouted back at him.  “Is there something you need to tell me?  That’s not how to go about getting good grades.”

Comprehending the miscommunication the class broke out into laughter.  The quiet giggles transformed into hearty belly laughs.

This comedic exchange, so perfect in its timing and tone, might be the best representation of unintentional humor that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.

The Beginning (of this blog)

I used to write scripts
when I was in the 4th grade.
I used to write songs
when I was in the 7th grade.
In 9th grade I wrote a poem,
which I often laugh about now,
but the pain was real then.*

But I don’t write anymore,
For loss of time or creativity,
For fear of rejection.
Who knows?
Perhaps it’s for the best.
What’s one voice? 

I penned the above statement into a Moleskin journal in May 2003 just after my sophomore year of college.  It documents the beginning or near beginning of a ten year period of my life, which I spent productively but not necessarily embracing my creative passions and to some extent trying to hide them.

I don’t think I ever lost my creativity, although at one point in high school, I reread all of my writing from middle school while I was home sick with a fever, and I convinced myself that I had already peaked as a writer.

There was an issue with time as I spent most of it studying for classes in college, and in graduate school, I was focused on my research projects and the writing that I needed to do related to those.

If I’m really honest with myself, though, I know that fear of rejection was holding me back.  Instead of pursuing writing, I studied subjects where I could master the skills to find the objectively “right” answer, thereby testing my ability to retain information and problem solve while protecting my vulnerable self that would have withered under criticism of my creative works.

I’m stronger now in many ways than I was then.  I am more convinced of the importance of my voice because it’s the only one that I have and now is the time that I have to use it.  Even if I am the only one amused by my writing, it will be worthwhile to have written. Although I undervalued my personal happiness when I was 20, sometime over the last ten years I’ve figured out that making myself happy is of the utmost importance because the only person I have to spend the rest of my life with is me.

*As I recall, the poem was about my break up with my first boyfriend.  Hopefully, I will unearth it so that I can feature it in a Flashback post.