How do we become who we are?
I tend to forget…
…maybe on purpose.
There are whole sections of my childhood that exist only in thick albums full of old photographs backed on sticky paper and covered by a yellowing protective film.
So, yeah–once upon a time, I guess I was a child.
That’s always good to know, that I used to be first adorably plump and then almost immediately afterwards socially sidelined to sidekick, until my legs lengthened and breasts the size of pomegranates appeared around the fifth grade.
After that, I was nearly unstoppable.
Beginning in seventh grade, I treated dating like an extreme sport. Through whispers and folded pieces of notebook paper passed by several sweaty hands, I would select a candidate. And then, for however long it took, I would immediately adapt into whatever it was he was looking for.
You like pepperoni pizza? Me too!
You like that band the Cars? Wow, I didn’t think anyone else knew about them!
You like the 49’ers? I do, too! Joe Montana is an amazing quarterback.
I would memorize facts and do research; school was easy, and this was a hobby back in the day of library card catalogues, when information required real work to get it.
We would “date”, which in middle school meant we would wave to each other across the cafeteria for a few days, and then I would get bored. With a shrug I would cite some sort of irreconcilable difference and he would shake his head, confused, and that was that.
I would forget about the pepperoni pizza, the band, the 49ers.
And I would move on to someone new.
High school was a different challenge. Middle school had a safe segregation of boys here-girls there, supported by the squeamishness of all involved to make any sort of actual physical contact with the opposite sex.
High school was a shark tank. Hormones were raging-hot in an era where boys could be boys and girls were sluts if they were girls. Within the first week of school, two fairly nice ones I knew had been branded as “easy”–one because she kissed on the first date, and the second because she accepted two different dates with two different boys.
Those girls never recovered their reputations. One of them still lives in that small medieval town in rural Northern California. She works at Walmart and has seven children sired from six different fathers.
The other transferred to private school at the end of sophomore year, realizing that the stigma would never leave her. She married the one boy she dated throughout private school, declined an acceptance to Chico State University but instead worked menial jobs to support him through college, then law school. She is living off a modest alimony settlement in a drab one-bedroom apartment while he celebrates his partnership at a prestigious law firm with his model-skinny second wife.
Having grown up a voracious reader with an indifferent father, who also had a never-ending stream of attractive girlfriends flitting through our house, I didn’t need a crystal ball to see the future of these two people I used to consider friends.
I knew it from Day One, when I saw the tall senior in his red-and-white letterman jacket talking to his best friend, also clad in his football glory. They were planning it out while they jerked their chins in her direction, as she stood all unknowing across the hall from their lockers.
I sure as hell wouldn’t touch either of them with a ten-foot pole.
But I also needed a plan, to support The Plan…
Part 2 tomorrow…I promise!