Sunday, September 5, 2010

Conor, part one

I don’t mind waiting if it takes a long, long time.
And I don’t mind wasting the best years of our lives.
And I don’t mind racing through our goodbyes.
-Rilo Kiley

This is a long one, so settle is and adjust your screen to decrease the glare.

I don't know if I believe in soul mates, but if, in fact, they exist, mine would be Conor. We're so much alike. And because we're so much alike, we often hate each other. I mean, I know I despise the flaws in him that I see in myself. But, on the other hand, we also love each other most of the time because we're both reluctant narcissists (we will swear up and down we're not). It's odd how much of our lives have traveled parallel to the others for the past seven years, and, in fact, even before that. We grew up similarly, in upper middle class towns with loving parents who had already raised a relatively well-adjusted child with no major problems. We were both the second child, both precocious and moody, and our parents had no idea what to do. That's how the two of us ended up at Yale at an academic summer program in an attempt to get us to recognize our potential and, I suspect, also to get two difficult teenagers out of the house. The problem with being a precocious kid is (as is outlined wonderfully in Franny and Zooey), you go from adorably wise beyond your years to a general wise-ass know-it-all during the course of puberty (Please note that I not only made a Salinger reference but ALSO compared it to my life) (yes, sometimes I don't even like me). And before you know it, you begin to think you're some sort of undiscovered, tragic genius who no one understands and start to hold onto your fucked-up-ness as a badge of honor. But I'm getting ahead of myself a little.

A message to you: Conor,(and I know you're reading this because you asked me to write it, and have been waiting for me to write it) this is not going to be nice. I don't know why you want to read all of this. When I talked to you today, you told me it was ok if I was mean, if I hurt your feelings, because, you said, you've hurt mine. And then you said that I've never hurt yours in return. I told you that was the main problem in our friendship. You have a sick need to read about how much you've meant to me over the years. I know writing this will make me look like an idiot, because how could I have put up with you for so long? That's always been the question. Writing this is feeding into your ego, but, like always, I can't help it. Please don't think of this as a love letter of any kind.

I met Conor the first day of camp. He was in the same dorm group as this kid I had known the year before, Taris. Taris was the worst. But he was a boy, and my roommate Lauren and I just wanted to meet some guys to hang out with, so he was better than nothing. Conor was playing frisbee in a group, and he had taken his shoes off and was running around in the dirt wearing only socks. When he came over to introduce himself, I told him I thought he was dirty. Apparently I was not past the phase of teasing as mating dance. I was immediately attracted to him, which was weird because he was so different from the other boys I had liked. He was short-ish, with a slouch and (although apparently I'm the only one who hears it) a kind of weird speech impediment lisp-like thing. I think he was wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, which even then I found ridiculous (middle class communists piss me off. Shut the fuck up and shop at the mall already), but also oddly appealing. And because the friends you make the first day of camp are you friends for the remainder of the time (in this case three weeks), we spent a lot of time together. I was really, really infatuated. But he never really seemed to reciprocate. I was confused, because at that point I thought I was pretty hot shit. I had hit my stride, so to speak. I looked wholesome, fresh, with barely a trace of makeup. I had gotten the attention of boys in my hometown and beyond, and I didn't get what the fuck his deal was. So I obsessed over it, over him, over my hair, over my outfits, everything. I had never lost mt shit like that before.
They took us on weekend trips to keep us busy, and in lieu of any actually interesting trips, me, Conor and Lauren signed up for a Mets game. Okay, at this point in my life I enjoy basketball games (I really just love muscular black men),like soccer games okay (the Spanish soccer players are hot, but no one ever scores, so it's kind of just a cock tease), tolerate football games (barely tolerate, that is, because all the black men are covered up), but still fucking hate HATEHATE baseball. It's not even athletic. It's all hand eye coordination and jogging. I'm not saying I could do it, but you don't even need an healthy BMI to be a pro player. All you need a beer gut and synthetic testosterone. It really fucking figures that the great American pastime is slow, lazy, and involves boiled, emulsified meat.
I don't remember the actual game, or who they were even playing, because all we did was stand in the concession area and throw pieces of pretzel off the balcony onto people below and then climb to the top of the balcony seats a bunch of times. But what I DO remember is the two hour bus ride there and back. Conor and I sat next to each other, him by the window (Or was I by the window, Conor?). I know that each of us talked a lot about ourselves, tried to explain what we were like OUTSIDE the confines of nerd camp. I told him about my friends, my family and he showed off how much he knew about “alternative” music (a.k.a he liked Thrice. Brutal.) That night, or maybe a night shortly thereafter, they screened “The Score” on a screen in the quad. I sat on the dry, yellow grass next to Conor, and I felt like I was about to jump out of my skin. You see, I had already become acclimated to drunk hookups, which, looking back, is kind of sad, but inevitable. Laying next to Conor on a blanket, achingly aware of each millimeter between my arm and his, I was yanked back to the days before my body had stretched itself out of awkwardness.
The funniest part about all of this was all my dorm-mates were totally confused by the whole thing. They were busy lusting over boys from Long Island or California. A lisp-y kid from Maine was not on their radar. But there was something about him that appealed to me. He was confident even though he was a little different. I had begun to feel, even then, that sacrificing my true self for the greater good of popularity was not worth it. Don't get me wrong, I was still going to do it. I was scared of what would happen if I didn't. I'd go back to anonymity at the best, of go back to junior high level harassment at the worst. So Conor fascinated me.
Let me take a quick minute to say that I envy the way boys who are different are considered some sort of mysterious hottie, and girls who are different are fucking weirdos who get ignored. The more complicated a boy is, the more girls want his attention. Complicated girls end up Francis Farmer'd with cultural lobotomies or like Natalie Wood in Splendor In The Grass. It's the lesser known double standard. But I only started resenting that later on. But I just was aware of it's existence then, the way I knew I was already walking a fine line between prude and slut.
We finally kissed at “Club Night” which was when they trekked all of us over to some college bar to “have a good time”. There was grinding and hook ups everywhere on the dance floor and, I don't know if you know this Conor, I made out with this one kid named Christian while we were dancing.He was vaguely Latino and from some part of the Tri-State area. He hgas spikey hair and was a beta-guido. He was still hot. My roommate Lauren liked him, and I got in a lot of trouble for that kiss. But then I saw you, wearing dickies and a short sleeve button up. And everyone inhibitions were down. And we kissed. I don't remember our first kiss. I just know we had one.
Of course, after that, Conor played me hot and cold the rest of camp. I was a woman (girl) posessed. We kissed a few more times, and each one was a validation to me. I was more than a drunk hook-up. I knew it meant something.
We left camp all too soon. I was getting shipped straight to cheerleading camp, and my three weeks of listening to the violent femmes unashamed and making jewelery from bottle camps I found in the road was over. I was yanked back to my own personal reality. But the first night of my second camp of the summer, in a dorm room at BU, I called Conor. And we talked. We talked for an hour. And thus, everything started.

Right now, I'm half-way through my second Hendricks and tonic, and I can't do this anymore. I know I have a lot to finish in order to complete the dots from beginning to end. I'll write when I'm sober, and less emotional. I'm trying to be honest, not bitter. I hate knowing that you are going to feel important when you read this. On the plus side, I just found out that I can find lifetime original movies on Torrent. So I guess I'm breaking even tonight. Ugh, the more I write, the better you're going to feel about yourself.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Keith, 14-16

we've got a license to live, it's our only one
if it expires we float up to the dust haze
i've got a picture of you

Keith is my favorite boyfriend I never dated. We had the best platonic relationship imaginable. We had fun, got along almost perfectly, and were completely comfortable with each other (well, I was completely comfortable with him, at least). We knew each other in junior high through friends of friends, but our real friendship started freshman year. We had a free period together, which in High School meant a lot. We had 47 minutes of barely supervised time to get into mischief. And to eat lunch.
The best thing about Keith was that I could be myself with him. I tried to play it cool in social settings for the most part, but my real self (which is pretty ridiculous) was hidden to all but a chosen few. The sillier I got, the most I amused him.
Keith was a talented musician on the bass, although his lesser know instrument was he harmonica. He could play it with his nose. Well. We spent a lot of time playing with his harmonica in the hallways, even going as far to sit outside the boys room and put a hat down for tips. That's how it was with Keith: every fifth period was an adventure. We would walk around in circles, entertaining ourselves easily. Once we found a tire-like rubber thing with a hole in the middle. Keith put it on his head an walked around the cafeteria. My favorite memory is the time he spotted a nearly full Gatoraide in the trash and plucked it out. Before he even had a chance to drink it, the lunch lady rushed over.
“You poor thing! Let me get you a free lunch!” She exclaimed, pulling the drink out of his hands.
She totally thought he was homeless or something. Anyways, we enjoyed that free bagel immensely.
As with all young boy-girl friendships, everyone thought we were dating. Or at least really, really liked each other. I confess I thought about it from time to time, what it would be like to date him, but I could never wrap my head around it. There was nothing sexual about it at all. Jake (my melodramatic friend from the intro) was Keith's best friend and, because Jake was kind of a dick, he composed a catchy tune with accompanying guitar that went like this:
“Keith loves Modane
Keith love Modane
He's very talented, you know. The more people teased us, the more we protested. We grew apart by sophomore year because I was so into being popular. But when junior year came around and I was ceremoniously cast out from the in crowd one fateful weekend, we started hanging out again like nothing had happened. It was a tough time for me, for sure. But Keith was there, sitting with me at lunch when no one else did, and writing me a love sonnet on Valentines Day because I was sad. I remember when, over Christmas break, my family went on a cruise and I got a tan (which for me is a slightly darker shade of pale). When he saw me the first day back, he uttered words which were, for a long time, the nicest thing a boy ever said to me.
“You look really good. When I saw you, I thought the pretty people were going to take you away from me.” That's one of those memories that is so clear I can remember what I was wearing and where I was standing and all that.
We grew apart by the end of the year, for some reason. I think we got in a fight, maybe. And it was as awkward as a breakup. I avoided eye contact and had that weird, icky feeling of seeing someone who you used to be so close with and now don't even talk to, almost every day.
Last summer, because his friend group and my friend group collided because of a shared interest in parties and beer, I hung out with him a few times. I tried to act like we used to, to make him laugh again like the time I told him peeing was my favorite emotion. But I don't think it worked. I felt awkward because I was drunk, and we'd never been around each other drunk before. We were way more innocent than that. And, after all, I'm not at all the same girl I was, and he's definitely more grown up and more confident. I still, however, have an urge to be that girl, and reclaim that level of comfort we had. But we did hold hands while running around a golf course. And I still have the sonnet. I was going to post it here, but I don't want to share it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chris, Age 15

"Amber is the color of your energy"

I had a boyfriend at the middle/end of sophomore year that I more or less liked. He was a junior, and so he was going to take me to prom. I also competed for him with another girl and won, which was, at the time, very satisfying. Anyways, he made me listen to Led Zepplin III and watch sports, but since he was older, I didn't really mind. He had a good sense of humor, and I liked his friends, so we coexisted. It was cool for him to date a hot younger chick, and it was cool for me that his friends drove me around. But there lacked a certain amount of OOMPH in the relationship. It was like, oh, cool, this is dating. My friends were single, and I was kind of jealous. But I really wanted to go to prom.
My best friend and I went to this battle of the band thing at our school, ostensibly to see some guys we were friends with play. Instead of watching them, we were mesmerized by a band that sounded JUST LIKE 311 comprised of cute boys with flippy hair and hemp necklaces. We were hooked. We danced directly in front of the stage and I perfected what would become my signature move with boys in bands: the eyefuck. I can eyefuck the shit out of someone. We approached them after their set in what was my first official groupie moment. What shocks me now is the complete and utter confidence we had. I couldn't even tell you my weight at the time, and I am sure I had no thoughts of whether or not my thighs looked fat in my jeans. I know for a fact we hadn't been drinking. At no point in my life after that have I had such complete, utter, sober confidence. My friend quickly paired off with one of them in the back of the auditorium to make out (because she had, and still has, mad game), while I sat on their amp and flirted.
We went back to my house at the end of the show, on a complete high. We were obsessed. Nowadays, it would have been simple enough to find them online, but the time, I didn't even have a cell phone, let alone a Facebook or Myspace. Somehow though, through multiple Google searches, we found a random email address on a random web page linked to their band name. So we did the only thing we could do: sent them an email from my Hotmail account. We included Maddie's cell phone number (a boxy Nokia all four of my best friends used when we were calling boys) and, on a whim, I boldly added something about “the cute guitarist”. Yeah, I had a boyfriend, but come on. These guys were rockstars. (Uhh, kind of).
They responded, and it turned out they lived about 20 minutes away on the highway. They were older than us, juniors, and they smoked pot and partied. They invited us to their next show. So we went. The boy my friend had made out with turned out to be a huge player, but apparently, the “cute guitarist” (Chris, if you haven't figured it out) was both sensitive and emotional, and he pursued me. Whoops. Soon enough, I started dating Chris. While having a boyfriend.
I totally got away with it. Now, that seems completely ridiculous. Not only did my boyfriend not figure it out, but my hyper-attentive mother didn't either. Chris would pick Maddie, Steph, Debbie and I up at dusk in one of our driveways, and we'd tell our parents we were going to the movies. Then Chris would drive us to Needham, where we would drink in someone's basement until ten forty, when he would drive us home. For referance, we saw “Shrek Two” like three time that year.
But when I broke up with my Acton boyfriend after prom, Chris's novelty wore off. I was getting tired of talking to him on the phone while he was high, and him dragging me to Walden Pond to look at nature. Now that I was single in my own town again, I was free to hook up with boys there, and I didn't have sneak out to do so. Now, I don't remember how I broke up with him, I seem to have blocked that part out. It's possible I was drunk, and I think I was probably pretty rude. He got over it pretty quickly, dating this girl who had liked him before that he had ditched for me. According to his Facebook and Myspace, he dated her for quite some time after that. She smoked pot and wore hemp, too. I feel guilty, a little, particularly because my Acton boyfriend was nice to me, and liked me, and was basically everything a boyfriend should be. But, hey, I was fifteen. Would you have turned down a guitarist who gave you free alcohol and told you 311's cover of “Love Song” should be “your song”? Ok, maybe you would have. But that's the only time in my life I've cheated on a boyfriend like that. Like straight up, two relationships at once, kind of thing. Honestly, my friends played a part in this too, because they liked the other boys in the band, and wanted me to keep dating Chris so we could hang out with them. Peer pressure, and all that. What's interesting is that both relationships were sexually innocuous. Neither one went below the waist. I'm not sure why my Acton boyfriend didn't make a move (I think he was inexperienced), but I think that Chris was a gentleman. Or he was too high/drunk to get it up.
Oh, this is his band's web page: . Don't judge me too hard. It was cool back then! God, I'm old.

He's the back left.

John 2.0, Age 15

"Three important rules for breaking up
Don't put off breaking up when you know you want to
Prolonging the situation only makes it worse
Tell him honestly, simply, kindly, but firmly
Don't make a big production
Don't make up an elaborate story
This will help you avoid a big tear jerking scene
If you wanna date other people say so
Be prepared for the boy to feel hurt and rejected
Even if you've gone together for only a short time,
And haven't been too serious,
There's still a feeling of rejection
When someone says she prefers the company of others
To your exclusive company,
But if you're honest, and direct,
And avoid making a flowery emotional speech when you break the news,
The boy will respect you for your frankness,
And honestly he'll appreciate the kind of straight forward manner
In which you told him your decision
Unless he's a real jerk or a cry baby you'll remain friends."
-Nada Surf

I told you'd I be back tracking. Before John 1.0 and I hooked up, but after he broke my heart (more or less) (I thought so at the time, for sure), I had my first real boyfriend, John 2.0. There's not really a whole lot to be said about this, because it was a three week long, kiss-less relationship. We hung out twice outside of school, and mainly talked online. What IS significant is that when a boy (a nice, football playing jock) finally liked me and wanted to date me, I pulled the same thing that I pulled with Zac in 8th grade. I freaked. I distinctly remember having him wait for me outside a class, hold my hand to my locker and then walk me BACK to class and thinking, “Jesus, having a boyfriend sucks.” Maybe it was because I was too immature to have legitimate feelings for someone so young, or possibly because I was only dating him because the other cheerleaders told me I should. I just knew that I still like John 1.0, and I was interested in other boys too. But that presented another problem. How was I supposed to break up with him? I managed to hold myself together for a few days, biding my time. I finally, after my friends told me I HAD to, called him on the phone. This is during the era of house phones, so I had to look up his number in the phone book and then talk to his little brother in order to get to him. I said the only thing I could think of: “I think we should just be friends.” It was the first and last time I ever remembering saying those exact words because after that, generally, every boy I dated I ended up hating or having them hate me, so the empty promise (or, perhaps, threat) of remaining friends was unnecessary. Because I was so desperate to dump him, I did so three hours before the football and cheerleading banquet. That was one of my worst ideas ever. Ok, not ever, but it was a pretty terrible one. Definitely Top Twenty Five Bad Ideas (other ideas include: piercing my own nose, black hair extensions, and of course, black asymmetrical slut dresses.) When they called my name to get an award, you could have heard a pin drop. For a second. Then the football players started teasing John and making a general ruckus. Thankfully, my parents weren't there because, after all, cheerleading isn't a real sport, so they weren't obligated to care. I was essentially getting a piece of paper with my name on it for yelling cheers that didn't ever correspond with the action on the field. Anyways.
So John 2.0 is most definitely not a Boy I've Loved. But I did make a major discovery during our brief affair: Even if all you've wanted since first grade is a boy who wants you as a girlfriend, it only really matters if YOU want THEM to be YOUR boyfriend. Also, I was totally not ready to date a guy with a full beard.

John, age 14+

“Cause baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider 
But I gotta know how it feels 
I want to know if love is wild 
Babe I want to know if love is real “
-Bruce Springsteen ( Clarifying point: I never liked Bruce. Actually, I hate cheesy Americana. But he is John's idol, and thus appropriate.)

My friend from Elementary School, Anna, had gotten boobs and become a lot of boy's favorite in those early days of high school. She threw an end of the year party after our freshman year, and it was a pretty mixed group. It was one of those parties that can only happen before people start drinking, with parents present and monitoring the cd player for objectionable lyrics. I was wearing a white tank top and my favorite low rise jeans with my hair blowdried with some eyeliner poorly applied. There were some boys there, mainly football players, sitting on couches and goofing around, shoving chips in their mouths and drinking Coke after Coke. I knew them from cheerleading and math classes, but I was still a little uncomfortable. And then the unthinkable happened. John started flirting with me. Hardcore. John was a gangly, awkward boy who, without his confidence and sense of humor, would have fit in better at a LAN party than football game. But despite the physical shortcomings, he was a sought after boy because of his charm. We started talking, and soon I was sitting on his lap. I just about died. Our parents collected us around ten, and we hugged good-bye. But sure enough, soon after that, John was IM-ing me daily. We met up at the 4th of July fireworks abut a month later, and I was pretty psyched about it. Heavy handed flirtation abounded, but nothing happened because I was leaving for a church community service trip the next day. I left dreaming about John, and I couldn't wait to get back and see where it went.
Of course, I hadn't bargained on T. T was a girl from my elementary school who never had an awkward phase. She was born adorable, and stayed that way forever. Imagine my surprise when she started telling us all about her relationship with John. I was shocked, disappointed and filled with hatred towards that girl. I obviously know she was unaware of my crush and John and my flirtation, but you always hate the girl who steals your man (boy in this case). Instead of being beaten, I decided I was going to steal him back. Also noteworthy of this trip is that I met a boy there from Baltimore and we snuck out on the roof to make out. While making out, he took my bra completely off and threw it on the floor, but left my shirt on. I thought that was normal at the time, but now it seems a funny reminder of exactly how neither of us knew what we were doing at all.
Anyways, I came back from the trip a very determined girl. I saw him again at the football-cheerleading carwash, and we spent the day throwing water and soap at each other in what could have been a hormone driven montage in a teen movie. That night was a girl in my grade's sweet sixteen, and everyone who remotely knew her was going. I had bought a new dress for the occasion which was, shockingly, black, strapless, and with an asymmetrical hem. Apparently that was my favorite silhouette at the time (I think the slutty black dress is going to me a motif in this whole saga). I left the carwash with anticipation that tonight was going to be the night that I...well, I wasn't exactly sure what would happen, given my relative inexperience, but I knew something vaguely sexual MIGHT go on. Keep in mind that I felt like I needed to play catch-up compared to the other girls. Just emerging out of a terrible middle-part and t-shirt phase, I realized that other girls had accrued double or triple the number of my number make-outs in the past three years. If I was serious about this “normal girl” thing, I was going to have to work at it.
I got to the party and, not surprisingly, John was there. With T. With her as his girlfriend. I was crushed, but I knew I should have suspected it. Deep down I know John was just a flirt, that I wasn't actually, seriously considered as a date-able option. But I at least wanted him to feel me up.
We ended up hooking up a few months later, where I did my first REAL sex act, in the spare bedroom of a kid's basement. Yes, his basement had a bedroom. It was actually large enough to house a small family of illegal immigrants. I was sober, I was nervous, and the act wasn't even remotely reciprocated (not that most fifteen-year-old boys would know what to do with a vagina) (at least, I hope not). The whole thing left me very confused. I had thought I wanted to do it, to have a “hook up”, and I didn't exactly feel dirty, but the question that stuck in my mind was something like this: “I'm not good enough to date, but I'm good enough to touch your penis?” I think that was the first time I really considered what kind of girl I was. I was apparently sexually viable, but everything else wasn't enough to sway someone's emotions. I never really thought about it until now, but after writing this, I think that night was probably the night that I started to get comfortable with the idea that sometimes, flirting just means boys want you to touch their penis.
I hooked up with John a few more times in high school,but not because I liked him anymore. After the initial thrill of having a popular boy like me wore off, he wasn't even my type. At all. I guess I don't really know why I did. It wasn't like his Polo shirts, madras shorts and skinny calves turned me on. I guess maybe it was because he I liked the idea that he still wanted me. He probably just thought I was easy, but maybe he did have some feelings for me left over. Of maybe he just liked my ass. Whatever, I just liked his status. I suppose, maybe, I'm being a little hard on him because I know he is, inherently, a really good guy. But we were never a match, and I knew that going in, and I guess I just kind of resent being disillusioned about boys so quickly. It does make me feel better to know that he and T dated for like ever after that, and still have some sort of relationship (so I'm told. Naturally, that girl hates my guts. I DID hook up with her boyfriend.)So it wasn't me! The Ralph Lauren gods had bigger plans for him!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Intro #2

So Sally can wait
She knows it's too late as we're walking on by
Her soul slides away
"But don't look back in anger", I heard you say
Now bear with me for a moment because this is another intro. Ninth grade was basically the same as Junior High for me, minus the teasing and minus the severe middle part that made me look home-schooled. I was a girl in a nameless, faceless sea of freshman who basically went under the radar. The real struggle for me lied in creating an identity. My burgeoning interest in alternative and punk clashed with my desire to fit in on the varsity cheerleading squad. I made band patches that I sewed onto shirts and then never wore. In the cultural wasteland that is Acton, Massachusetts, fitting in with mediocrity was necessary for survival. So I threw my Converse in the black hole of my closet and started listening to Oasis and Guster regularly. I bought mini-skirts and shopped at American Eagle and slowly went from anonymous to noticeable. I also developed a group of girlfriends who were like me, on the cusp of the in-crowd. It's odd how a lot of female relationships are started in high school based solely on having similar traits. We got ourselves our own group of boys to hang out with, which is essential for moving up the social ladder. I finally felt like I belonged, generally, and knew I had to keep quiet the fact that I went to the library weekly and still busted out my Nirvana cds when I was alone in my room. (Yes, I was about ten years too late to hop on the Nirvana train, but teen angst is ageless.) I was mainly focused on myself and my girlfriends at the time, so there were no noticeable crushes for most of that year. I'm pretty sure I had a thing for John McSweeny, but that idea is so vague in my mind that I think it's only worth mentioning is passing. But by the end of my freshman year, I could feel it: things were changing for the better for me and I knew if I kept up my act a little longer, I'd be in. Keep in mind that the boys from here on out will overlap, backtrack, and linger in my heart for varying amounts of time, so the timeline is going to be a little off. For the next five years or so, I was rarely without a romantic interest of some sort because I began to connect my self-worth with the interest of boys. It was an easy trap for me to fall into at that age, because my identity and self confidence grew directly alongside boys' attention. So here we go: My Later Years Of High School.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Scott, age 13

"All of me, why not take all of me
Can't you see I'm no good without you?
Take these arms, I want to lose them
Take these lips, I'll never use them
Your goodbye, left me with eyes to cry
How can I go on dear without
You took the part that once was my heart.
Why not take all of me?"
-NOFX via tons of Jazz singers (the Billie Holiday one is lovely)

Summer camp is a weird place. And considering I went to academic summer camp, it was even weirder. After the year that I detailed below, I was all set to go to faux college for three weeks and reinvent myself. And oddly, it worked. I was one of the cool kids. Ok, being a cool kid at nerd camp is about as impressive as being the least mentally challenged cast member of Jersey Shore, but I was still super psyched. I sat at the table in the dining hall, and people, shockingly, vied for a seat next to me. I felt like I was playing an elaborate trick on everyone, because I knew these kids were actually popular at home, and I was always kind of worried they'd figure me out. One thing I was particularly scared about was my lack of experience with boys. I was still a kissing virgin, whereas all the other cool girls talked about boyfriends and hook ups all the time. But with a few white lies, I managed to cover up my secret.
And then I met Scott. He was totally the alpha male on campus, with his polo shirts and that ubiquitous gelled spike hair that was so popular in the early 2000s. And for some unknown reason, he liked me. We flirted, albeit poorly on my end, for a week or two, and I got exponentially more obsessed every day. We sat next to each other for lunch, on the bus for “educational field trips” (one of those was to a cranberry bog.) (All I learned is that I don't like cranberry juice), and I KNEW, I just KNEW that he was going to kiss me eventually. It's a heady feeling, the first time you feel that from a boy. I started to think, you know, maybe this is it. Maybe I changed. Maybe, when I start High School, I'll finally be the girl the boys like. If Scott liked me, maybe the other popular boys would too. If Scott saw something in me, maybe I did, in fact, have something to offer.
The wrench in my plans can in the form of a tall, thin girl named Paige from Michigan, of all places. She had a goddamn streak of purple in her hair, and she was just effortlessly pretty. I have never been, and will never be, an effortless girl. I couldn't compete.
Keep in mind I had already started angst-ing out at this point. I had a pair of navy Converse that I had marked with lyrics from NOFX and Anti-Flag, which was (in my mind) the ultimate rebellion. Now, I'm not sure exactly why I had lyrics like “Gotta die, gotta die, gotta die for your government? Die for your country? That's shit!” visible on my shoe when I probably couldn't have even explained the electoral college to you, but I no longer understand most of my teenage reasoning, so let's just go with it. Anyway, with my safety pinned wristbands and studded belt, I was pretty positive I was hot shit. Or so I thought. When Scott started openly courting Paige in the same ways he had courted me days earlier, I was crushed. All the other girls gave me the platitudes that would be echoed for years to come whenever a relationship went bad: he's not worth it, you're too good for him, she isn't even that pretty.
Ok, quick sidenote, where did we all learn those same sentences? I've said them a thousand times to girls and boys alike, and sometimes even meant them, but have they ever actually helped?
And we're back.
So like I said, I was pretty upset. This was my fresh start, my first cool boy, and now fucking Paige had ruined it. (I still hate the name Paige. What a bitch.) Everything came to a head on the last night before camp ended.
We were having a “Take Back The Night” event, and believe me, I know being preoccupied with my own proto-romantic drama was pretty inappropriate for an educational night about rape, and now I kind of feel like an asshole remembering it. But to be fair, rape was so abstract to me at that point because I had only snuck glaces at soft-core porn on Skinemax, so I didn't even really get what penetration was all about, let alone forced penetration. All I knew at that point was that I felt uncomfortable when it was just me and the janitor in an elevator. I had no idea why, or even what would happen if things went bad, but there you go. So we walked around campus, our college age counselors trying to open our little minds to the horrors of sex violence, and I was busy watching Paige and Scott walking together, brushing arms every once and again. So I started crying, and one of the counselors thought I was just being emotional because of the content ( I wasn't even paying attention). She tried to calm me down, but I just cried more, so they took me to the infirmary, where the nurse kindly asked me if I had been sexually abused. While I was trying to explain that no, I hadn't been inappropriately touched by a male relative, Paige and Scott were having THEIR first kiss in the courtyard. We left the next day, and I couldn't even face them. Again, fuck you Paige.
Anyways. This is before the days of Facebook and MySpace, so finding a summer camp love interest wasn't as easy as a simple search. But Scott, myself and our other friend (I totally forget her name, but she looked JUST LIKE the girl from Zenon, so I'll call her Zenon) all lived in Massachusetts and Zenon lived directly between me and Scott. Zenon (Ok, this is ridiculous) called me on my house phone and said Scott wanted to see me, and that we should all hang out at her house. So I convinced my mom to drive me to Z's house for an afternoon and a sleepover. I got there early, and waited with Z for about an hour for him to show up. His big brother dropped him off, which I thought was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and we proceeded to do what all thirteen year olds do when they hang out: go to the mall. I was shy at first, seeing Scott in a whole new light. We were outside the familiar ground of summer camp, and IN REAL LIFE. Eventually, after we got tired of loitering, we hung out in Z's basement (the other adolescent habitat). It was decorated in vomit green wicker furniture which, she explained, used to be her grandparents. Z's mom called down around seven when Scott's brother came to pick him up. Z, being as smooth as she could, ran upstairs first. Scott turned to me, and there it was: my first kiss. As his tongue shoved around my willing mouth, I was elated and, well, confused. We broke it off after a few seconds, and he went upstairs, waving at me as he left.
I never saw or talked to Scott again. I told my friends about my kiss, leaving out the whole “I got dumped for a mid-westerner and then was sloppy seconds” part of the saga, painting it out to be the most romantic event ever. But having a first kiss at summer camp is like saying your grandpa invented Pop-Tarts: no one can prove you wrong, but they sure as hell don't believe you. But I knew better. Maybe it was a little late, but the king of nerd camp HAD picked me. I felt like my options had opened a little, and maybe I wasn't the loser those locker-boys had made me out to be.
Two summers later, I was still going to the same nerd camp. A girl in my dorm suite mentioned she was from Sharon, the same town Scott was from.
“Hey! Do you know Scott _____?” I was all ready for her to drool over him, all ready to tell my anecdote from way back when with a flip of my newly highlighted hair.
“Oh yeah, that kid Scott. Oh man, he got teased so bad he had to transfer schools. Yeah, everyone called him a fag all the time. He got beat up a lot.”
I was shocked. My Scott? There had to be a case of mistaken identity. MY Scott was a pre-teen god!
And that's when I realized why he picked Paige in the first place. It wasn't me, or what I had or didn't have. It was his first and only chance at a girl like her. He, too, was reinventing himself at summer camp. He was just a little better at it than I was.
Writing this, I almost found him on Facebook, but I decided against it. I don't want him to know that I know what it was like for him back in high school. I'd like him to think fondly back at a time where he landed two chicks in one month, before he had to go back to harassment at home. So tonight, as I am drinking a gin and tonic out of my freezeable margarita glass, I will toast to you, Scott. I hope, like me, you put your past behind you, and I hope you found a lot of girls from Michigan to kiss.