Sunday, August 31, 2008

Now it’s getting convoluted – 331.5

I was trying to decide whether to write about Aaron or Gerard first, and it gets tricky because they are so intertwined. I think I may have to alternate. I did decide that I hate calling him Gerard. At the time, I was trying to decide whether Gerard Butler was good-looking or not. Now I have decided his looks are not bad, but it is really more that he is charismatic than anything else. Regardless, when I needed a code name for someone tall, dark, and handsome, that’s what I went for. From now on I will call him Mitch. It’s still not his birth name, but it works better for me.

So, we know that I did not ask Mike to the prom, and that I was a little bit worried about getting a date. While this was going on, after his graduation Aaron had gone to play basketball at U of O. I went down to a game with his family, but I saw that my ticket was not actually from him—it was from Kevin. Aaron had a large family that was fairly local, and a lot of the players, including Kevin, were from California. I think each player only gets two tickets per game, so trading around was common, and I would presume that Aaron would give Kevin his tickets when they went down to UCLA or something.

Well, the next time I went down, I made cookies for both of them and Aaron’s roommate, Darin. I used to make pretty good cookies (though I am out of practice now). This happened as my prom concerns were growing. Talking to Aaron later, he passed along their thanks, and said that Kevin said the cookies were really good and he would like to meet me. I said that if he was free on this specific date, we could go out. Amazingly, he went for it. I would be attending prom with a college man! A really tall man, as it was. In the side by side picture we took, all you have is my head or we would have lost his.

Anyway, this changed things a lot for when I ended up at school. I looked Kevin up, and gradually started meeting all of the basketball team members, and then I started doing things for them because it felt like a natural continuation of what I had been doing in high school. I wasn’t the official manager, so I was not on the court bringing them water and towels, but I would bake them things and take posters to the games and was just kind of supportive.

I suppose it was weird. For one thing, there is a big difference between being on the team at a not particularly respected high school, and being a scholarship player at an NCAA university, so they might not need as much support. However, no one specifically acted like I was weird. Some were warmer, and more grateful than others, but everyone kind of took it stride. Eventually, after the football coaching class, I took an interest in the football team too, but I went to at least one game or meet of every official team—track, wrestling, volleyball, women’s basketball—all of them. (I specify official because there were club teams like hockey where we did not get the free tickets and have the games on campus. Sorry Cold Ducks.) For more details on all of that, refer back to “Spork and Basketball” and “Spork and Football”, from summer 2006.

This is all just background, and then I can start talking about the actual relationships, but I am going to throw in two more stories to make understanding Aaron easier.

One of the many Scotts I knew was interesting in that, going back to junior high, he would always start off a year or a class being kind of a jerk to me, and then he would thaw and we would get along okay, but it would all be done away over the summer.

A few months after quitting McDonald’s, I started working at K-Mart, and worked there through the rest of high school. Scott got a job there too, and we worked together for a while, and bonded again, and then he said he was quitting. I pointed out our pattern, and he realized he was right, and said something along the lines of how we were going to have to go through it again. I was like, no, just quit doing that! His pattern was foolish, but I had an issue there too in that when he was being cold and withholding of approval, I always felt compelled to earn it. I guess that makes him the first guy who really reminded me of my father.

You may remember my discussions of junior high, where I mentioned one of the guys I hung out with as being a sociopath. He was remarkably manipulative, and was always trying to trick you into saying something where he could prove you wrong and win. I remember him once asking me if I would be the lives of everyone in the universe on the existence of God. I said “yes”, but that was wrong because I don’t have the right to bet on other people’s lives. However, if I said “no”, that would have meant that I didn’t really believe, which was what he was going for and what I was resisting. That was relatively good behavior for him.

Anyway, I remember one time when he was accusing me of thinking that he liked me. I just said I didn’t want him to, which he said wasn’t his point, and that was true, but the problem was I could not express what I really felt about him. I did not understand it well enough yet.

Years later, I can articulate it. What I felt was that he wanted to be able to have control over me, so it would have been good if I liked him, or admired him, or even was scared of him. That is far from him liking me, and certainly doesn’t make me special because he wanted the same thing from lots of people. I could never have put it into words at fourteen.

Anyway, Aaron was like Scott in that I felt compelled to when him over when I should not have cared, like this guy in that I could not even explain to myself what was happening on all of the different levels, and going back to other blog entries, like Chris from Junior High whom I mentally worked myself into liking. Also, Aaron was like Bobby in that he had a grossly inflated idea of my affections.

Now that all of that is out of the way, I am confident that I can write about him tomorrow and it will all make sense. Whether I can finish the story before explaining about Mitch is a bit more debatable.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mike – 333

I did not intentionally let so much time pass—things have just been busy. I am getting better at not wasting time and being more productive though, so we’ll see how that works out.

I feel safe considering Mike my first love, and it was very much love at first sight. I resisted that aspect of it less than I did with Gerard, though, because I was a sophomore in high school and just did not worry as much about logic. I saw him in the halls at school and was smitten. I don’t know that he had a remarkable first impression. We had seen each other around, and I knew I liked him, but the first time he spoke to me he was not really hitting on me.

I can be kind of clumsy at times, and maybe some of it is a poor grasp of spatial relations. The point of this is, as I was walking around a trophy case I didn’t quite make it, and clipped it with my shoulder. It was nothing unusual, and I my typical strategy was to pretend such things did not happen. (Admittedly, denial is not a great strategy. I still remember Amy looking at me in horror after, having given me a ride home, I leaned into the car to thank her, banged my forehead on the door, and kept talking.)

Anyway, my shoulder went bang and I would have kept going but I heard this voice behind me, “Watch out for that case!” and it was Mike. It wasn’t a brilliant response, but I said, “Thanks for deepening my embarrassment. I appreciate it,” to which he replied, “You’re welcome.” Well, smart alecks have never been a turnoff for me, and at least he had noticed me—no easy feat for a sophomore with a senior.

Still, it would not have gotten us anywhere, and once he graduated I could easily have never seen him again, but that job at McDonald’s came in handy. He came in a lot, and always ordered the same thing, a double cheeseburger plain. He was so consistent that one time when I was working drive-through the woman told me she couldn’t remember if her son wanted a double cheeseburger plain or a quarter-pounder plain. I said, “If your Mike Johnson’s mother, it’s the double cheeseburger.” There was stunned silence, like how did you know? She’s just lucky I was working that night.

Anyway, as he would come in we would talk more, but where we really started to bond was when I bought the drum set.

I have always loved music, and one of the hallmarks of getting your first regular paychecks is that you realize you can just buy things. You don’t need to ask your parents or anything. On 170th one family had put out a drum set one day, and I really wanted it, so I asked his advice. Mike took a look and helped me get them back to my house, and gave me advice for what else I would need.

The drums did not work out for me. When I did feel comfortable letting loose, I loved playing them and I believe with practice I could become good at them, but it was so hard to let loose. Even when there was no one else home, I would worry about disturbing the neighbors. We knew suppression was an issue for me. I’d like to give drums a try again if I could ever have a soundproof room, but I probably should have just used the drumsticks on cushions for a while, or stuck to practicing piano.

Still, even if I never became a great drummer, the set brought me closer to Mike, and that was totally worth it. That was when we really started talking and hanging out.

If I had not already been there, he would still have been so easy to fall for. Even if I am not great at playing music, I appreciate it really well, and I still think he is the most talented musician I have ever met. I knew he played drums from school, where he played in the band at basketball games, but he played and wrote the most beautiful songs on piano, and when he came over to my house he tuned and played my uncle’s guitar, which had been untouched for years, and even played some on the banjo that my father had impulsively bought and never learned (family trait apparently). Also, he met all of my shallow requirements, being relatively tall, having great hair, and nice arms. Of course he had great arms. He was a drummer!

I haven’t really had a boyfriend (other than Shawn and Stephen, if we are going to count absolutely everything), but there are ways in which it was like we were dating. We talked on the phone a lot, and would hang out at each other’s houses (more often it was me at his, because he lived right across from school, and had one sibling to my four), and occasionally we would go places together.

Also, he did things for me. He helped with the drum kit of course, but he would also give me rides to work sometimes, and sometimes I could just hang out at his place when having a father who was not speaking to me was too hard. On my birthday I wanted to do something different, so he picked up pizza for me and brought it to the school, and I had a pizza party with my friends on our lunch break. Also, my big goal for the SAT was to break 1500, and I got 1420 and was feeling down, and he was just so excited over the score that he was the reason I felt better about it. Really, he was pretty supportive.

For Mike, I am sure it was not at all like we were dating, because that would have involved sex. He had girlfriends on and off the entire time we were friends, and at least one of them knew we were friends, because he heard about something I did at school from her, and I had no idea who she was.

Eventually, he moved, and I was not seeing him as much, and I went off to college, and at some point I realized that he was never going to like me the way that I liked him. We had never discussed the inequality of our feelings. How could we? I was already a full compartmentalizer, where I kept my romantic feelings private and only displayed friendship feelings, ever. Still, that doesn’t mean he didn’t know, because there was another girl who liked him, and he got really frustrated with her. There were things to that story that I did not know, but it at least showed me that he was capable of discerning unstated romantic yearnings—and made me pretty nervous.

Anyway, when I had this realization, I felt like I needed to break things off with him. I was probably feeling a little bitter, but I remember thinking that I was like a little dog following him around, and even if he was not treating me that way, for my dignity I needed to stop. And I think that’s where I messed up, in that I was worrying about my dignity. If I had just been focused on my ability to grow and find love, it probably would have been okay. As it was, I wrote him a letter explaining that kind of dumped him as a friend, and possibly hurt him. He didn’t write back, but it didn’t really invite a response.

Time went on, and maybe I had some regrets, or should have, but I don’t remember really thinking about it until I was at Washington Square and saw him. I just went cold, and fled the scene—I hope before he saw me, but I have doubts. So I wandered to a different area of the mall, and kind of collected myself, and then felt really stupid and went back in his direction. I didn’t know if he would be around, but I felt like I at least needed to try. Suddenly, he was right in front of me.

It was awkward, but it was good. Honestly, I would have deserved some coolness from him, but I guess he understood, and he was nice, and we could make small talk, and be okay, even if we were no longer going to actively keep in touch.

As the story continues, we will see that evicting Mike from my heart is what left room for Aaron, and as Aaron was replaced, well, I really learned to appreciate how good Mike had been to me. While I was on my mission I wrote him, and I just kind of thanked him for everything, and reaffirmed that he was a good guy. He didn’t write back to that either, but the one last time I saw him, he mentioned it, and it meant a lot to him. He actually mentioned it to his roommate, and his roommate asked, “Are you sure she means you?” “Yeah, I think so.”

That last time was at the funeral of another friend, Eric, who left us all way too soon. This was about eleven years ago. There were a lot of people I could have talked to there, but I did not feel up to it, so I visited with the family a bit, then stood off to the side, and suddenly Mike was walking by. We hugged and talked, and it was good. We did not exchange addresses, but we were on good terms and I was grateful for that chance. Even if I am no longer in love with him, I will always love him and wish him well.

I do have some regrets. One is that I was writing a lot of songs in high school, and I didn’t really share that with him. I kind of tried once, and immediately felt that they were so lame, and I could not go on, except collaboration and continued effort is how things get better, and I would have loved to have developed my musical talents, including songwriting more. Yes, he was going to be superior to me, but that would have given me a lot to learn.

Finally, I regret not asking him to my senior prom. I was at prom all three years. Sophomore year I was with Hung, and then my junior year I did not have a date and wasn’t going to go, but I was in charge of the chaperones and felt like I had to, so I went stag. I danced with friends, and although I did not dance with Mike, he was there. Someone else had asked him.

For my senior year, I really felt like I needed a date, and it was clear no one was going to ask me, and eventually I got fixed up with Kevin, and that directly affected some of the people I met during college, and we had a good time, and it was fine. However, I had been in love with Mike for three years—I should have at least tried asking him.

I guess I didn’t want to risk ruining the friendship, and I didn’t think he would really want to go to yet another prom, but it would have been a dream come true. And who knows? I don’t think we would have ended up together, but we might have kissed, or tried dating over the summer, or I could at least have felt confident enough in his regard for me that I did not dump him as a friend a few months later. It was just worth a shot.

There were two bad patterns I’ve had that I followed with Mike. One is always focusing on the guy that was not around. Yes, he was in town, and we did spend time together, but after he graduated, it might have been good to pay more attention to the boys I was actually around daily.

The other thing was maintaining complete secrecy on what is really important, from the guy and from other people. If people knew I liked Mike, then they should have known that I was not hung up on Bobby or Aaron, but one of my closest friends teased me about Aaron because even she thought I liked him. I was a little overprotective of my secrets, unlike now where I just post everything on the Internet.

That’s a good side note actually. I recently wrote a letter to the editor. It did not end up getting published, but if it had, the particular person who was involved is remarkably vindictive. However, my closet doesn’t really have any skeletons, and anything that is really painful or embarrassing has either been posted already or I will get to it soon. So in addition to my intended goals of working out emotional issues and becoming stronger, I am also basically blackmail proof.

Thank you, my six regular readers. You are an important part of my process.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

High School Days – 329

The nice thing about high school is that I don’t have anything I really kick myself over. Yes, there were some fairly humiliating moments, some stupidity, and at least one regret, but in general, I got by okay. Maybe it’s because I don’t really remember hurting anyone.

Although I was still appreciative of good-looking males, I did end up being less boy-crazy. I think it was partly growing maturity, where I could develop deeper attachments, and also, I may have started sublimating, replacing attraction with service.

You see, I was a very smart kid, and this allowed me to coast quite a bit academically. I would go through cycles of occasionally putting off too much, getting some bad grades, and trying to apply myself again, but the point is that school was largely social for me. This may be why I am not quite sure that I was a nerd, though I certainly had some of the trappings.

Anyway, I remember going through this booklet of different activities that were available to students at Aloha before starting my sophomore year, and trying to calculate how many I could possibly fit in. At various times I was part of French Club, Spanish Club, Earth Club, Science Club, Amnesty International, Literary Journal staff, and Model United Nations, as well as helping with many dances and student events. The two that really stuck were Speech Team and sports management.

It’s the management part that directs the rest of the story. Don’t get me wrong—I have speech tournament stories too, like that guy at Monmouth who was totally coming on to me Friday night, and then completely ignored me Saturday, or Ted who was wonderful, but I was too immature to give him the proper encouragement, or running into Chris again after college and being horrified, but those are stories for another time. Let’s talk about sports. I’m going to have to sell out my friend Karen a little bit, but she’ll be okay.

It all started one day when the morning announcements mentioned that the men’s basketball team needed a manager. I thought about this, and decided to go for it. After all, I loved sports, despite not being very good at them, and basketball was my favorite sport at the time. I wasn’t sure exactly what was involved in management, but it turned out to primarily be folding warm-up suits, handing out water and towels, and later on included sweeping the gym floor before practices. I decided to go for it.

It got off to a rocky start. Remember how most of my friends had a flair for the dramatic? I told Karen, and she went into her next class and announced that Gina was managing the basketball team just so she could have a quickie with Bobby at halftime.

Well, that was patently untrue. Even if I was the kind of girl to have quickies, and if the coach would have stood for that kind of behavior, and the guys were free at halftime (which they were not), I wasn’t that into him anymore. Also, I assumed the men’s team meant varsity, and I had thought of Bobby but I assumed he would not make varsity before he was a senior. I had watched him play a few times. However, I was wrong on both counts. I managed both varsity and junior varsity, who played their games consecutively, and there were so few players that the only guys who did not play on both teams were the seniors (who couldn’t) and 6’7” Aaron who I initially assumed was a senior, but I guess they just reserved him because he was the star. We’ll talk more about him later.

Unfortunately, often in high school it doesn’t matter so much what is true as what is believed, and maybe what matters even more is the size of the mouth on who knows. There was a girl in Karen’s class who heard it, knew what it meant, and spread it like wildfire. Karen saw what was happening and felt horrible, and her confession explained to me why so many people whom I did not know at all were staring at me as I walked down the halls.

The old rule about not letting guys know you like them turned out to be very true, as despite me being around all the time, Bobby and I were never really able to bond. One thing that would be really helpful for teenagers is an understanding that these things are not really important. I’m not sure it is even possible to understand it while you are in it, but now I get it. Yes, two years ago, when I was an eighth grader and you were a ninth grader I thought you were the cutest boy in the school, out of about fifty who were considered cute. So what?

But at the time, it was not “so what”, and it started off kind of discouraging. The thing that really kept me hanging in there, besides my usual stubbornness, was the kindness of the seniors, especially Grant. I remember one night when we had played at Tigard. At home games I could leave pretty much as soon as the game ended, but for away games I would wait while they showered, and possibly got yelled at or talked to, depending on how the game had gone, and usually everyone else would have cleared out. I think maybe that night Grant was injured and had sat the game out; otherwise I’m not sure why we were along together. He asked me how I was liking it, and I had some doubts, and was feeling kind of down, but he was very encouraging. Maybe he talked to the others too. Anyway, it started getting better, and I did care a lot about Grant.

It was not exactly a crush. When I think about the first time I fell in love, I sometimes think it was Grant. Usually I end up deciding that Mike was the first one I can actually call “love”, but Grant was sort of a transition for me. It wasn’t about being the cutest, or anything like that. Technically, even if we looked at just the seniors, Darin was probably the handsomest, and Bob was the hottest, and Gary was the one who tugged on my heartstrings the most. I liked Grant because he was kind, and his eyes were clear and honest, and if he was good-looking it was secondary for me.

I made it through the season, and then one of the basketball coaches recommended me to the track coach for spring season. The primary duties here were score-keeping, and I got paid $12.00 a meet, so that was pretty cool, and then I got hired to run the clock for summer basketball too, which also paid. I enjoyed the sports jobs (except for my brief stint umpiring Little League Softball, which sucked horribly), but I was still undecided about going back for additional seasons. However, my other job was at McDonald’s, and the other guys from the team came in all the time, and asked if I was coming back, and I finally decided to give it a try, and also to manage men’s soccer.

We had some good times. The soccer team ended up going to the state championship, and the basketball team ended up in the final four—both of which were phenomenal. It was a big change for the basketball team. I don’t know how the soccer team did the previous year, but it was still pretty sweet. I’d like to say that it was because they all had such a great manager, but that’s probably a stretch. Still, it doesn’t hurt.

I did end up kind of liking two other nice guys from the team: Joe, who had not been on the team my first year, so there were no bad memories, and again he was very kind, and then John my senior year. And believe me, it was John I liked, not Jon—Jon drove me nuts! However, these were not really serious crushes, because I wasn’t thinking of them as potential dates. These guys were my responsibility and I wanted to take care of them and see good things happen to them, so that’s where the sublimation came in.

I might have been better off not being a manager. For one thing, I had no idea how un-cool managers were. Most of the managers for other teams were disabled in some way, and they may have gotten into management due to a lack of other options. I know the Beaverton guy had been a football player, but he had a weight problem where it wasn’t safe for him to play. Granted, I’m no one to criticize there, but really, since I was going to be wanting scholarships, I really should have focused on my grades, do just two activities but really excel at them and try to hold office in them, and then do some volunteer work that would give me great testimonials and letters of recommendation. Socially, I probably should have tried befriending boys with common interests, and putting maternal instincts on hold for a decade. All I can say was it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The next installment will be about Mike, but let me quickly mention some minor things. We know my first date was Shawn. My second date was for prom when I was in tenth grade. I went with a friend from junior high, Hung, who was one year older, so this was his junior prom. He later turned out to be gay, but I did not know at the time, and we did have fun. I do have a minor regret though, which is that I let my mother talk me out of the dress I really wanted (satiny green strapless), and got the one she liked (pink taffeta with way too much lace). I know it makes sense for mothers to steer away from strapless, but I could have really looked good, and let’s face it, there weren’t going to be a lot more opportunities for that in my future.

Also, I might regret not taking the chance to kiss Dan in the student center that day. It might have been a good milestone for me, but maybe it is better that I didn’t.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Boys = crazy (me and them both) – 329.5

Maybe it was suddenly being in a bigger venue, but there were just a lot more boys to like once I was in junior high. Maybe as we aged they were also getting cuter. Hormones could possibly have been a factor too, though I don’t remember noticing that aspect until high school. I did develop a specific type that I liked, which was basically baby-faced basketball players. Yes, I liked them tall, gangly, and with cute boyish faces. I did not learn to appreciate a strong jaw line until later, though Scott had one, and he was the first boy I noticed. However, in general, they were more boyish looking and definitely tall. The epitome of this was Bobby.

Now, I have just named two people, and used their real names. I have sort have been working it so that high school graduation is the dividing line; with boys before we can use their real names, and after that we switch to fake names. I did not really make this decision actively, because with more recent people I was using fake names, but when I wrote about Mike I used his real name without even thinking about it. However, it also seems pretty safe. Remembering Five Oaks, I can think of three Kevins and five Scotts and more Jasons than you can shake a stick at. It wasn’t like today when parents try to prove how unique their child is, and so will inadvertently end up with a class full of Cadens and Madisons, except that some of them will have the spelling jacked up.

(I blame celebrities for that. We could also blame teen pregnancy, but then you can just blame that on celebrities too, so it’s all a circle.)

Now, from the posting about the terrible incident that happened in junior high, I have already covered that I liked a lot of boys, and that my friends and I were pretty zealous about assigning code names. This may have gone along with the need for ignorance (because you can’t let boys know that you like them), but also, we did have a flair for the dramatic. Generally, it was very innocent and fun, and led to more talk between us but no talk with the boys.

I did end up with another bad boy (drug dealer) I liked, and I got to talk to him a fair amount because our lockers were next to each other one year. It was also a time of trying new things, as I realized that I wasn’t going to get anywhere with drama, so quit drama club to join the yearbook staff and changed my drama class to beginning guitar. (I was a pretty good addition to the yearbook team, but was not good at guitar.) I had good friends, most of whom I am still in touch with today, and I pulled off straight A’s in 9th grade because I knew it would go on my transcript and figure it would be the one such year where doing so was possible.

Of course, I did pick up some deep psychological scars that took roughly twenty years to get past, but we knew that already. Where the additional personal analysis is needed is in three other mistakes I made that are worth review.

The peer pressure: Of all the boys I liked during that time period, the only one who stings now is Chris. This is partly because I think I was too obvious, but even more it is because I did not like him on my own—I was sort of talked into it. The other girls talked about how cute he was and smart and all those things, and I eventually kind of made myself like him, but this is stupid. If the chemistry is not there, let it lie. If I could have learned this then, the other Aaron thing might not have happened. Sure, my reasons for not liking Chris on my own were probably pretty shallow. I think it was largely due to the fact that he was short. Maybe he seemed a little snobbish and not lively, but yeah, knowing me it was probably mainly the height. Anyway, if you are going to put yourself out there for someone, make it count with someone you really think is great.

The peer group: I hung out with a great group of girls, but there were also boys who hung out with us, and not only was I not attracted to them, but I also didn’t really like them much as people. They were nerds, I guess, and probably we were too, but they seemed to have more superior attitudes about it, or something. Looking at them later, one is a complete sociopath (not homicidal, I think), one is incredibly bitter (with some really strange ideas), and man, I don’t even know how to describe the third one. I don’t know what happened to the fourth one. He was the nicest, but he was still pretty weird (and short). I just think that spending time with boys whom I found to be likable and good people might have been a good idea.

The missed opportunity: This is the one that I kick myself over. It didn’t happen at school, but at a church dance. Specifically, it was New Year’s Eve when I was 14, almost 15. And yes, the scarring incident had already happened, which was probably a factor. Anyway, at the dance I met a boy. He was nice, and I think cute, and we seemed to really hit it off. I knew that the New Year’s tradition was that you kissed whomever you were with at midnight, and I wanted to be with him at midnight. We had danced, and then he came up and found me again, talking to a different guy. It was still a lot before midnight, and I was afraid he would get tired of me by then, so I left him talking with Brian, and then my plan was to find him again. However, when the time came, I couldn’t find him. Maybe he left. He looked a bit hurt and confused when I left.

It was just so remarkably dumb, and it was possibly hurtful to someone else, and it happened because I couldn’t believe in myself even when the signs were there that he actually did want to spend time with me. For me, that’s the trifecta. I wish I had just asked him to go somewhere and talk. I never saw him again. Mystery guy—I hope you are not badly scarred, and that you know that sometimes people do stupid things that have nothing to do with you.

Apparently, much like at the end of elementary school, I was still too immature for a relationship. And you know, age is not a reliable predictor.