Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kangaroo Island

We had an overnight tour to Kangaroo Island, with a 6:30 AM pick-up from Adelaide.

With our normal habit of always being early, we were out there at 6, and so got to see the kids heading home from the clubs. Apparently, there is quite the night life. It isn't even like there is only one club, because people were coming from both directions on both sides of the street. I think the latest I ever stayed out when I was that age was 4 AM, and that was just the one time, but I was never into clubbing.

There was a two hour bus ride to the ferry, then 45 minutes on the water. When we finally got into our group, it was really international. There were sixteen of us, with an older couple from Germany, a middle-aged couple from Shanghai, two couples who were probably in their late twenties from Germany and France, a brother and sister from Belgium, a girl from Switzerland, and the two we talked to the most were a student teacher from France and a student researcher from Scotland. The only Australian was our guide, Peter.

The island is the third biggest in Australia, with a population of about 4400. There is a lot to see, and we were just going places non-stop. The bad thing about this company, Adventure Tours, is that it is really designed for the young backpacker. This means that you stop every few hours and go on a hike. No one forces you to go, or even to complete the hikes, so you can go partway, but yeah, it gets grueling. Still, we saw good things.

Along with various geological formations like the Remarkable Rocks (strangely sculpted granite formations on the coast that were part of Thomas Molson's demonstration of contintal drift), we saw Australian Sea Lions, New Zealand Fur Seals, a pod of dolphins, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, possum, emu, and we got really lucky and spotted an echidna. You have about a fifty/fifty chance of seeing them--they are fairly shy, and with their size and spikes they blend into the grassland well. We felt pretty lucky. Oh, and our last stop was a pelican feeding. They are enormous, and I got winged in the head a few times, so I can attest to their size on good authority.

We also learned about the processing of eucalyptus oil, visiting a place that sells it. Peter knew a lot about everything we asked about.

It was funny, because it was really only one overnight trip, but we all got a bit bonded where we sat together on the ferry back, and felt wrenched a bit as we needed to get onto different buses. We were keeping eyes out for each other at the bus station and the next morning.

We did bond more with the women, and Julie felt like the women were friendlier, but I think it is that we are generally less held back by the language barrier. We will talk regardless.

Only about two weeks left. It will be a relief in some ways, as I am not sure I would plan such a long trip again. Our justification was that we would never make it back, so we needed to see everything possible, but now we are trying to figure out ways to come back anyway.

Oh well, happy October everyone.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Good news/bad news

So, many of you know that I lost my job just before departure, which was a bit unnerving, but it did unlock some vacation pay that had been held back from when they changed the vacation system, giving me some funds for the trip. In a similar vein, there is a silver lining to losing my wallet.

The bad news, I lost my wallet. Actually, I am pretty sure it was stolen, since we combed the theater where it disappeared, and for a fairly small area where it was unaccounted for, it simply was not there. It contained $100 US and $100 AU, as well as credit cards and bank cards. That sucked.

Here is the good news though. First off, that was the only thing lost. I did not lose my passport, which we would still be sorting out if I had. I did not lose my medicine, glaucometer, or anything health-related. I did not lose the airport transfers that we had just purchased. I did not lose my journal or camera, either of which would have been emotionally devastating, and I did not lose everything that I normally have in my wallet, as I had cleaned it out before going, leaving only what I thought I would need on the trip.

Other good news is that I was able to close my accounts without any problem, and get some cash transferred into Julie's account so I could withdraw it. It could be worse. There are still some real inconveniences, but we are getting by.

I wish I could update this more often, but we are not spending as much time online as you might think. Too much to do outside. I suppose I can write posts when I get back, but based on the time of year I suspect I will need to spout off politically for a while.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cairns to Uluru

We have found internet again in Ayers Rock, but it is not convenient, so I will probably not post again until Sydney. No worries-- we get to Sydney Friday night.

Our visit to the Daintree Rainforest was good. We had a great guide in Ian, and he took us through the forest, to Myall Beach, crocodile spotting (3 crocs and a python spotted) and to the Exotic Fruit Farm where we tried breadfruit, pommelo, sapodilla, black sapote, soursop, Malay rose apples, and japoticaba. I think that's all of them.

Yesterday we went out to the Great Barrier Reef. Our crew was great. Snorkeling was not so great. I think I like it better from a bay than from a boat, and I was having trouble with the fit of my mask. Still, I was able to see a lot of fish, and later on we saw some sharks. Some people saw a turtle but I missed it.

We just flew in to Ayers Rock today. Tomorrow we take a brief camel ride, and then take a jeep out to Mt. Conner. It's a whirlwind.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Port Douglas

Today we visited the Rainforest Habitat. There were two primary attractions. One is that you can hold a koala, which is illegal further south. They also offer Breakfast with the Birds, where you can eat among the wildlife.

This is harder than it sounds. The one rule is that you do not feed the birds. We committed but the birds didn't. In most cases, it is enough to cover your plate with your napkin when you leave, but the lorikeets are a little more aggressive, and needed to be shooed away. One actually bit me. Perhaps Stephen is right, and they really are evil. There was an egret that also kept goosing people, including Maria, but I think it was really just looking at snaps and buttons on back jeans pockets, and thinking they were berries or something. Don't get me wrong, breakfast was good. It was just more of a combat situation than I was expecting.

We then got our koala photos, but they were doing the python talk first. I pet the python too, but my sisters would not. It was a four-year old carpet python, and quite small. Cowards.

I think the most fun was actually the grasslands area. You have to stay on the path, but the wallabies, kangaroos, and emu travel freely, so we were able to get quite close to all of them. We saw a few wallabies with joeys in the pouch, and those heads are so big, I can't help but think it is not very comfortable. I pet a kangaroo, and was just kind of amazed to be here.

The place is pretty small, so we got done early, and I took a swim in the motel pool. It was very small, and the surface was kind of rough, but the water felt good and I never go swimming at home.

We have just come back from dinner, and have stopped at the internet cafe/ice cream parlor/video rental place that also buys and sells used books.

I'm not sure when we will have internet access again. We should for sure in Sydney, for Cairns and Uluru we'll see.

Friday, September 12, 2008

On the ground

Not a lot to say at this point. We traveled through the night. I did not like LAX much, but Qantas themselves treated us pretty well, and despite some seemingly close calls we made all of our connections. We are now in Port Douglas, one hour outside of Cairns, staying at the Port Douglas Motel.

It is pretty warm, though it sounds like it is back home too. The country is very beautiful and the people friendly so far. We're not feeling jet lag so much, but are tired and sore from being cooped up in planes for so long.

We're just going to explore the town a little bit, and probably head to bed early. The start times for most of our activities are pretty early, so if we can get into the early to bed/early to rise habit it will be helpful.

Not very interesting, but we are safe, and halfway around the world.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

To the far Antipodes – 330.5

Well, I’m away for the next month. I will be returning home to unemployment, but I still intend to have a good trip.

I hope to be able to upload a few comments and pictures from the road, but I don’t know if it will be possible, so here is a breakdown of the schedule.

9/11 and 9/12 – flying to Australia. We lose a day, so arrive…
9/13 – land in Cairns and bus to Port Douglas. Check in to the Port Douglas Motel. We are two blocks from the beach.
9/14 – The Rainforest Habitat. Here we will enjoy breakfast with the birds, and get photo opportunities with koalas.
9/15 – Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation Exotic Fruit Farm. We will NOT be tree-surfing, but we should still have a good time. We will have to head straight back to Cairns when we get in that night.
9/16 – Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, then the afternoon on Green Island. Yes, this is the Green Island mentioned in “A Town Like Alice”, although it is a lot more touristy now.
9/17 – Fly to Ayers Rock and check out the area.
9/18 – Camel Express Tour in the morning, and Mt. Connor Safari in the afternoon.
9/19 – Fly to Sydney.
9/20 – Taronga Zoo and a symphony at the Sydney Opera House.
9/21 – Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb, and we hope to make it over to Bondi Beach.
9/22 – Fly into Hobart. We will actually be staying in Seven Mile Beach, right on the beach.
9/23 – We will head to Port Arthur, staying overnight so we can take the ghost tour.
9/24 – We will take a cruise around the rocks, then get back into Hobart.
9/25 – Tour of Hobart, including the Cadbury factory, Bonorong Wild Animal Park, and the town of Richmond.
9/26 – Fly to Adelaide early, and explore the town on foot.
9/27 – Start a 5-day bus tour along the Great Ocean Road. The first night we will go to Kangaroo Island.
9/28 – We will go by the Remarkable Rocks, Admiral’s Arch, and Stokes Bay.
9/29—The Grampians, MacKenzie Falls, and The Balconies.
9/30—The Pinnacle and the Twelve Apostles
10/1 – Last day of this tour. We go through Otway Fly, Torquay, and land in Melbourne.
10/2 – Phillip Island via Wildlife Up Close park. We will get to see the penguin parade.
10/3 – Leave for Auckland. We hope to make it to Sharon Finn’s gallery, but it is a late flight.
10/4 – Cruise of the Bay of Islands
10/5 – Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Adventure and explore the Dominion after church.
10/6 – Travel to Rotorua by bus, stopping to take a tour of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
10/7 – Hobbiton Movie Set tour and Sheep Farm Experience
10/8 – Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs Nature Park, and hangi at Tamaki Maori Village that night.
10/9 –Fly to Queenstown on the South Island, and transfer by ground to Te Anau.
10/10 – Kayaking on Milford Sound.
10/11 –transfer to Dunedin, where we will visit Larnach Castle and the Royal Albatross colony.
10/12 – Mainly a quiet day in Dunedin, but we will visit the local Cadbury factory.
10/13 – Scenic route back to Queenstown, via Otago and the Remarkables. There is a farewell barbecue that night.
10/14 – Fly home. We don’t exactly gain a day, but despite many hours in the air, we arrive here on the 14th.

See you then.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lost and Found – 332

I think this will be my last soul-searching one for a while. Everyone can take a breather.

As a writer, I am always imaging different scenarios and conversations, and at one point I had imagined a conversation between a girl and an athlete who had suffered a debilitating injury, where he was bed-ridden and would have a long road to recovery. In the scene, she told him that sometimes we lose something that is so much a part of us that we’re not even sure who we are anymore. But we will get it back, and then it will be even better, maybe because we have earned it.

The thing is, everything that comes out, is coming out of you, and it comes from somewhere.

If I was defining myself in the past, I probably would have gone for the intelligence part. I asked a college friend about it once, thinking that he would say intelligence, but he went for my niceness. Those can both be valid, but I had never realized how much my cheerfulness was a part of me until it was gone. It wasn’t just that all my hopes and dreams had been destroyed—it was kind of like Gina was destroyed too. Even when the worst pain subsided, and I was just left with this dull ache of depression, I was so far from the person I used to be. It was something I had sort of known; maybe it’s just that I had no concept of what it would be like to lose that resilience.

However, even though I knew that I was generally cheerful, I also knew that about twice a year I would just have a meltdown, where for a few days I would be gloomy and stormy, and it would all focus on how no one really cared about me. I knew I was being unreasonable, and that no one was being any different on a given day than they had been the previous week, but that was the problem. They never cared and eventually the ongoing frustration would build up and spill over.

Even though I could see that, I never grasped the real issue. I had a core belief that I could not be loved, and even though I was very functional, and had friendships and hobbies and good times, that hole in my heart was always gnawing away at me, until it would spill over about twice a year.

Having seen that and faced it for what it was, including the fact that it was a lie, I don’t have these episodes anymore. There are still times when things just feel like too much, or when events will make me sad, but it is a completely different thing. My happiness is more authentic now, more real, and more mine.

I have a friend who was diagnosed with MS about two years ago, but before that she would have spells of sickness and weakness that were not explained. She was also a tough, strong girl who could throw around heavy loads and do rural Idaho proud. That took a beating as she had to learn to deal with her illness, and it is an issue that will not go away completely, and yet she is still able to do a lot during the good times, and is so capable, and the only thing she expresses is gratitude.
She also had a fiancĂ© once whom she needed to break up with. And I remember us talking about that once, and even though at the time she was still single she told me, “Gina, I have found so much love since letting him go—more than I could have imagined.” She had even found romantic love, and found more of that later. It was reassuring, knowing that it is okay to let go.

I guess my point is that the deepest pains will be tied to the greatest joys, and bring the greatest blessings. We wouldn’t even understand what joy felt like if we felt no pain. If you’re reading this, and you’re hurting, the only thing I can say is that you’re not dead yet. There’s time to heal. There’s still time for your dream to come true, or for a new dream to take its place.

I’m going to close with some poetry, which I first heard in the movie “Sense and Sensibility”. Marianne had previously been associated with Shakespearean sonnet 116, that love is not love that does not persist, even in the face of losing love. Later, she has to take a broader view, and finds happiness with someone else, and they read this from Spenser’s The Faerie Queen.

What though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eate the earth, it is no more at all...
Nor is the earth the lesse, or loseth aught.
For whatsoever from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide unto another brought...
For there is nothing lost, but may be found, if sought ...

Monday, September 08, 2008

I’m not male-bashing – 329

That’s not to say that I never do. They really make it easy with all of the stupid things they do. Granted, females can be stupid too, but we are stupid in our own way that men can never understand, when they are stupid is such reliably simple ways. It is just a very common thing that when two or more of us are discussing our problems, something will come up about stupid men, and it is the most natural thing in the world. At least the stupid part is; sometimes the men part sounds like a stretch, so we will say “boys” or “guys”.

Which is fine of course, except that for all the commonality that we find in our own gender, we are all different, and the men are too. No matter how constraining the traditions are, where the male is the one who gets to pursue and choose, then he also has the responsibility to pursue and to choose, and how can that not be intimidating? I do understand something about being held back by fear.

So I can’t condemn them that much. As I have gotten to know different guys (often therapeutically helping them prepare for the girl they like that way, as opposed to me), I have found fears about being able to provide for a family, fears of rejection, actual cases of rejection that hurt a lot, and fear of not being good enough.

Some cases evoke more sympathy than others. The guy who was torn between the girl he found attractive and the girl he loved to talk to, well, when he went for the attractive one, I kind of felt like he deserved what he got, except it left the girl he had all the long conversations with hurt, and maybe it would have been nice for the other girl to find someone who didn’t think she was stupid.

The ones who are scared that no one will want them, and feel like no one should want them, they’re probably wrong, but it’s hard to see and I can’t judge.

On one level, each of them needs to work out his own individual problem, and yet the answer will be the same each time. Look to God and let Him heal you. Wes, it will involve scary painful things, but those are there anyway, it’s just whether you are going to acknowledge them so you can get them to leave.

Nonetheless, there are a few common fallacies or pitfalls out there, that it’s a good idea to look out for.

Fear that you will not find “the one”: Good news. There is almost certainly not a “the one”. There are probably a few ones that would be great, and more that would be fine, but a lot of marriage is going to be what you put into it, as well as whom you bring to it. Regardless, the solution is fairly simple. After understanding that you can choose, pray for guidance in making good choices. That way if there is a special one you are open to being led, and yet you are still leaving room for self-direction.

Fear that you will commit to one girl, and then a better one will come along: So the beautiful thing about marriage is that if you commit right, you quit looking, and you won’t even know if someone better comes along. That might sound pessimistic, but assuming you aren’t settling, you committed to someone whom you loved, and believed you could be happy with, and prayed about and got confirmation on. Now just focus on nurturing that relationship.

Fear of opening up: When I first used the nickname “Mr. Intimacy Issues”, at least three people identified him right away, but it’s funny because I can think of at least two other guys it would work on, and probably more. Again, I sympathize. We have horrible, yucky things inside us and not only will other people run away from them in fear, but then we have to look too, except that we are all the same. Maybe there are some remarkably shallow people out there who have no dark fears or shames or empty spots, but the primary thing I have learned from opening up everything is that everyone understands. They have felt it too. And if you do find someone heartless enough to be cruel about your humanity, the problem is with them. It may be best to think of these things as shadows. They are dark forms that aren’t quite defined, but letting the light in destroys them completely. Keeping them shut up only strengthens them.

Now monetary fears make a lot of since, especially now, and again this is harder for the boys because they are expected to be the breadwinner, and often it is a blow to the ego to make less than her, or to not make enough to support her on your own. The first thing to do is kick your ego out. Believe me, nothing good will come of it. Then, just open your mind to possibilities.

I taught a Sunday School lesson ages ago where I used that as an example of a fear, and how you need to open yourself up. So if you just think, I can’t afford a family, you stop there, and don’t have one. However, if you phrase it as how can I do this, then maybe you will work hard in a horrible but well-paying job for five years and save up, or maybe you will use investments wisely, or maybe you will be the househusband, or maybe you will shop at second-hand stores while gardening and having each vacation be camping in the backyard, or maybe you will supplement the second job with a home business. The point was, if this is something you need to do, there will be a way.

Afterwards, one guy came up to me and said I had just addresses all of his fears about marriage. (Actually, I had given the lesson with him and one other guy in mind.) Now, it then took him at least another four years to get married, but he did it, and now he has a new little daughter.

I know facing fear is not easy, but it’s the only way to live. And I firmly believe that we can get answers and guidance. I’ll share one small example of that.

When I was working on “everything”, in one section I reviewed my adherence to each of the ten commandments (a lot of it was religious). I got hung up on the tenth, Thou shalt not covet. I was pretty sure it was not a problem for me, but I felt strongly that I needed to dig deeper. So I kept focusing, and I thought about jealousy, and my mind went back to the middle of my time of despair when I was leaving a wedding reception, and I ran into “Bob” with the girl he ended up marrying. That didn’t seem quite right, because I wasn’t feeling jealous then, and it was a situation where it would have made sense, but I kept feeling like I needed to figure it out, so I thought and felt more, and then I had the breakthrough.

I realized that the reason I was not feeling jealousy was that I didn’t feel like I deserved him. I don’t know if this is how jealousy works for everyone, but for me, I was too far below it to even get there. And it unlocked something because a lot of times I thought what was holding me back was fear, but it did not always make sense because I have done some pretty brave things at times too, especially when my sense of justice was affected. What held me back was my sense of my own merit. In its own way, it was devastating—it almost seemed worse than cowardice would have been. Still, I grew from that realization, and if you listen thoughts and dreams and memories can all guide you to where you need to be.

Fear of not being worthy: Worthiness is a choice. You already have the ability, whether it seems possible or not. You just have to be willing to pay the price.

Of course, whether you are dragging a load of fears around or fighting them head-on, it can wear you down, but I think we are actually more likely to give up if we just get distracted with other things and forget about it. You should not give up.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

So now what? – 328.5

A few months ago, one of my sisters was out with a (married) friend, catching up with each other, and the friend asked her what her plan was. Maria was like, well, I want to go back to school, and talking career. Her friend persisted, “But what’s your plan?” meaning, what about marriage.

It’s not an unusual question for the persistent single, but exactly what kind of a plan are we supposed to have?

· I’m going to find someone who looks good and faint in front of him. That will really bond us.
· I’m going to club a guy over the head with a rolling pin and drag him off to my cave.
· The psychic told me I will meet him in November and his name begins with L.
· Every night I spend a few minutes visualizing my wedding, and then I do a small set of vocal affirmations about how I will find love.

I’m just not sure how much can realistically be planned. I know girls who have set dates and prayed, or asked friends for fix-ups, or moved to different states in pursuit of the dream, but often it seems like they are trying to manipulate something that is a little bit wild, and I’ve been skeptical. Based on their results, I’m still skeptical.

I did actually come up with one plan that was fairly cynical, though it won’t completely work. I was hoping to have lost more weight by now, and then to lose some on the trip as well, and that all three of us would come back thinner. We probably still will, but not as much as I had hoped. My plan was that as we returned sleeker, tanned, rested, and not having been seen by anyone for a month, on our first Sunday back at church we could wear a little bit shorter skirts, with a little bit tighter sweaters, and long blonde wigs, and sit in a different spot and let the boys flock to us. And then, we would probably punch anyone who did flock, because come on!

Julie and Maria said it was a stupid plan and flat out refused anyway. I think it would be kind of funny, but very irritating if it worked. If it didn’t work, it would be kind of insulting.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with making oneself attractive. I like a cute boy as much as anyone, and I don’t think I should ask the boys to be any less shallow than I am. It’s just that in my present physical state, attractiveness has not really seemed attainable, so I have been shooting for neutral (as in not horrible) for more years than I can remember. Every now and then I will want to look nice for something special, and those are the shopping trips that can really make you suicidal.

Now I am growing my hair out, and to get through that I require the use of styling products, the use of which means that I need to periodically use clarifying shampoo, and as I slowly go down in weight I am slowly incorporating new things into my wardrobe. These are not usually things I outgrew, but things that I got and found I did not feel comfortable wearing. Technically they fit, but they did not fit well, and now they are fitting better. Also, as I become more secure, and happier, I do walk with more confidence, and a little more sway in my hips. I do get more compliments now. They are all from girls, but it’s a start.

I am also still more than a hundred pounds overweight, and already thirty-six years old. These are not strong selling points. I do believe that Jason was attracted to me, and that was seventeen pounds or so ago, but still, my attractiveness is limited, and while these ongoing improvements are nice, they will take a while.

I do not know what will happen, and I don’t really have a plan for love. My plan for life is the only plan that I can have though. I will try to follow God’s plan for me. That means developing talents, and becoming a better person, and listening for the things I need to do. If it means suddenly moving to another state, or changing careers, or approaching a strange guy on the street, I can do that. The good thing about listening is that you get better at it the more you do it.

Even if I end up with a great body, I won’t really do the tight sweaters and short skirts. I see girls who do it, even at church, and they do get male attention, but they are cheapening themselves, probably without even realizing it. Forever 21 is not your friend. It is turning you into a marketable commodity just like every other girl with a similar body type. The dressers that I admire most find clothes that simultaneously suit their body type and their personality, so their outfits are about presenting themselves well, rather than conforming to a stylish image that is generic and, frankly, sexist.

Another thing I won’t do is computer dating. I know it works for a lot of people, and that is great. I’ve tried it do. I had a paid account with e-Harmony for a while. Sometimes we would get to the sending questions stage, but I just never really wanted any of them, and I did not expect them to want me. I suppose on one level I felt that I was not ready (still not worthy of love), but also, I have been so much about the love at first sight that I think I may just need to feel the person’s physical presence to know anything.

I have mentioned that it concerns me that I have no dating experience, and some people have even suggested computer dating just as a way of getting that experience (plus free dinners), but I just don’t want to. I may have to go straight to marriage with my first boyfriend. It could be worse. I mean, I do have human relationship experience in terms of communication and conflict resolution and all of that. I just suspect that the romantic element adds a layer of complexity. Tell me if I’m wrong.

At my most honest, it’s hard to believe at this point that I could end up with anyone but Mitch. He is my default setting now. Whenever some other guy doesn’t work out, I return to thinking about him. Sad after fifteen years without seeing him, and yet, every time I think it is ridiculous and that I just need to stop, I will get some thought in my head that does make sense, and it is calming enough.

At least I know that I can fall for other people and that does help. If “Bob” had returned my affections, I believe I would have fallen in love with him completely. I was certainly close enough as it was.

There are reassurances. The big one that everyone uses with single women in the church is that if you are righteous, you won’t lose any blessings and it will get fixed in the Millennium, and that’s okay, but it’s sort of like the comfort of the resurrection if you lose someone you love, or a leg. Yes, you will be reunited, and that is good, and knowing is good, but there is pain and loneliness and limping now—maybe for a long time. And maybe it’s shallow and immature but I want romance and that doesn’t sound romantic. However, one day I was thinking about this and probably being fairly gloomy, and I heard a voice say “Someone will love you passionately some day.” It’s not a guarantee of happily ever after, but it was enough, and I carry that with me.

So, no, I do not have a master plan for getting married. I have tried making lots of plans in the past. I would think, well, if I am not married by the time I am forty I will go into politics, or I will become a foster parent, or I will go back to college and get a masters in psychology and my teaching certificate and work in public schools. I have come up with lots of good plans at times. The problem is that they were really all plans for how to add meaning to my life if it didn’t come on its own, and that forty can come really quickly with nothing interesting happening in between. I am trying to live more meaningfully now, and I am happy doing it, despite a fair share of heartache. It’s just life, and I am just me, but that is actually more than enough.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Was there a point to this? – 330.5

Okay, we are almost at the end of this journey, and the humiliation has not been as bad as it could have been. I guess some things you grow out of, and some things you just need to forgive yourself for.

So, why the need to relive my romantic past, such as it was? Am I just ridiculously self-absorbed, assuming that everyone should rightly be interested? I hope not; that type of person really annoys me.

I have mentioned before that I worked on this paper that was kind of therapy for me. There were things I wanted to write about and explore, and I knew it would end up being about 200 pages, and I just kind of wanted to work everything out. I wish I had kept track of the dates that I worked on it, because it took a while and I wasn’t consistent, but it was helpful, and I understood things a lot better at the end.

I did cover my romantic history there too, which took over thirty pages, and it was good, but I wasn’t done.

For one thing, this work (I don’t even know what to call it. I named the Word document “everything”,) is very much private. I don’t know that I would ever let anyone else have access to it. I would discuss any individual part, but just handing someone the key to all of your baggage is kind of big, and probably not appropriate in most circumstances. At the same time, an important part of dealing with things for me is being able to put them out there, saying “no” to shame and insecurity about what other people will think. This series has given me a chance to take that specific aspect of me and put it out there.

In addition, I think there are some issues that you can’t fix all at once. You size up the problem, and you work on it, and there is resolution, so you think “Great!” Later on, your experience changes, and you have grown and learned, and there were nuances that you were not even capable of seeing during the first round. I believe I needed another round.

One reason for this is the list. I summarized some lessons at one point, and there was a common thread. See if you can spot it:

· If I hit it off with someone at a dance, I will not give him a break from me to keep him from getting tired of me. I will ask if he wants to go somewhere and talk.
· When I am friends with someone talented, and I feel inferior, I will see if maybe we can work together to improve.
· If I need a date for something specific, I will ask the person I really want instead of the one I think I can get.
· If a cute boy is looking at me, I will look back and smile, not quickly turn away. I will even say hi if appropriate.
· If I am talking to someone, and like the conversation, I will stay in it, and not run away, asking questions and contributing answers.
· If I confess my love to a boy, and he is nice about it, and I keep running into him, I will just ask him out, and give him a chance to express his side.
· If I have to go away, I will ask if we can stay in touch.
· If I like someone, and am giving him something, I can include my phone number or a way to contact me.

If you have been keeping track, you can probably identify which person inspired it, except for the last one. That was an issue with Cute Cafeteria Guy. I gave him some jelly once, and brought him back a t-shirt from Hawaii, and I just should have given him my phone number. Those cafeteria lines always move so fast, we really needed a chance to get out of the line. Maybe he would have called.

That one isn’t a huge regret, because I don’t think we would have ended up together, but it reminds me of another one. Do we have time for one more boy?

It’s another Kevin, and since I knew him after high school, and to avoid confusion with my prom date, I should really give him a code name, but I just can’t. There is no mystery about him. He was just a good-looking boy at church. He would normally have been pretty boring, despite being good-looking, but he looked a bit like Mitch (less sturdy, but same coloring and height) and he could sing. I’m a sucker for that.

We talked and flirted some, and at one point I thought he might like me, but then I asked him out and he said no, and against my own rules I tried another time or two, but we never went out. (I broke that rule with “Bob” the accountant too. Doing that has never paid off.)

One time a bunch of us were helping to clean out the house that had caught fire. They needed to get all of their possessions out before the company that would clean the walls and rugs could come in. Afterwards, we were all standing around talking, and Kevin was to my right, and I just had this impulse to put my arm around his waist, maybe lean on his shoulder a little. I stifled it.

It is not a huge regret because I don’t think we would have had a future, and I am fine with that (just too bland), but there are things about it that could have been good. For one, just believing in myself would have been good, and getting better at flirting would be good.

Really, I have no experience now. If I had dated a few of these guys, I might be better-adjusted, and more ready for a relationship, and feel like less of a freak. I have not seen “The 40-year Old Virgin” (give me four years and I can use the title), but I remember in the trailers a scene where Steve Carell says “I just kind of stopped trying.”

It rung very true. It’s easy to let a lot of time go by without even trying anymore. The bad experiences can be really excruciating, and it’s not like you have to date. A bad job sucks, and it can make you not want to try anymore, but unless you have someone to mooch off of you either go get another job or you can give up and become a crazy homeless person. The motivation to move on is strong. Love is much more optional. But it is a very tempting option, and it is something I want for myself.

I guess really I did this in the hopes that I can put the old mistakes behind me. The question is, how many new mistakes can I discover? I’m guessing ten.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Never been kissed – 330

Shortly before I turned twenty, I remember starting to worry about the fact that it hadn’t happened yet. I remember considering the possibility of just asking John Thomas to kiss me the night before. (I didn’t.)

It wasn’t that I’d never had an opportunity. I had gone on a few dates the year before, and the one with Bill had turned quite awkward at the front porch. Clearly he was expecting one (I later found out that he and his sister were both notorious kissers), and I was attracted to him, but it just didn’t feel right. I guess I had always equated kisses with love, and I liked Bill but I certainly did not love him.

Earlier I wrote that I was not sure whether or not to regret not kissing Dan in the student center. I liked him, but I did not love him, and so it would have gone against my sense of the romantic I suppose. At the same time, maybe expecting the first kiss to be so special puts too much of a burden on it, and you are better off getting it out of the way early.

Certainly, given the opportunity at the right times, I would have kissed Mike, or Grant, or probably even Bobby. I would kiss Mitch in a heartbeat. But I never dated any of them, and the guys that I did date, I not only never kissed but I never progressed with.

I have been on a lot of first dates, but I was always the one who asked, and then I would wait to see if they asked me out in reciprocation, and they never did. Some people have said that’s a rule—if you ask the guy out first, he will never ask you out even if he had previously been interested in you. It’s almost too stupid to worry about, like if he is that much of an idiot, do you really want him? However, idiocy has never stopped a man from being loved. Regardless, if you don’t plan on kissing on the first date, and you never get a second date, time flies and you end up as a thirty-six year old with virgin lips.

I don’t mind being an actual virgin (despite some frustrations). I am committed to chastity, and so if I am not married, that’s just a part of it. However, I don’t think kissing would be morally wrong, and I still can’t pull it off. And yet it is all part of the same thing, because I don’t want to just kiss anyone, I want it to be special, and so the real problem isn’t whether I have kissed or not, it is that I haven’t had a boyfriend since sixth grade, or gotten even close to building that kind of a relationship.

Of course, I never believed that I could, but I also did not really face that belief. I always just kind of thought that I would eventually lose weight and find love (in that order), and even when I was asking guys out, I was doing it based on whether I thought they would say “yes” rather than how much I liked them.

I honestly don’t feel like pursuing anyone now, but I do need to leave myself open to new experiences, and to happiness. As it is, probably the first boy who kisses me will win my heart completely, whether it is a good decision or not. I will just have to hope that he is not completely put off by my lack of experience. It seems to me that getting good at it would take some practice, but I would get it down eventually. And when the time comes, I will be absolutely gifted at sex. I can feel it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A different New Year’s Eve – 332

The thing with Aaron and Mitch did teach me a lot, but there were still plenty of things I had not learned, and I was still capable of not only making new mistakes but also repeating old ones.

I came home from my mission on August 3rd, 1994. I had been in Fresno and Modesto working with Laotian refugees. I don’t suppose it was the easiest adjustment. First of all, it was very hard to find anyone to speak Lao to here. The refugees tend to settle in the same areas. The San Joaquin Valley, where I had been, has a large Laotian population, as well as quite a few Cambodian and Hmong. Around here, it is mainly Vietnamese, some Cambodian, and also a lot of Korean, though that is coming from a completely different part of Asia. I can say hello and goodbye in Cambodian, and hello and that I speak Lao, not Hmong, in Hmong, but that’s about it. (Lao is very similar to Thai, so I can understand it, but if I speak it I will probably sound uneducated, and trying to read it gives me a headache.)

In addition, money was really tight. The realization that I was supposed to go on a mission came while my mother and I were fasting for my father to find a job, and he was still going from temp job to temp job over two years later. He took a two-month assignment in Albuquerque, and while he was gone I was making the house payment and doing other things, making it hard to save up to go back to school.

Socially, I did get to go out more in groups, and I made some friends, but I still did not really have any confidence with guys, and chose poor strategies. This New Years Eve disappointment actually started in November. The Dayton branch was having a weekend conference for singles, and a group of us went. Like most singles conferences, the ratio of male to female was not promising, but I had noticed one good-looking guy.

There was a dance, and as a slow song came on (I believe it was Mr Bigg’s I’m the One That Wants To Be With You), and a bunch of us were lamenting having no one to dance with, I got us to kind of hold shoulders and sway in a line. I am a problem solver. Anyway, this guy was not dancing with anyone else, and the line got his attention, so he came over and said something, and I offered to dance with him and disloyally deserted my line. Perhaps I deserved what followed.

Honestly, that dance was fine but I still had my old concern about pressing my luck, so after ascertaining that he was going to be at the New Year’s dance, I didn’t really talk to him the rest of the weekend.

New Year’s Eve, I walked into the dance, saw him, went over to say hi, and asked him how he was.

“Great. I’m engaged.”
“I’m so happy for you!”

That was a lie. I was actually completely mortified. Then to top it off, they had picked a date in June, and I had always wanted to get married in June. And with the thing I said about June weddings, he totally got the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers reference.

But don’t worry; I had lots of other male interaction that evening. I lent a listening ear to one guy who was having girl trouble, and offered him reassurance. Oh, and I met a lawyer from Eastern Oregon who figured if he didn’t find the girl that evening, he was quitting the search. I’m no expert on flirting, but it’s not a great pickup line if you sound simultaneously cynical and desperate, though the real turn-off with him was that he was kind of racist, and it was clear after one song.

It wasn’t a complete loss. I got my first standup comedy routine out of it.

Did I think about Mitch? Of course. I tried to find him, and shortly after I got back I found out he was in California now, where I had just left. I spoke to him on the phone once, and it was perfectly friendly, but he was just never giving off the vibe of being in love with me, and I would totally have needed a declaration of love from him to say anything.

One thing that had come up in multiple conversations was that he never really seemed to get that my mission was just going to be for eighteen months and then I would have a regular life. I thought I explained it, but then he would always be surprised when I mentioned coming back. He could have thought I was off limits, but I always just thought he was not interested. Still, I didn’t obsess too badly. I still needed to finish school, and there was always something that needed doing. And that last part is still true.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A change in perspective – 335

Although I had once considered that going to U of O would be a point of connection between Aaron and I, we were rarely there at the same time. He had his first year there while I was finishing up high school, and then he left on his mission while I had my first two years there. When he came back, I was getting ready for my own mission, and then on it, and then trying to earn enough money to go back to school, so I think we had all of one quarter where we were both in school.

While he was gone, we wrote, and I kind of did a lot of things for him. They were things I would have done for anyone, but he was the one who asked. Sending along a class schedule as he was getting ready to return was easy enough, and when he asked for cookies it was not at all unusual for any missionary, but having me look at apartments for him may have been pushing it. Maybe I just did it too well, but that was really time-consuming. After that last basketball game we went to his apartment, and there was a girl there whom I think he married. I was sure he would marry her anyway. The girl didn’t bother me at all, but I was a little annoyed that it wasn’t even one of the apartments I had looked at. What was all of my work for? At least after several hints he had finally started spelling my name right. Jenia? Really? Okay, he was not a particularly good speller anyway, but we’d known each other for four years by that point.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I had been pretty helpful to him, and I wasn’t really expecting to need anything from him while I was gone, but surely I had built up some credit.

Being a missionary (if you are doing it right), you are completely removed from the world of dating. I mean, I could still see whether a guy was good-looking or nice or not, but you’re just not thinking about them that way, and if you do it distracts you and you need to try and get over it. I did notice though, that my eyes were immediately drawn to anyone who looked like Mitch. Thick dark hair, light complexion, and although his eyes were hazel, blue worked too. I noticed anyone who looked like that, and he had essentially changed my idea of good-looking. I had completely switched from liking baby-faced basketball players to liking sturdier guys with strong chins and a sense of purpose to them. Still, even if I did see guys that looked like him, they were just the copies, and not him.

What happens next is a little weird, and may sound stupid, but I could pretty much make that a permanent disclaimer and be fine.

I have always had vivid dreams. Usually, I feel like it is just the brain filing away the day’s thoughts and images, and I can often piece together where things come from, but some dreams are different. Sometimes they are symbolically meaningful, or emotionally important as your true feelings come out, and sometimes they even seem to be messages. I have had dreams that I believe were inspired, but sometimes it seems more psychic than spiritual. I do have good intuition in general.

Prior to this, I do not remember having many meaningful dreams. Some would become story ideas, but the only ones that seemed at all precognitive were that sometimes I would dream about a person and then run into them the next day (which I think is actually pretty common), and one time I dreamed about an injury happening to drug-dealer Aaron (not this Aaron) that did end up happening.

Anyway, as I was still in the training center, but getting close to entering the field, one night I dreamt that Mitch had died. It was in a plane crash, and people were trying to tell me, and there was a newspaper article, but I just did not believe it. Then, Coach Brooks started talking to me about how he was at a really good place in his life, and it was good that he had been able to get there, and it was okay to let him go. I finally started to believe he was gone, and then I woke up.

I woke up believing he was dead, but gradually began to realize that I had been dreaming, so it did not necessarily have to be true. I was glad to have some hope, but I needed to know that he was okay and I wasn’t sure how. It occurred to me that I could write to Aaron. He was right there in Eugene, in the athletics program, of course he could find out. So I wrote him a desperate letter, explaining what had happened and giving him Mitch’s address and phone number, and just asking for him to get back to me. I was so close to shipping out to California that I asked him to send it there instead, so I would not have to miss it and wait for forwarding, but that meant it would be at least a week and a half before I could hear. It was hard, but I felt like I had a solution, and I would know, and I clung to that.

Aaron never wrote back. I waited, and waited, and I started to despair that Mitch was truly gone, but that I could not get any closure on it, and then I finally just decided to ask my mother to call Mitch. I figured she would hate doing it and find it embarrassing, but that she would do it. She did do it, and write back, and he was fine, and very nice to her, and it was just a huge relief for me initially. Then, I started to get mad.

How could Aaron have left me hanging like that? Even if we had been sworn enemies I wouldn’t do that to someone. Instead we were technically supposed to be friends, and I was the friend who had answered every request he’d made, whether it was reasonable or not, while he was gone. I wrote him one more letter, and this time I told him off.

He did not write back, which was not surprising, but apparently it had upset him a lot because he showed it to his parents and his mother wrote to me. She was pretty nice, and admitted that a lot of the things that I said were true, and that I was probably the only person who could have said those things to him. However, she also tried to get me to see his position, and how hard it was when any time he tried to be a little nice to me it was like he was giving me ideas and leading me on.

My first thought was, that’s being nice to me? Asking me for stuff? The other realization was that right there it was clear that all three of them thought I was hung up on Aaron. I guess the fact that my emotional crisis was about another guy was not enough of a tip-off. Yes, I admit there had been a time when I had thought Aaron was the one, but it lasted from about June or July of 1991, when I foolishly substituted him for Mike, to January of 1992 when I fell for Mitch. Bobby had more staying power! And Mike and Mitch, whom I truly loved, and whom I believe did not reciprocate, were much better at being kind to me without leading me on or exploiting me—which kind of makes me feel like maybe they are just better people.

So, I wrote back a fairly nice letter to her. I didn’t do a lot of correcting, because that would have involved dumping on their son, and I don’t think they would have appreciated that, and I certainly didn’t write to Aaron again. Mainly, it just kind of messed things up with the Johnsons because then I never really felt comfortable around them again, after feeling like that was the image they had of me.

The strange thing was that I wasn’t worried about Mitch anymore. It occurred to me that it might be something that would happen later. Like, when the other Aaron did have the guy attack him with the hammer, it was three or four years after I’d had the dream. However, this time I was not worried. What I started to feel was that the dream was a catalyst to force me to understand these relationships.

My emotions had moved on, but I hadn’t really done the analysis for my thoughts to catch up with them. I needed to intellectually understand, oh, what it looks like when a boy doesn’t respect you, or is not kind-hearted, and why those are things you don’t really want.

This all sounds like a lot of Aaron-bashing, and that is not really fair. I don’t think he is exactly a bad person. I just think he conceived an early prejudice against me, that I think was at least partially based on my weight, and he stuck with that so that he was always tolerating me instead of enjoying me, and he lost more out of that than I did.

I did get one last special case of grace concerning him. When I finally made it back to Eugene it occurred to me that I might run into him, and I wasn’t sure how that would be. I wasn’t obsessing over it, but I wasn’t looking forward to it either.

One day I was at the Institute, and someone called hello, and I couldn’t quite place the person, but I knew it was someone I knew, so I made small talk while I tried to remember, and then I realized it was Aaron. Since by then he was 6’8” or 6’9”, not recognizing him was kind of a trick.

So there we are, and we have just asked each other how we are, and what’s new, and at that point it would be silly to say, “By the way, you’re really a jerk!”, so I let it go. I haven’t seen him since, and I don’t need to.

The difference is, with Mitch and Mike and Grant, that I still have a lot of affection for them, and I really hope they are happy with jobs and families that they like, and that things are just good for them. I don’t actively wish Aaron ill, but there’s no fondness there.

I did eventually write an explanation of things to Mitch as well. He did not write back, but then Mike did not write back to his letter, and I still found out later that it meant a lot to him. Aaron did not write back to his letter, but it still made an impact, which I found out about through other sources. It is much easier to get replies to e-mail, even if they are often not as deep.

And there will be more on Mitch later.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Introducing “Mitch” – 332.5

Wow! She is really writing again?

I know I have been wildly inconsistent with my writing frequency, but I feel compelled to finish up this romantic history. I’m sure it is partly due to my leaving for a month next week, and I desire to catch up on other topics, but also I hope I am getting closer to moving on, and I have to work out my past before I can have a future.

You may remember from Shawn that my plan was always to get married when I was twenty, which obviously did not happen. I’m glad though, because I would have chosen Aaron at the time, and that would have been a very bad choice. However, it was also at that age when I fell for Mitch, which maybe could have been okay, except everything was so improbable. Seriously, I fell for his picture.

I got a press book for the football team so I could sketch faces, and maybe do some sort of artwork commemorating them. That never ended up happening, but I do still have the two basketball murals if anyone ever wants to see them. I did go through and sketch all of the football players—I just never went beyond that. Anyway, I went to get it at the offices outside Autzen Stadium, and started flipping through it at the bus stop. Before the bus even came I saw his picture (he’s early in the alphabet), and his face struck me and I could not get him out of my mind.

I felt at the time that it was ridiculous. It was just a picture, and I hoped I was not that shallow, and I didn’t even know him. All the same, I could not stop thinking about him.

This was in January, and at the next basketball game I was sitting alone, and suddenly he was there looking for a seat. I scooted over, which I would have done for anyone, and (making eye contact) he thanked me and sat down next to me. A moment later someone he knew made a place for him and he moved, but I was worse off than ever, and I felt like I needed to shake this insanity off. It probably wasn’t the best technique, but I tried to do this by writing him an anonymous note telling him that he was hot. It may not have been quite as stupid as it sounds, but it was plenty stupid.

Also, it did not work. I was still thinking about him constantly. I even ended up confessing to two of my friends, Sid and Jack, one night when we were out walking. The great part of this was that Jack knew him. Mitch was dating a girl in his dorm or something. So Jack was trying to tell me this, but I was trying to finish my story, so he started shouting “I know (first name, last name) down alongside Sacred Heart Hospital. The streets were fairly deserted, so I don’t think that ended up being a big deal. If you are wondering if confession helped cool the fever, it did not.

The last Saturday home game in January is the one where they announce the athletic honor roll. That happened, and Mitch made it. I was caught off guard. For any one else who made it, I would have made a point of congratulating them when I saw them, and I did congratulate the others. Before the note, this would have been a good way of getting to meet him. After the note, I was sure he would see right through me. I didn’t think I could do it. Maybe my problem was that I was trying too hard not to think of the polar bear, and so I could not stop thinking about the polar bear. The way to beat that is to consciously choose something else to think about, but I didn’t. He was everywhere.

The next place he turned up was in the student union (Erv Memorial Union, or EMU) one night. They were having an acoustic night, and my friend John’s band, Something She Said, was going to be doing a set. I was there to support them, but during the previous set, Mitch appeared. And he kept looking at me. We were kind of doing that thing where one person looks, and the other person sees and looks away, except he wasn’t looking away so much so I was constantly being caught. I guess it’s nice that one of us wasn’t embarrassed.

Finally he left, and I needed to stay and wait for my friends. They came on and played, and things wrapped up, and we visited a bit, and I wondered the whole time about opportunities missed. I decided I would do one sweep of the building. If I saw him, I would go up and congratulate him, and if not, it just wasn’t meant to be.

I did find him at the study tables. I thought I could go up inconspicuously, but he looked up and watched me the entire time. Perhaps I should have had the presence of mind to keep going like it was all a coincidence, but I doubt it would have fooled him anyway. So, I got up there, said my piece, and he asked me my name. Well, I wasn’t expecting that. Then he introduced himself, although, I obviously knew his identity, but he had really good manners. We shook hands too. I explained a little bit about my strange booster habits, and he, in reference to the honor roll, talked about setting goals and going after them, and it was kind of great, except that I was still nervous and trying to get away when this was a time to get in deep. It might have been really good to find out that we both had our sights set on the entertainment industry then. I probably left too soon.

It still changed things, because now that he knew me, whenever we saw each other (which was not often enough) he would stop and talk. It pretty much always happened at EMU, and if started always cutting through EMU instead of going around it, well, lots of people cut through it. It was the center of things.

That focus on goals that he had talked about seemed to be a focus on people too. When we were talking, I felt like I had his complete attention, and I believe he did that with other people too. I also felt like there was electricity flowing between us, and I did not feel that with anyone else.

This was a relatively good time, but it didn’t last for long. In May, a series of events made me realize that I needed to go on a mission. I was going to finish spring term, and then work to save money until I turned twenty-one the following January. I felt good about it, but one thing that weighed is that by the time I returned to school Mitch would have graduated, and I wouldn’t see him again. In addition, I started to feel guilty about the note, like I was being sneaky, and that maybe I needed to confess.

One day in May as the end of the school year was coming, I was cutting through EMU, and he was studying at a table alone. We greeted each other, but I was continuing to walk by, and then I turned and sat down and said, “Actually, I need to tell you something.”

Now, when I am nervous, I will talk a lot, and quite quickly, to get past the dangerous area. It was how I told my father I was going, and it was how I told Mitch about the note, and then explained that I was telling him because I was leaving, and why. When I let him get a word in edgewise, he started asking about the mission, and so we didn’t really talk about the attraction or whether it was mutual. I would never have believed that it could have been mutual, though, so I was not considering that as a possibility.

It was embarrassing, but I figured that I had a clean conscience now, and anyway, it was done. The next week was dead week, then finals week, and then I would be gone until he left, so clearly I was never going to see him again. Except I saw him more over those two weeks than I had over all the rest of the two terms.

Now, he certainly had every right to view me as the world’s biggest dork, but he was still wonderful each time we met, and the electricity still flowed. I suppose that’s why I could not really get over him. It’s so easy to break an attraction to a jerk, but kind attentive guys are something else.

I did send him a note once over the summer, and I called once, for no good reason, and he called back, but the electricity did not flow over the phone, and it just left me feeling stupid, or vulnerable. I guess if I had just said, hey, “I know I said it was just that I thought you were attractive, but actually I feel like I love you, so what do you say to that?” we could have reached some resolution, but I did not know what to say. It was not logical that I could love him with our handful of experience together, and it was impossible that he would love me, so I could never fully commit.

I did see him one last time. I went down to one more game with the Johnsons. It was a Saturday night. The next day I would be set apart, then Monday I would fly to Salt Lake to spend two days with some friends we had who were serving as senior missionaries at the genealogical library, and then Wednesday I was reporting to the Missionary Training Center. Still, I wanted one last game.

So we went, and it was the athletic honor roll again, and he had made it again, so I saw him. I just wanted to talk to him, so the minute the game ended I posted myself at this pole where I could see the two main exits, and I was going to spot him, and as everyone poured out he never appeared. As the halls emptied, my heart sunk, and I headed to the Oregon locker room to meet up with the family again. And on my way there I found Mitch outside the visitor’s locker room, waiting for a friend.

We chatted for a moment, and then I needed to go, but he said to look him up when I got back. I said, “But you’ll be gone.” He said that you never know. He might still be around. He was still just refusing to leave my heart, whether I would ever admit his actual place in it to him or not.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Aaron. Pffbbtt! – 332.5

Ah, the old irritation is coming back to me.

As we have already covered, I knew Aaron through basketball. We went to the same high school, same university, and same church, which was a fair amount of commonality, but it did not quite bond us. Generally, the church members on the teams were not the players to whom I became closest—probably a coincidence. However, I did bond with his family and loved them a lot. I thought his parents were wonderful, and really liked the two little brothers that were usually at the games. (There were more siblings, but I mainly knew those two.) Generally, I liked the parents and siblings of most of the players, but I was generally a little scared of the fathers, and I was not scared of Aaron’s dad, so they meant a lot to me and I was glad for the association.

I loved his family, but I was not so keen on Aaron. Looking back now it seems clear to me that he did not respect me, and that I sensed this and was extra bratty around him. Now, I have a strong brat side, so I guess I could have been bratty first, and that started his dislike, but I really think he started it, and then there was this cycle where we were never overtly hostile but we weren’t exactly cordial either.

He would probably have remained a minor figure in my life, but I became friends with his girlfriend, Becky. They were both a year older than me, but they kept going steady after graduation. My senior year in high school was Aaron’s first year in college, and the separation was hard on them. Eugene is really only a hundred miles away, and I know she did visit him at least often enough for her to make friends with some of his teammates, but it did create a strain.

I only really knew about the strain because of another unhealthy pattern, but it was only a pattern for this particular circumstance, and I never repeated it with anyone else. I think it usually happened on Sunday nights, but maybe it was on different days of the week. It just seemed like every time I called Becky and we would start talking, she would suddenly start crying because she’d had a fight with Aaron. I would talk her through it, and then I would call Aaron and talk to him, and they would talk to each other and make up until the next time.

Couples who cannot stay together without a third party negotiating peace talks, should probably break up, but she would sound so sad and I like helping people, so I did this, more than once. The talks with Aaron were never exactly fun, but I guess it did bond us some, and I lost the hostility, at least temporarily.

Back to the prom. Kevin and I went to the dance alone, but for dinner we went with Aaron, Becky, Aaron’s roommate Darren, and a mutual friend of Becky and I, Tammy. They walked around the waterfront while Kevin and I were at the dance.

I had reservations at one place for us, but Becky wanted to go somewhere else instead. We tried going there, and they were packed so we needed to go off to a third location, which was nobody’s first choice. Maybe I should have just held firm, because it was my promo—they had all already had theirs, but I was lucky to have a date, and I caved easier then. It did not ruin the evening, but it was irritating, and the next time we were together I made some crack about all the driving around.

Somehow I hit a nerve. I don’t know if the others had bugged her afterwards, or if she was just having a bad day, but she said something about me just wanting to go out with a basketball player. Honestly, I don’t remember the exact words, but I can still bring up the exact mental image of the place we were standing and the look on her face. She had hit a nerve too.

Maybe she just felt that I was being immature and shallow, but what I felt like was that she was kicking that inner part of myself that was not okay with never having boys like me, or ask me out, where I did need to have someone fix me up for senior prom, and having someone with actual popularity set me up on a blind date was the best I could do. It hurt.

If we were still at school together, or if it had even been in the days of e-mail, we would probably have made up. As it was, it was really easy to just not talk to her again, and lose touch completely. I wasn’t going to hear news of her through Aaron, because shortly after that they broke up, as they probably would have done months ago without me interfering. They were probably both better off that way.

So, I worked through summer and fall, went off to school for winter and spring term. Somewhere in here, Aaron left on his mission, and we wrote to each other. Somewhere in there, I also cut ties with Mike, and maybe I just can’t go without having someone in my heart, and distant ones are always appealing, so I just started to like Aaron. Not only did I like him, I really thought we would end up together. We had the schools in common, and religion, and basketball, and then I would have his really cool family too.

It was perfectly logical, and perfectly wrong, in that not only were we not attracted to each other, we didn’t really like each other even as friends. I had just forgotten all of that when we were connected through Becky, and we hadn’t spent any significant time together since then to remember.

So, this is not a great romantic story, but it also is probably not really a justification for the raspberry I am blowing in the title. That only makes sense in light of things that occurred later, and those only make sense if we talk about Mitch (formerly Gerard.)