I’ll admit it…I don’t get it. I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to figure men out, but I don’t think I’m any closer to the answers than I was before. They’re weird. They smell (sometimes). And they don’t seem to have any internal filter whatsoever.
But I’m not saying this out of anger, per se. I had a decent weekend. Oh, sure, there were moments here and there when I seriously questioned my motives for even bothering. But for the most part, it was nice. The kids went out, so the house was quiet. There was no angst to speak of. So why am I still asking myself…why?
Because once upon a time, my mom gave it to me straight, and told me what to expect out of men…and damn it if she wasn’t mostly right.
Ok, I admit it. It’s true. Even before I’d even I reached puberty, I’ve had issues with men. But, it really wasn’t my fault. It was what I had learned my whole life that had brought me to the place I was in. That blurry little place where the line between man and dog isn’t completely defined. When did I first get the feeling that man was a creature with major design flaws, structural inadequacies that threatened the entire human existence? I guess it all started on the night of my birth. December 31, 19(fill in the blanks).
While my mother was laboring to bring me into this world, my father was off somewhere, toasting the New Year, and his new tax write off. I don’t remember much of this, as I was very young at the time. But nevertheless, I’ve heard the tale countless times from my mother, who even then swore up and down that all men were bastards. In fact, for years, my sister and I believed that “bastard” was a term of endearment. After all, that’s what she called him.
“You old bastard.”
Mom always said it with a smile, so surely it must mean something kind, and sweet, and full of love and respect. A belief we held on to until the horrible night my poor sister said, “goodnight you old bastard,” when Dad tucked her into bed. But, was my dear father delighted to hear those endearing little words uttered from his sweet innocent little girl? Afraid not! That was the first time I realized that bastard was not a term to be revered. No, it was her way of saying that men were the root of all evil. Bastards who would use and then discard you. But not a second before trampling mercilessly all over your poor pitiful heart. It was several years before she spelled it out quite so plainly, but that’s what she meant just the same.
This was a lesson hard learned. My first memory of an encounter with a member of the opposite sex not related to me occurred back in kindergarten. He was the class clown and he had a major crush on me. He stopped at nothing to show his affection, including eating the dead flies on the classroom windowsill. Hardly the way to attract women, of course, and despite his countless attempts to woo me, no amount of candy bars or crayon scrawled love notes could ever dispel the fly eating imagery, so I never gave him more than a second glance. Although, I will say, I still remember him to this day, so he must have made some sort of impression, not the one he was working toward, I’m sure. But it was an impression nonetheless.
In second grade, I met the boy who would be my first real boyfriend. Which to an eight year old consists of holding hands and making goo goo eyes at one another. (No kissing or sex of any kind). He was the dreamiest eight year old at Breesport Elementary School, and all the girls adored him. He was a hero to all the boys, in no small part due to his unique talent for flipping his eyelids inside out, (an image that grosses me out to this day.) I, on the other hand, was a tall, gangly creature with an absolute lack of coordination (not much has changed there), long straight Marcia Brady hair, except mine was mouse brown, not blonde, and for a lack of a better expression, eyebrows that made me look like the mutated offspring of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.
Yes, I was a sight to behold, and yet this scruffy around the edges cutie liked me. He called me his Cherokee princess, and although I can’t begin to imagine the comparison as my skin was the color of mayonnaise and my eyes the color of fresh cucumbers, I was delighted by the attention he gave me. Not to mention the sweet gifts he bestowed upon me, small toys pulled from the bottom of Cracker Jack or cereal boxes. I tried desperately to hide any trace of evidence from my parents and sisters for fear of embarrassment. This unfortunately did not deter my evil sisters from mercilessly taunting me when they suspected the existence of this mystery man.
I, in turn, folded under the pressure and vowed to give up dating forever. This vow (curse) was one I struggled for many years to break without much luck.
Instead, I turned my attention toward a new man. It didn’t matter that he was a fictional character, or that he was older than my father. I was in love. Oh, this was much more than my earlier crushes on Donny Osmond or Speed Racer. No, this was true love. There was something about the way Starsky wore his brown leather jacket, and his bright blue sneakers and cruised the mean streets fighting crime with his partner Hutch in his bright red Gran Turino with the white swoosh down the side. (And I’m talking about the original Starsky, NOT the Ben Stiller version) I carried his picture, clipped straight from the TV guide, in my little plastic daisy wallet and showed it to all my friends, informing them that this was my new boyfriend. They of course believed me, because nine year olds are basically stupid creatures. At least we were back then, back in the days before the internet.
Starsky was merely the first in a long line of pretend boyfriends that included both Hardy Boys and, I’m embarrassed to say, Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett. They filled the void left by the lack of a real boyfriend.
Junior High was a blur. I learned how to swear, and it wasn’t long before “fuck” and “shit” became as much a part of my daily vocabulary as “please” and “thank you”. I don’t know what the fascination with cuss words was exactly, but my little group of friends and I couldn’t get enough of them. They were like food for our pitiful little souls, a miserably failed attempt to be one of the “cool” kids at school.
My friends were all social outcasts like myself, and included “braces girl”, “big nose girl”, “probably gay but still not admitting it boy”, and me “the stork”.
For a teenage boy to be described as tall and lanky is perfectly acceptable, but for a teenage girl it is certain death, social death that is. And I was the walking dead.
Why is it that “boobs” are such a big thing in junior high? (No pun intended.) If you have them, you’re made fun of and called names, and if you don’t have them…you’re made fun of and called names. All things considered, I would have rather had them, which of course I did not.
“Carpenter’s dream…flat as a board.” That was me, coupled with straggly hair, chapped lips, pale skin, and legs that went all the way up to my flat ass. And not as much as a swell in the bust area. I’m forced to rely on memory for much of this, as I have personally burned every photograph taken of me during his pathetic phase of my life.
At thirteen years old, I had yet to master the art of style. And my mother, with her checked pants paired with large print blouses, was little help. I can’t think of anything worse than having a fashion outcast shop for your clothes. It was years before I realized that you could actually buy pants that reached the tops of your shoes. Mine always seemed to hover just above my ankles as if preparing for an oncoming flood. My bargain shirts always looked like they housed deflated balloons, with extra air pockets trapped in the ill fitted bras my mother bought. I have often wondered where she was able to find such a wide assortment of embarrassing underwear, and why no one else seemed to own a stitch of it.
My hair was a constant mess no matter how many trips to the beauty shop I took. When my hair was long, I looked like a hippie with a hygiene problem, and when it was short, the layers clung to my face in a static cling nightmare. No matter how great the cut, I couldn’t make it look right. But, hair and clothes weren’t my only problems. The only make-up I had was my mother’s leftovers or rejects, the sorts of things no one should be wearing in the first place, so I stuck with the basics, bare skin and Chap Stick.
My little band of outcasts were famously close until the day, “he” blew into town on the tail of a storm. His name was Mark and he was tall with sexy brown eyes and fashionably disheveled dark hair. He wore a white tee shirt under a red flannel button down and perfectly worn Levis with construction boots. He was the poor girl’s Keanu Reeves, back before anyone knew who Keanu Reeves was. I wasn’t the only one with a crush on the new kid. But I was the only one to get his phone number. It was fun while it lasted, but it was my first real lesson in heart break.
I recovered from my teenage years fairly unscathed. I was a very late bloomer, but eventually, I grew into my body, and somewhere along the way my hair decided to behave in a respectable fashion. But somehow, while I was learning to properly tweeze my eyebrows, and apply makeup, I missed the lesson on how to date successfully. I’ve done quite a bit of research on the subject, and I was amazed to discover I wasn’t the only one having these problems with men. I started to think maybe it wasn’t me. Maybe it was the guys. Maybe it was what I have since labeled as the “penis factor”. And maybe my mother was right all along.
Or maybe not…right Mike? Love you honey!
Until the next time…I’ll be writing…