Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Didn’t we go to high school together?

We’ve all had that stomach-dropping moment when, looking maximally disgusting, we realize the person standing across from us went to the same high school as us.  Terror sets in as it clicks that we cannot avoid the ‘summing up’ of our lives and what we have(n’t) made of ourselves.  For me, this moment was proffered courtesy of an appointment with the cable company yesterday.

Now, the worst part wasn’t that I had failed to make it into the shower after my walk ... so it wasn’t my greasy face, the (likely) rank smell emanating from my body, the hideous workout garb, or my frizzy half-out ponytail.  It wasn’t the blessing of a grotesque zit that had mysteriously appeared on my 31 year-old neck that morning (seriously, does it ever end?).  I don’t even think it was the hundred additional pounds hanging from my once-cute little figure. Even the fact of living with my parents was not the most embarrassing aspect of the experience.  

Although any one of the aforementioned circumstances was enough to humiliate the crap out of me, the worst part was something he didn’t know and couldn’t see.  Totally internal.

As my mom proceeded to launch into her usual life-story-conversation-technique, he casually (or maybe braggingly) mentioned that he banked $60-70k a year doing installations.  This is the pinnacle of disgrace, I thought to myself: 

Him: self described “little punk” in high school, goof-off always running his mouth and getting into trouble, short for a guy, glasses.  Bottom of the class. 
Me: nerdy little teacher’s pet, never speaking out of turn, pulling in straight A’s and not so much as touching a cigarette or a can of beer.  Top of the class.

Him: glasses are gone, tall, cute, nice guy.  Upper middle class, three kids.  Doing well for himself.
Me: not a pretty sight, obese.  No boyfriend/husband/kids, broke, unemployed.  Nothing going for her. 

Undoubtedly, I shudder to think of his perception of me, or the offhand remark, “You’ll never guess who I ran into the other day” potentially unloaded from his lips at some point, with description to follow.  Frightening.  A million times worse: what I think of myself.  When I reflect on all the things I could have done-been-had, I just want to crawl in a hole and die. 

Amazingly, there are things I can do to top this feeling: I can look up the other salutatorians on facebook and puke over their Ivy League educations, aerospace engineering degrees, and wedding photos.  I don’t even think it’s about envy, it’s more this sense that they’ve won, and I have lost.  Even the people who didn’t even try, THEY won, too!  The cable guy rubbed that in for me.

It’s not a competition, you say?  Ahhhh, but it was for me.  Ever since 5th grade when the chubby quiet girl beat the “smart boy” on a test, I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do just as well (ok, usually better) than anybody else.  Was it ego, or just a big “F you!” to all the little bastards who used to make fun of me?  I think I thought that, one day, ONE day, I was going to show all of them.  I was going to work super hard and make something of myself and they could all go F themselves.

Some people would say, “Karma’s a bitch.”  Except I didn’t do anything to anyone.  People were cruel to me as a kid, and they’ve been cruel to me as an adult.  It’s only life that’s a bitch.


  1. Another vivid, painful scene that belongs in a book. Although if he is as nice a guy as you say, I doubt he'd either judge you or gossip.

    It's weird, I think we tend to feel old and young in phases...I remember when I was 20 I felt really old, and then a few years after that I felt young again. I tend to think of 31 as being young. I'm 37 and keep thinking of all the things I can't do anymore now because of age and attachments. But I have a friend who's six years older than me who keeps talking about how he's too old for all these things and I keep trying to convince him otherwise, and now I'm doing the same thing. But I still think that in theory, there is always time to reinvent ourselves from one day to the next. Sorry I couldn't resist just a bit of sunshine-shoving...

  2. and i'm sorry i can't resist my endless stream of self-indulgent self-pity.

    what kind of a book, an anonymous autobiography lol?

    you know, i felt oldest when i was about 25...i felt double that. now i feel my age, and while i don't think it's all over for me or too late to start over, i just don't have the vision of what to do with myself. there's a reason they call it "stuck" i guess.

    what do you wish you were doing that you're not?

  3. Well, as to what kind of a book, you just capture perfectly the feelings of an ultimate dark horse that the reader identifies enough with that we really want you to overcome something. So I would imagine something fictional, placing a character that's something like you but not quite, into some other situation and then seeing how it played out...and how she got unstuck! But that's just because I completely prefer writing fiction to non-fiction myself.

    What I'd like to be doing...apprenticing to learn earthbag construction, or traveling around the world working on organic farms and learning how to sustain and restore the land, and having mentors for it. Truth is I would probably be terrible at all of it and I might cut off one of my limbs if I handled any machinery because I'm not very coordinated, but I have such a yearning for it. Even in my 20s I applied once for an animal-care farm job and they rejected me because I looked too weak to handle wheelbarrows of manure and stuff, and they were probably right.

    I think part of what I'm longing for is an experience of being in my body and not so much in my head and my imagination, where I spend SO much of my time. When I even think about doing something like chopping wood, I feel fear, isn't that weird?

  4. Write myself un-stuck...sounds like a therapeutic tool I learned about back in the day. I never write fiction, so I don't know how that would go! I wish my life was fiction.

    I can totally relate to wanting out of your head. A lot of times, even when I'm doing something physical, my mind is still stressing through all my problems and what I'm going to do about them. That's part of why I miss sex, I think; at least there was one thing that allowed me to disengage, lol.

    There is the appeal of both the earthiness of engaging with the land and also the freedom of going out and feeling like you're doing something to make things better.

    It's a struggle for me to not just give seems like for every person who "gets it" and tries to live a sustainable existence, there are a hundred who either don't care, period, or else don't know enough to care.

    And please, there are plenty of places they throw children out in the field to do the hard labor, that's hilarious that they wouldn't let you!

    I like to do things with my hands ... "guy" stuff, but I'm also afraid. I feel fear until I actually do it. I think we're capable, just inexperienced;)