The short answer is, I chased after the wrong girls. Alison was cute as a button - physically at least. But she was a total snob. Kristen was too nice to tell me I was out of her league, but she always had a way of slithering out of seeing me, talking to me, or telling me if she was (or was not) interested in me.
Abby should have been a layup - but I've blown those before. (She was the girl who called me out for putting her on a pedestal.) Brenda and Jess should not have even been considered because they were in my circle of friends, they were kinda ditzy, and they had dated two of my guy friends. (Plus, again...out of my league.)
There was one girl who was in my league and would have been my girlfriend - though it may have been a bad idea. Gretchen was my best friend's ex and they were a really well-known couple. I know my friend would have been cool with it (even if he hadn't moved to California) but I also know that I would have imagined "John was here" written all over her if we ever got close. Plus she was more, um.. experienced than I was, and that would have been both awkward and intimidating.
Still, she did confirm that she would have dated me if I had asked. Which I was gonna do the day I saw your stinkin' play but you invited that long-haired metalhead dude who was like 19 - to a kid's play, Gretch? - and your mom had to remind you that "Chris is here, too" which really pissed me off and so I ditched before our scheduled lunch date at your place.. and when you acted all surprised and disappointed I was like 'Please. Save your acting for the stage, honey.' But I didn't say any of that because you're my friend - and I actually think Metalhead Man sorta saved my ass.
What was I saying? Oh yeah. I chased after the wrong girls. Even the ones that were in my league. With the benefit of wisdom, experience, and a little thing called hindsight I've asked myself if there were any girls that I had a real, tangible connection with.
The only girl that I really seemed to click with was Tasha.
I was sort of a misfit in high school - I loved sports.. but my lack of eyesight, coordination, muscle tone, and athletic ability prevented me from playing on a team. I was in theater group.. but the drama club clique consisted of preppy upperclassmen - many of whom were also athletes.
Technically, I was a skater kid who couldn't skate. Or a burnout who didn't smoke. I was kind of emo before the term "emo" existed, but I didn't wear chokers or Doc Martens or guy-liner (okay, maybe once for a Cure show.) I didn't have piercings or colored hair or a chain wallet, and I didn't really want to be goth. I just felt goth because I wasn't good at anything but being sad and lonely.
|Where were FOB and MCR when I was in HS?|
Despite all this Tasha actually liked me. She seemed to understand and accept me more than anyone else did (myself included.) We spent a lot of time together, had a lot of common interests, and she wasn't out of my league physically - though I will say that there was one day when I was over her house and she was wearing a black tank top with jeans (which was pretty much her uniform) and my hormones were raging. It took every ounce of self-control I could muster to not push her up against the wall or the kitchen counter and kiss the crap out of her like you see in the movies.
A lot of our friends had suggested that we become a couple - and I would have been totally on board with that idea. But here's the thing about Tasha: she was kind of a troubled kid (which I was okay with) and she was a bit of a burnout (which I tried to help her with but I didn't judge) and I think that all of her traumatic experiences set off this self-destruct button inside of her because she had a rule about dating guys she cared about. She didn't. Ever.
This isn't like the "I won't f*ck friends" rule, which is legit. This was more of an "I really like this guy, he's good to me, so I don't want to go screwing it up by dating him."
She knew I cared about her and I knew she cared about me, and under any other circumstances Tasha would have been an ideal first girlfriend. Instead, she was flirty, friendly, and affectionate... and unattainable.
And that was it. That was the only girl I ever connected with in high school.
Except....there was one other girl. I don't count her as a crush or a near-miss or even a friend because she was only in my orbit for one day. And the details of that day have faded over time.
So I'm going to recount them now before I completely forget.
So I'm going to recount them now before I completely forget.
I got off the bus and lined up with the rest of the Drama Club. We stood outside the entrance to a building on the UConn campus while our Drama teacher/director counted heads. There were probably about fifty of us attending the Theater Workshop. I gazed up at the pale blue sky suppressed by layers of grey clouds. It was late Autumn in New England, probably November. The air was chilly and crisp but still bearable. We filed into the building and saw a performance of Six Degrees Of Separation. Then it was time for the workshop.
When our Drama teacher gave us the pamphlets for the trip to UConn there was an itinerary and a choice of one acting workshop. I don't remember the choices but when it was time to split up and head to our class I knew I had not chosen wisely. A lot of kids I knew headed in one direction, and a second group headed in a different direction. I had to go find my workshop on my own.
The halls and classrooms looked unimpressive. Is this the University of Connecticut or PlainJane Junior High? I checked my itinerary against the room number. Yup, this is the place. When I slowly opened the door and peeked inside the significance of my misjudgment collapsed upon me. There was a broad, chiseled college man wearing form-fitting clothing (possibly spandex) and a small, all-ages group of women. What is this?
Apparently I chose a yoga class. Or something like it. There wasn't much acting or performance involved - if any. It was all about breathing and flexibility and maybe a little memorization. I dunno, I can't recall. I just remember being mortified that this was the class I chose.
But then, somehow, I managed to find a friendly face. The only other person from my school in this godforsaken workshop. Danielle.
Danielle was not in my drama class and so we had never really met before that day. She was pretty but not in any specific way. I didn't look her way frequently to admire her physical beauty, I did it to reassure myself. I must have explained to her that I had no idea how I ended up in such a class, or how to get through the next hour and a half. And I think that we exchanged enough pleasantries and friendly glances to get through it together. Maybe I even enjoyed it, who knows.
The part that I know I enjoyed was after the workshop. Danielle and I had to walk all the way across campus and back to where the bus would pick us up at 5pm (or thereabouts.) I remember being comfortable talking to her, and I remember her asking things about me. I didn't love my answers (I was such a self-defeating sod) but I seemed to shake them off before making a total ass of myself.
We passed by Gampel Pavillion and she mentioned that she was a fan of UConn basketball, which was partially why she wanted to go to college there. I remember thinking that she didn't look like a sports fan, or an athlete... or any specific stereotype. I couldn't tell if she was fashionable or preppy or prissy, or if she was a straight-A student. She just seemed like an approachable, normal girl. I couldn't even tell if I was attracted to her or just enjoying her company.
When we got back to the bus I felt this slight pang of disappointment. I wanted to spend more time with Danielle. And yet, I didn't sit near her on the bus ride home. I sat alone, as I had on the ride up, and stared out the window at the darkening sky. At some point a thought jolted me out of my vacant haze.
You fool! Why didn't you ask Danielle for her number?!?!?
I still can't answer that twenty years later. Was my self-esteem so low that I assumed she'd say no? Kristen gave me her number when I asked. Kristen. And yet the thought of asking Danielle never crossed my mind. Was I just not that interested in her?
See, this is where life's lessons reveal themselves through hindsight's lens. I know now that there was no reason not to talk to Danielle again, there was no reason to feel nervous or intimidated. Maybe she wouldn't have been interested in any more than a friendship but I never even tried to find out. (Besides, what's wrong with making a new friend?)
We're not always flooded with feelings of pure passion for someone. In fact it was probably better that I wasn't - because I was able to be myself around her. She wasn't a friend and she hadn't dated a friend and she wasn't out of my league. At least it didn't feel like she was.
A few weeks later I ran into my friend Mike in the cafeteria. Mike was in one of my classes. He was kind of short, average build I guess. Not a jock or a "bro" but a real paesan. Very Italian. Big Yankees fan. Nice kid.
And when he said "hey" to me in the cafeteria his new girlfriend was by his side.
I smiled and said hello to her. But the whole time I was thinking that coulda been me.
I had forgotten what Danielle looked like, and so I dug out my yearbook to refresh my memory (I wasn't satisfied with my description of her looks "She was pretty but not in any specific way" -- Dafuq does that mean?) This is her senior class picture, a year after we met:
Yeah, that's about right.
Right out of my league, that is :-P