The Things You (Also) Learn

When I was a teenage boy, I developed a fascination with a girl in my school whose name was Vicki. She was very beautiful, and I used to fantasize about what it would be like to kiss her.

What I learned: It seemed like it would be a wonderful thing to actually kiss a girl.
What I (also) learned: It really doesn’t matter unless she wants to kiss, you, too. She didn’t.

At that age, I shared certain characteristics that had people typically classifying me as a “nerd”. As such, I did things like read comic books and science fiction stories and talk about them with my friends. In those stories, certain characters can do things like ‘stop time’. I used to fantasize that I could stop time for everyone but Vicki and me and then she’d realize maybe I was exactly the boy she’d always dreamed of.

What I learned: Fantasies help us see our way out of seemingly unsolvable problems.
What I (also) learned: I have no ability, whatsoever, to stop time. I could, however, spend time, which I did watching Vicki walking around school hand-in-hand with the captain of the football team.

I talked to one of Vicki’s best friends, a girl named Joan. Joan could tell I had a bit of a crush on Vicki. She explained to me that Vicki “liked me” but just not “that way”.

What I learned: The concept of “liking someone” just not “that way” is of intense importance to girls.
What I (also) learned: Like the Backstreet Boys, I wanted it “that way”. Alas.

About a year or so later, I started to notice how beautiful Vicki’s friend Joan was. I wasn’t quite sure why I’d never noticed it before. We had several classes together. We always talked. Maybe, I had been missing out all of this time. So one day, right after class as we were walking next to each other in the locker hall, I asked her, “Would you like to go out with me?”

What I learned: Sometimes, you just have say what you are thinking.
What I (also) learned: It’s better not to ask questions you don’t already know the answer to. I got just-not-that-wayed. Again.

By this point (it was my Junior year in High School) my tally was as follows:

  • Number of girls I’d been out with : 0
  • Number of girls who seemed even mildly interested : 0
  • Number of reasons to continue living I could actually think of : not many
  • Number of girls who liked-me-but-just-not-that-way: seemingly all of them

What I learned: Every food chain has a bottom.
What I (also) learned: There are options. The French Foreign Legion was (and is) still hiring.

I did eventually start dating, after having remade myself over completely. By that, I mean I changed: (1) the way I looked (I tried to look like everyone else); (2) acted – I became far less nice; and (3) spoke – I talked a lot less, and became kind of a 17-year-old version of world-weary.

What I learned: There’s nothing wrong with looking for new ways to connect with people.
What I (also) learned: Pretending to be someone I wasn’t seemed to make me wildly popular with girls, more-or-less overnight. I eventually stopped being phony – I think. However, there is a reason so many guys become posers in the dating world, namely: it seems to work.

However, like good things, all bad things, too, must come to an end. I dated someone long enough that they actually got to know what I was really like, and she actually seemed to like that guy better than the one I was pretending to be.

What I learned: Lies are like manners – when you’re tired or your guard is down, you tend to forget all about them.
What I (also) learned: It’s better to be liked for who you are. If you haven’t found someone who appreciates you, it means just that: you haven’t found them yet. It doesn’t mean you never will.

By the way, I saw Vicki maybe twenty years after we graduated. She was still very beautiful, and very funny. We got to reminiscing about old times, and I couldn’t help but finally admit to her that I had a crush on her for years.

She said, “Wow…. I never really liked you that way… but that’s sweet.”

Some of us never lose our knack for being just-not-that-wayed. It’s kind of a gift.

And I would have never made it in the French Foreign Legion, anyway.

How Tangible

It’s strange how tangible is lack,
How much reality
Is in the things we wish we knew
That never come to be.

The touch I’ve wanted long to feel,
The taste I’ve never savored:
They’re still within my fevered mind,
And that has never wavered —

It’s strange how very real it is:
These things I’ve never known
Are I’ll I’m left with, in the end,
Imagining

 
Alone

That Perfume

I still remember that perfume

A teen boy lost but trying to find

That moment in the car to reach

And her recoil I’d lost my mind

 

And stars! I hated myself then

And mostly since the shame the doom

Of seeing myself through her eyes

But not forgetting

Her

 

Perfume

Poetry 101

At fourteen years, he wrote his love
(as best he could) a letter,
  in hopes if she knew how he felt,
  that she might love him better.

But that’s not how the real world works
  for guys who are not fighters,
  who learn they’re on the outside in
  with all the other

  writers

The Other Side of It

My ‘feeling hurt’ has made you quite defensive,
You’re angry that I fell in love with you;
I had no right, because you never loved me,
I realize all that now. But still, it’s true

That I must grieve a dream that only I had,
And grow hot in the foolishness I feel;
To know that what I came to hope and cherish
Was nothing in your eyes,
And never
Real

Lessons for Men #7(a)

So boys: our lesson for today
Is knowing what to do
When you know she has wants and needs
But tells you, “not with you”

It hurts. It’s like an open slap.
But one you have to take –
We can’t birth kids, so we’ve this one
Small sacrifice to make

And that’s to learn to walk away.
You might not think it’s fair:
But women don’t get what they want
All times and everywhere –

Nobody does: That’s how it goes.
We do the best we can;
Just walk away, your head held high
And learn to be
A man

Unrequited

So he loves her, but she does not love him;
A story countless through the ages told.
A type of madness now his mind infects,
Each day he tries to shake its baneful hold –

But wonders, what technique or set of words,
Or clothes, or gifts, might cause her heart to fill?
Then curses his obsession, for he knows:
She doesn’t love him, and
She never will