Well, my 30th high school reunion is approaching, and I find myself....curious. It's been a long time since 1979, disco dance, Pink Floyd, Star Wars - and, of course, the ubiquitous Farrah cut. At the core, I suppose I'm the same person I was then, but my attitude and ideals have shifted 180. I've been away from Ohio these past 25 years or so, after leaving (with extreme relief) at the age 23 in search of an adventurous life and a greatly expanded universe. I had no family ties in Ohio and no possible way to finish my university degree, but ultimately I left because I was.....
Well , there's really no other wat to put it; I was, in fact, hopelessly and desperately bored. Yep. Bored. That pretty much sums it up. Gah, it was awful. I just knew that there just had to be more to life than Ohio had to offer, and I was going to find it.
But, for now, let's go back to high school, unpleasant though that may be. Surrounded by farmland, my small-town high school lay smack on route 40, the original east-west wagon train of the U S of A. Despite its rural setting , my high school was likely not too different from any other of that period. High school was adolescent angst. High school was fun. High school was emotional torture at the hands of those deemed by clique status quo standards as better than you. High school was good times with good friends. Summing up the final equation equaled this; the day that I graduated from high school was an even bigger relief than the day when I finally left Ohio altogether. However, over the years I have often wondered - what happened to those friends?
At that stage of life I was (as I'm sure many were) horrifically lacking in any smidgen of confidence when it came to dealing with the "cool kids" or the even more terrifying prospect of a romantic relationship of any type. This may leave some of you who know me as the "me" I am now, slack-jawed with incomprehension, but it is a verifiably true fact. Back in those teenage years, the most terrifying thing I could possibly imagine was the idea of actually going out on a date. I strategically avoided any hint of "the question" like the plague, and I always had some quasi-plausible excuse at hand for not accepting any date or (horrors!) the invitation to go to a school dance. When I think back, I have to kick myself - I said no to some prime dating opportunities! Ah , well.....20-20 hindsight, and guys, if you're out there - my sincere apologies for adding my bit to your own dose high school angst.
It didn't make it any easier that my first real dating experience AND my first kiss happened with someone I'd developed a comfortable friendship with - a friendship that slowly veered towards romantic and then somehow mysteriously slid past my dating alert radar. Before I knew it, BAM! Andy and I were on a date. Eek! How did THAT happen?! It's not that I wasn't attracted to him, no, it was just the opposite - and that was the worst problem of all. Extreme attraction served only to aggravate my already over-the-top, acute terror.
The span of time involved during that incomprehensible shift from friendship, to dating, to kissing in the front seat of my '68 Mustang was a laughably short one. (Andy had a car too, a '68 olds but my 'stang was the car of choice that fateful night.)
Was there one date? Or two or more? I honestly don't remember. What I do remember was that my teenage hormones were waging a battle with my Flight or Fight response. What a quandary! I REALLY liked this guy, sweet, funny, kind, captain of the football team - but kissing? KISSING? I hadn't a clue what to do. He leaned forward. I leaned forward. Lips touched. Our tongues came together ........and at that moment Flight won, hands down. Panic ensued.
Pulling back, I said a hasty red-faced (unseeable in the dark) shaky goodnight. Andy was left standing by his parent's front door with the understandable impression that he had just been unequivocally rejected.
I did nothing to correct that impression. It was so much safer that way.
Once I left high school for college I happily experienced a complete and rapid loss of insecurity, and in fact, became for the most part a fearless wild child. Why? I haven't a clue, though losing all that fear and that choking insecurity was quite liberating. There are many tales to tell of those days - but those tales are for another day.
Once, during my university years following graduation, Andy stopped by my place - the reason for the visit escapes me now - but I felt the occasion was a perfect opportunity to tell the poor guy the real story - that he wasn't rejected - in fact he had been TOO appealing, and impossibly intimidating. I was a band geek. I certainly wasn't cool or popular. He was the popular guy everyone liked. It was a good thing, that talk. We had a good laugh and happily went our separate ways. I think that's the last time I saw him.
Earlier this year, in anticipation of the reunion, I started to dig on the internet for a few those people I once knew. Many were found, but Andy eluded me. Then, a few days ago I saw a someone with his last name on the list of my high school's Facebook page. Thinking that it must be his sister (whose name I couldn't recall) I sent the note;Hi!
If you're Andy's sister, please tell him I'd love to hear from him. We dated briefly at T------ .
I promptly received the reply;
No, this is his wife. P--- , I know that you did not date in High School, he wanted your mustang. You look like you are as much of a freak now as you were in High School.
Huh? OH! Ow! Ok, my bad. It finally clicked with me that Andy had married the girl he started seeing shortly after our little kissing mishap. Another of our classmates. Still..... rorrw, hisss! Put your claws back in, girl! That response was beyond uncalled for.
I have to say I had to re-read the message a couple of times before I did admit to myself, "yes, duh, she IS insulting you". I just couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that someone our age would reply in such a way....and then I had a good laugh at myself for not "getting" it on the first read.
I suppose that I just couldn't imagine that those words could truly be an adult response, but there it was, in black and white and looking exactly like the high school Hell I left behind - that spiteful arsenal of words the kids would use to elevate themselves - and to hurt and humiliate their target. In those dismal days I was often the target, and a big day-glo target at that. Being awkward and socially inept in high school is somewhat akin to being the weakest animal in a herd on the Serengeti - the one that the predators single out for the kill.
But that was long ago, and such words no longer move me in any emotional way, except to resonate a faint sadness that such words should be used at all. I considered a reply, (hoping to smooth her seemingly frayed nerves) and finally decided on;
Urm,that's a rather harsh reply. Why the nastiness?
Sorry about the misunderstanding - I seem to remember that Andy had a sister but couldn't recall her name. I just wanted to say hi, that's all, no need to feel the need to be defensive.
I'd also send a hello to his father if he's still living. Mr Stallard was always very kind to me.
Andy and I did have fun, and it is true, as I said - that we did date briefly. Lol, as I recall, once we went to Cassano's in Fairborn and he spilled his coke in his lap. However, I was very shy and he got the impression I wasn't interested. He was actually my first kiss - which I admittedly wasn't quite ready for. A few years later when I was going to Wright State and he had stopped by my place for a visit, we talked about my kiss stress-out and had a good laugh. Likely these are things you're not interested in hearing - but you say I wasn't telling the truth about dating Andy so I thought it important to set the record straight.
My Mustang? Andy and I would drive to school together in the mornings with J---our senior year and occasionally we'd trade cars. His was a '68 Olds Rocket '88 as I recall. J--- was a fun nice guy too.
Anyway, please relax. There are no intentions other than a friendly hello. I've exchanged emails with several other classmates as well since I'll be in Dayton for the reunion later this month.
Cheers & best wishes to you and your family,
The cars. Sigh. I wish I still had that '68 mustang, a magnificently glorious street legal racing machine that was purchased in '68 by my mom. By lucky happenstance it was the extra car that fell to me my senior year. I do remember quite clearly one of those days that Andy and I exchanged cars. I drove his Olds Rocket 88 to my favorite "private" drag strip - a deserted stretch of unfinished expressway that was soon to become a bypass around the larger town nearby. It was night. No one else was anywhere around - just me, the road, and the Olds. Flooring it, I sped off into the night air, feeling the pulse of the pistons and the race and the roar of the engine. Behind the wheel I was the queen of confidence. But, sorry... Andy, yes it was fun - but nothing could possibly measure up to what was under the hood of that old 'stang. Which is one of the reasons why, on that night, you were out driving my car.
Hah! Perhaps you were after my car .......!? But that's not likely, I think, since it was me that you kissed, not my car.......
I honestly don't expect to hear back from P----, which is a sad thing, and it's a damn shame that after all these years I'll miss the the chance to catch up with old Andy-from-Ohio.