Always have a backup plan. That's a good motto in life, right? I preach it constantly. However, there are certain moments where that really doesn't make a lot of sense. If you are proposing to a woman, hopefully you do not have an understudy to the role of fiancée. People tend to get a little sensitive about being the second choice. Another area where a backup plan is less than ideal is toilet paper. You should just stick with that and don't dwell too much on alternative options. This is a wonderful time to go on one of my legendary tangents, but I am going to remain disciplined and stay on message. Speaking of message.........ha ha ha.
The first month of school should be spent adjusting to the courses, getting a head start on your assignments, and catching up with your friends about what you did over summer vacation. As I didn't have any friends and there was no way in hell that I was going to do any homework or assignments for the entire year, I was able to devote almost all of my time and attention on the task at hand. Getting myself a girlfriend. The hallways were not an ideal place to lay the groundwork to convince someone to go out with me, but I had the ace of spades in my hand. I had Spanish 1 with freshmen. What didn't occur to me is how it would look if a 10th grader is taking a freshman class. Why would that be? The only common reason is because they failed the class as a 9th grader and that means that they weren't very smart. Thankfully, I could tell the new students that, no, I am not stupid and failed Spanish 1 last year. I failed German 1, and there is a big difference. Our teacher, Frau Youse, can attest to that.
Yesterday I set up the scenario for the day I was going to ask a freshman girl out. Spanish 1 was the battlefield. Conjugating comer was the moment that I was going to make my first attack. Opposite my crack Seal Team Six unit of sophistication and panache lined three unsuspecting targets. The first unit was a pretty face but very quiet and somewhat boring girl named Tara. The second unit was the younger sister of a Quizbowl teammate who graduated last year and I had hopelessly tried to flirt with. (Here is a tip of advice to any freshman guys reading this blog. Do not talk to senior girls. Ever. Apparently the only women interested in freshman guys are teachers in Texas.) Holy shit, I know I was going to stay on topic, but what the fuck is going on down here in Texas where female teachers are having sex with their students? Ok ok ok, I'll get back to the story. The younger sister, Emily, still had vestiges of childish chubby cheeks, but she was capable of wearing a bra, so that was good enough for me. The third target, Julie, was the daughter of the band director and had some serious popularity pull and could do the most to up my political capital. I listed the potential girlfriends in order of preference.
Before I continue, I think it is important to clarify something here. I was clueless. Was? Many people would suggest that I still am. All of these girls were friends with one another. Hell, they sat at the same table. I don't think I would quite understand just how dumb my backup plan really was until it was too late. Do you know what else I was clueless about? Girls share things with each other. I was about to learn this lesson the hard way that day. You also have to remember that I had no friends with whom to consult on this bold plan, my only ally was tv sitcoms where good things always happen at the end. I had composed a note earlier in the day in math class to Tara explaining my true love for her. I'm not going to brag, but if Elizabeth Barrett Browning had read this note, she probably would have quit her job as a 19th century poet and we would never have "Sonnet 43 - How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways." It was that good. I think the note went something like this:
You're really hot. I like you. Will you be my boyfriend?
Spartan style, baby. Direct and to the point. Not sure why it took all of Algebra II to write that, but I think I decided during that class that I would make an amazing speech writer. Now the problem with a literary masterpiece like the note I had created was that it took less time to read the fucking note than it did to unfold it. Sigh. Ok, Millenials, folding notes was a very specific and detailed method of manipulating paper so that the recipient knew what the content of the note was. I had folded my Great Gatsby in the clearly understood "will you go out with me" shape. Anyway, I gave the note to Tara. There was no way that Frau Youse was going to yell at me for passing notes because I am positive that she couldn't wait to go home that night and tell her family the hilariousness of my attempt to get a girlfriend. Tara reads my note and I imagine immediately realized that her worst nightmare was about to happen. Not only was she going to have to speak, but she was going to have to speak about being associated with one of the least popular kids in school. Courage finally finds her voice and with eyes downcast, she quietly croaks out a "No." Strike one. I had swung my mightiest swing and had come nowhere close to the ball. But I had planned for this. I knew that the odds of Tara saying yes were nil. For the next three years I maneuvered myself around Tara so that we would never have to be in the same proximity with one another ever again. She ended up dating a junior, so she skipped the 10th graders entirely and went to play AAA ball. If she had held on a couple more days, she probably would have snagged a senior. Like I said, she wasn't ugly. Apparently you don't need to be in the same class with the person to get them interested in you.
Lunch time was spent preparing my attack on Emily. Clearly my literary powers left these freshmen unimpressed. It was time to bring out the big guns. The surrogate. I grab Jodi, Emily's friend, and explain to her that I would like to find out if Emily would go out with me. It only cost me three candy bars in payment, and Jodi kindly agreed to "put in a good word" on my behalf. Jodi trots off back to her lunch table where Emily is sitting. I'm pretty sure Tara and Julie were sitting there, too. There is some discussion and amazingly, there is no laughter. I might have a chance! I'm trying to look cool and nonchalant. I am 10000000% confident that I failed miserably. What I was probably doing was getting made fun of for asking Tara out and getting told no. It's a small school in a town where horse and buggies still are a serious form of transportation. Word gets around quick. Jodi eventually comes over, and she's walking in what I perceive to be a upbeat manner. Jodi really needed to be on a sitcom, because she sits down and takes my hands and tells me, "She said no." I think at that point the alarm bell in my head started to go off. This was not how today was supposed to go. Jodi had two options. One, she could sit there and console me, or two, she could go proceed to tell anyone that has a pulse what just occurred. Anyone want to venture a guess as to what option she chose?
Thank goodness that this follows a baseball metaphor and not a cricket metaphor. You only need three strikes whereas in cricket, all of your outs - ok, I can really see why I was unpopular in high school. It's all starting to make a lot of sense now. School was over halfway done, and Tara and Emily had gotten the best of me. I had pulled out the heavy artillery for Emily, so I was kinda out of options for Julie. Like George Pickett's men on that fateful afternoon at Gettysburg, the only choice I had was a futile charge into the cannon fire of humiliation. People surrender all the time. Sadly for me, that never crossed my mind. I knew that Julie wasn't going to say yes. We barely knew each other. She was popular. But I had three options and I guess I had Al Michael's "Do you believe in miracles!" ringing through my head. And no, I don't believe in miracles. During that afternoon, between classes, I see Julie walking down the hallway. Let's just get this over with. As I walk up to talk to her, she preempts me! She looks me squarely in the eyes and says "No." What the F? Presumptive much? I think I asked her what did she mean, and she crisply clarifies "No, I will not go out with you." So to make matters worse, lurking behind her are some acquaintances of mine who promptly become Mennonite Paul Reveres and start sprinting in all directions to inform the rest of the student population that I had struck out for the third time.
The rest of the day was a haze of fantasies where the next day I could transfer to Valley Forge Military Academy, an all boys school. Another option was walking in front of a bus. I briefly considered lighting myself on fire Vietnam War Buddhist monk style. I chickened out when I realized that there were better ways to use hair spray than as a fire accelerant in martyrdom. The trips from classroom to classroom were made worse by the groups of students huddled up, pointing at me, and laughing hysterically. I had fantasized about my life being like the movies, only the scene that became real was the embarrassment, shame, and humiliation of three consecutive rejections. Needless to say, 10th grade was spent single as well. I was tainted goods for everyone in that school. I wish I could say that I learned valuable lessons from this experience and that I at least got a moral victory from that day. I was too ignorant to know what I didn't know. That realization wouldn't happen for many years down the road. What I did know was that no matter what I did, I just wasn't good enough and that was just how it was. Like I said, I was ignorant. It wasn't as much that I wasn't good enough (although I wasn't) as WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU ASK THREE FRIENDS OUT ON THE SAME DAY?!?!?!?!?
Years later, as I am thinking about this, I am glad that it happened. I really am. I've done some incredibly embarrassing shit in my life, but I have to say that the rejection and shame that I felt on that day helped make all of the future moments bearable. Perspective is everything. I had achieved the highest level of patheticness and managed to get up the next day. The sun came up and I had to face the music for a while and endure being made fun of. But if you notice, I'm still in COLLEGE, not high school. And that makes all the difference.
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