Saturday, April 11, 2009

The (Love) Life of Brian--Part II

In this installment, I explore the origins of my interpersonal dysfunction with the opposite sex (and people in general) in social situations…

Let’ s start way back at the beginning to give you a little background on how I evolved socially.  Even though I’m the youngest of three kids, I almost consider myself to be an only child because of the age difference between me and my brother and sister (who are seven and nine years older, respectively).  I was never all that close to them at all, and even though we still all live in the same city today, we might as well be on different continents, as I rarely see or interact with either of them now.  At a very early age, I basically had to learn to entertain myself because they were either at school or hanging with their friends or doing their Boy/Girl Scout stuff, and I was always home with Mom while she did her housework and such.  My stuffed animals, Matchbox/Hot Wheel cars, TV game shows, and Paul Revere & The Raiders records became my best friends up through age five and beyond—I didn’t even have what you would call a regular playmate or neighbor kid friend during that time, so I’ve been a loner almost from the get-go.  Sunday school at church, as well as Kindergarten and early grade school were awkward for me, as I suddenly had to get used to being around lots of other kids all the time—a form of culture shock, if you will.  Meantime, from about age five through eleven, I had a bit more interaction with my siblings, but when I finally started feeling a connection to them about the time I hit Junior High age, they both moved out and went to college—D’oh!

Don’t get me wrong—my family (Mom, Dad, Bro and Sis) are all good people, but are hardly what you would call social animals, therefore I was never properly taught to socialize when I was little, let alone encouraged to chase girls when I got older.  I never even got the clich├ęd “birds and the bees” lecture when I hit puberty, so I more or less had to figure things out on my own.  What’s worse, puberty—or I should say at least the “sexual awakening” part of it—didn’t hit me until I was damn near 17, so I was a couple years behind everyone else, it seemed.  Meanwhile, Bro and Sis didn’t date much (if at all) in their teens, so there was no example for me to follow, thus I remained the reticent, good little boy, just waiting for things to happen that never did happen.  Bro and Sis each essentially married the first person to come along that gave them the time of day after high school, and both marriages still survive today, although with mixed results, at best.

This is not to say that I wasn’t paying attention to girls while growing up.  There was one girl whom I met in second grade who was the first non-TV person I ever lusted after (Yvonne Craig as Batgirl on “Batman” was the first, followed by Emmy Jo on “The New Zoo Revue”), and she was my equivalent to Charlie Brown’s “little red-haired girl” (only she had light brown hair), but I was too shy and too awkward to do anything about it, even as we attended junior high and high school together.  I even have very fuzzy memories of swimming with her and some friends at an apartment complex in 5th or 6th grade, but that might’ve just been a wet dream of mine.  Get it—wet dream? [place rim shot here].  Anyway, what truly haunts me to this day is this girl’s older sister was in the very same Girl Scout troop as my sister, which often met right in our very own basement—an inside connection totally wasted!  All I can say is Sharon, sweetie, I worshipped you from afar—oh, what might’ve been…

I also had my eye on several cute girls during junior high and high school, but again, I was too shy to act on it.  Believe it or not, one of the hotter girls in my 8th grade class—picture a young Suzanne Somers with a brain—actually asked me out to a school dance once, and I just froze as if someone had notified me I’d been drafted.  As John Hiatt once sang, “I don’t know why the cry of love is so alarming!”  I wimpishly made up some excuse about already having tickets to a Kansas City Kings basketball game that night, or some such thing.  Just as well, I guess—I wouldn’t have known how to act if I escorted her to that dance anyway—and I have no doubt it would’ve ended badly.  Meantime, I’m sure Miss Rhonda and most of the girls at my school thought I was gay after that.  Trust me, Rhonda, if you’re out there reading this, it wasn’t anything personal and you were a gorgeous girl—I just wasn’t ready for the Big Leagues yet.  Oh by the way—I’m not gay, either…

Then one bright July day between 8th and 9th grade, I get a phone call from another girl at school whom I made it fairly well-known I had the hots for, a girl named Anni—picture Tiffani-Amber Thiessen crossed with Marisa Tomei (yeoww!)—asking me if I’d like to go out sometime.  Actually, I think it was someone posing as her playing a prank on me, but believe it or not, I actually presaged Mark Ratner in Fast Times At Ridgemont High by about four years by telling whoever it was on the phone that I was going to be “doing a lot of traveling” soon.  I cringe every time I hear that line in the movie now!  I never did confirm who it was that called me, because when school started again in September no words were ever spoken between us.  Anni—if you’re out there reading this and that was really you that called me, I apologize profusely.  You have no idea how much I regret not taking you up on your offer, nor how much I‘ve kicked myself for not doing so over the last 30 years!

High school was a total wasteland for me, socially, therefore I never dated anyone during that time, and I rarely even attended school functions (except the occasional Raytown South football or basketball game).  It never occurred to me that a few of those girls in class might actually like me, but then again, I hardly looked presentable—I was a fat slob, my hair looked like crap, I wore nothing but concert t-shirts or sports logo clothes, and my acne made my face look like a topographical map of the lunar surface.  No small wonder I didn’t attract anyone!  To make things worse, I just didn’t have the social skills, gift of gab (still don’t, sometimes), or even the ability to bullshit my way through a conversation with someone—it’s just not my style.  I’m a little better at it now than when I was 15, but I absolutely suck at small-talk—I’m more of a “cut-to-the-chase” kind of person and never properly learned how to schmooze. Not to sound arrogant, but it never ceases to amaze me how I can fluently string words together on this blog like a concerto, yet when it comes to social occasions, I often register on the ineptitude spectrum on a par with the likes of Bullwinkle, Fredo Corleone, Steve Urkel and Barney Fife!  To this day, I still need an awful lot of social lubrication (i.e., alcohol) to feel comfortable chatting someone up.  Or as my man Pete Townshend once wrote, “Have to be so drunk to try a new dance…”

Stay tuned for future installments, as I explore all my relationships with women (all three of ‘em!) and the trials and tribulations I went through along the way.  If you made a movie about it, you could call it The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but unfortunately, that title’s already taken…

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