Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Think Before You Speak

Ghosts are a tricky business.

Last night, after I posted my write up of the Close Encounter of the Hopkins Kind, someone else from a more recent past popped up and reminded me of the dangers of this sort of woolgathering.  

Here's one unflattering tidbit that dropped out of Hopkins' mouth on Saturday...it was primarily self-deprecatory which is why I let it pass and he's still breathing: "I don't get the whole 'nerds getting beaten up at school' thing. Nobody ever tried that with me- but the stereotype is that nerds are either fat or super-skinny. I was a farm kid, so I had some muscles..." his voice trailed off a little wistfully, and because I was annoyed I let it hang in the air for a moment. I was one of the fat nerds, and it went hard for me because a fat female nerd was the very definition of social pariah in the Eighties.

It's difficult to tell if he screens it out where I'm concerned or if he just didn't think before he said it. For all the mutual attraction that was there back in the Dark Ages, you see, I've always harbored a sickening suspicion that it was my weight. That's how it always got sublimated into, "I think of you as a friend," with everybody else, and boys are just like that, nerds or not.

The thing that stung about that last observation is that it was proof (in my wounded little psyche, anyway) that I wasn't wanted by my own kind. I was still unacceptable, and no matter how backward, unattractive, awkward or just plain annoying they were, I wasn't good enough and they 'could do better'. The famous Robert Vertrees moment in college finished me off when, as I've written in a previous blog, I was truly just trying to find a warm male body to go to a formal post-bad-breakup with someone else: "I don't date fat girls." My friends fell upon him and tore him to pieces- and then one of the witnesses went home and described it to his roommate, who immediately offered to take me to that dance. (There is one piece of the story that I omitted from the blog I wrote about that incident: the director of the Honors Program, from whose class we were taking a break when this took place, witnessed the whole bloody mess. He dismissed Robert from class and told me that I could go back to the dorm if I didn't feel like staying. I went to the restroom, collected myself, and stayed. I am nothing if not stoic.) I went to the damn dance; I had a good time, thank you, and never spoke to Robert again, although we'd been friends for three years when he pulled that stunt.

That's the devil's bargain of 'just being friends'. I had a lot of male friends (still do). There were even a couple of them who had some mild romantic interest in me, but who would never act on it on pain of social death- what's worse than 'settling' for a fat girl, after all? Socially, not a lot. You just learn to push your feelings down rather than risk the ridicule or the disappointment. You learn not to reach 'above your place' in the great food chain of dating.

So, you see, there's a lot of baggage and I try not to think of it most of the time. Sometimes I just can't filter it effectively, though.

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