Four years ago, on Towel Day (May 25th, for non-Douglas Adams fans), I had dinner with the boy on whom I had an entirely fruitless crush in high school and attended an improv show by my friend Stefan's troupe immediately thereafter.
The thing is, Hopkins delivered the smackdown the night that he graduated from high school. He considered it the coup de grace, and assumed that I would accept it as such. He missed a fundamental point about me way back when: don't ever tell me what to do.
Telling me to forget him and get on with my life was a mistake. Obviously I didn't. When I think about this at any length, though, I come back around to the idea that I never moved past it.
I was used to rejection already, by the ripe old age of seventeen. I was used to being told that fat girls were only good for practice and it was the only way anyone would want to have sex with us (and being dumped when I said no). I was used to being ridiculed if anyone found out that I might have some vague inkling of a crush on them. I was used to being treated as a thing, and not a person. I learned to plaster a smile on my face and pretend that I had a relatively normal teenage life, but the truth was that most of my dating experience was a carefully-crafted illusion designed to make it look that way.
I chose someone who matched me for intellect, but who also was as shallow as the next guy about appearances. He would gladly have chased a girl with the brains of a shoe as long as she was conventional-looking and average weight, just like the rest of them. I buried my disappointment and wrapped my heart in barbed wire and ice. I continued going through the motions, hoping I might find someone who liked me enough to overlook my "deficits".
So here I am, almost fifty and alone: unable to crawl out onto a limb and allow myself to feel...unwilling to endure the humiliation of rejection again.
He'd still chase a woman with the brains of a shoe, as long as she wasn't fat like me. I'm 'fine to talk to, but who'd want to sleep with (me)?' is kind of the way this works.
There's a picture floating around out there of us in an audience, conversing as we sit together, and when I see it, I wonder, "Why not me?", and then I think, "Why in the hell do I keep doing this to myself?" Maybe because I learned to accept that the pat on the head is as good as it gets- well, I don't really accept it, but that's what it is.