Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Chapter 4 (part II)

Looking back, I can see all the obvious “reasons why” going in. I never thought much about the whole matter at the time. It wasn’t all that different from my time at South Philadelphia High School: if a girl meets a guy in the hallway, or perhaps he stops by your locker “accidentally on purpose” and pretends to be there (usually for a reason you don’t really care about anyway), maybe you flirt with him a little, even if you already have a boyfriend. If he’s interested, maybe he’ll get up the nerve to hang around after school and ask you to grab a slice of pizza at the Stadium Diner across Broad Street or a soda and a Tastykake at one of the corner stores, the kind that used to be on almost every block in South Philly before the supermarkets put most of them out of business. My whole life drifted along that way: allowing things to drag out slowly so I could enjoy the uncertainty, then let things pull me in this direction or that, never thinking “hmmm, should I?” Sort of the way I would eat chocolate-covered raisins: one at a time, slowly, making them last. My mom didn’t have a lot of money to buy candy and treats like that, I couldn’t be sure the next time my mom would buy more.

Add to that the fact I was pretty plain and awkward right up until senior year of high school. I liked it when boys started paying me some attention. Hardly anyone asked me out until my breasts started developing the Summer before. And without money— my dad still comes home from the Post Office, then heads off to a second job—I couldn’t dress the way the popular girls did, either. Plus, I didn’t “put out” like the fast ones did. Things have changed, of course. One of the undergraduate women was wearing a t-shirt yesterday that read “nice girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.” I was raised differently.

Bottom line: things were pretty hopeless for me until the last year of high school— and that meant I was usually pretty lonely, too. Add to it all, I got married young (only 19), and since then, I’ve tried hard to be the good faculty-wife-in-training for P. Translation: “no flirting allowed.” So a brief few years of attention and then everything seemed like it ended before it’d begun. All the short skirts that suddenly looked terrific, the tight sweaters, the smiles and whispers and teasing, all left behind.

It wasn’t just opportunity, S. was catnip on a certain level. He was 21 to my 24, but he didn’t seem younger than me, and he was sophisticated, with dark, European-rake looks, and a slight German accent that made him seem— worldly. Also slightly dangerous. Our conversations— banter really— were always peppered with flirting asides and thinly-disguised innuendo, mostly sexual allusions and flat-out tease I never took offense at— or tired of. If I write down a few things I can still remember (God, there’s so much I CAN remember, it’s scary!), I wonder if anyone reading this could tell which of us said what?

— Have you seen the posters around campus that say “Is there life after Yale”?

— Is there life AT Yale?

— Yale is like a mother with too many children who still refuses to let any of them grow
up as long as they live at home.

— That’s not so bad, personally I think independence is overrated, you have to take care of yourself, cook your own meals, pay the rent, shop, what a bore! Definitely a worse choice than a warm, enveloping bed.

— Yale is like always coming back to your own bed!

— Bed? Why is it the bed is the symbol of sexual submission and gratification when sex occurs in a large variety of locations, some of which I’ve tried and others I’m looking forward to trying in the right circumstances.

— Tell me about your first love?

— When I lost my virginity?

— No, your first love. Love and sex aren’t always the same.

— Well, love without sex certainly isn’t as good as love WITH sex.

— Tell me about your first love?

— Do I have to tell the truth?

— No, but at least make up an entertaining lie, if it’s one thing I can’t stand it’s boring lies, they should be colorful and enjoyable stories.

— You certainly are an opinionated person.

— Yes, well, what point is there to living with blandness, life is too short to put up with mediocrity, or worse just going along to get along.

— Ah, but what about society? What about offending others?

— Well, I don’t think you have to hurt other people to be yourself. I try never to lie in a way that will hurt another person, and I don’t always tell them the unvarnished truth, especially if it will do any real harm.

— Give me an example.

— I don’t tell Ellen that I think she’s an obnoxious bitch. I doubt it’s going to change her character if I did, and it won’t do anything to improve my situation at work, either.

— You don’t believe in redemption?

— The only redemption Ellen is going to respond to is a ball peen hammer to the head!

— Oh, you ARE wicked.

— Am I? Besides, it my turn, tell me about YOUR first love.

— Ah, but you see, I’m still waiting to find her.

OK, maybe it’s NOT so hard to figure out which is me and which is him. But the ideas we kicked around were ones we shared, not necessarily in the conventional boy/girl thing, either. Attraction isn't always just about the physical.

(to be continued)