I dated a girl in high school whom I have privately resented for all these years. I wonder if I got things wrong.
I entered high school a very skinny kid. My friends were big enough to play varsity water polo. I wasn’t. I played C water polo. I was a scrub.
I also had a slight to medium limp when I walked due to having been a polio survivor.
One day, one of the kids on the water polo team said that this girl wanted to meet me after practice. He pointed her out in the bleachers.
I knew of the girl. She had dated our student body president. He was a senior and she was only a sophomore like myself.
After practice I met up with her and her girlfriend outside the swimming pool area.
We talked, and come to find out, she was interested in going out with me. And before I knew it, we were boyfriend and girlfriend.
We were in this relationship about two months when my life changed dramatically.
Let’s Run . . .
First, she suggested I run for a student body office. I told her I didn’t think that was a good idea. ”Nobody knows me.” Her response was not “to worry.” She would “run with me.”
The next thing I knew, she filled out two qualifying forms, one for her and one for me. She obtained fifty signatures on each one, and before long, my name appeared on a ballot running for Chairman of Entertainment. Her name was also on the ballot for another office, but I can’t remember which one. I had never run for any kind of student body office before, mainly because up until that time, my grades weren’t high enough to qualify.
Giving A Campaign Speech
The big day arrived when we had to give our campaign speeches to the student body of close to three thousand students.
Along with the other student candidates, I was sitting on the vast auditorium stage. The moment came when my girlfriend was to give her five minute speech. She stood up, walked to the podium, and announced that instead of giving the speech, she was going to have me give it.
I went into complete shock. I felt like I was going to faint. My mind went blank as I walked to the podium. I looked out at the student body and froze. There wasn’t a word in my head. Then all of the sudden, a thought came into my mind. She’s short, and she’s very smart, so I said, “they say big things come in small packages . . . .”
I didn’t get any further than that, when the entire student body erupted in laughter. And they continued laughing, until a faculty adviser had to step in and ask for quiet.
My last words were, “that’s it.” And the laughter started again. Finally things calmed down and the assembly continued.
Towards the end, it was my turn to give my campaign speech. I stood and said, “turnabout is fair play. I want Sue to give my speech.” Students, especially the guys, stood up and started clapping.
Sue came to the podium, and, as if she had rehearsed it, said, “Do you know what Roger is running for? Chairman Of Entertainment. You’ve picked the right person. You should see him in the back seat of a car. He’s really entertaining.”
Again, the student body broke out in laughter, but it was a kind of embarrassed laughter. This was the longest moment in my life. I wasn’t even close to being sixteen. Her parents and my parents usually took us and our friends to places and dropped us off.
Every time I tried to explain that to people, the more I found myself explaining. I stopped talking about it.
Anyway, I won the election going away.
Sue’s name, however, was taken off the ballot for her particular remark. It didn’t seem to bother her. Her words went something like, “that’s about how I thought it would work out.”
Sue was unusually smart. During my high school days, kids talked about IQ’s a lot. The rumor was that Sue and another guy, a water polo player by the way, had the highest I Q’s in the school. The saying was,” she’s Jewish, she’s very cute, and she’s as smart as she is cute.”
My mother once said, “Roger, why is she interested in you. She looks two to three years older than you. She’s dated older guys. What does she see in you?” My mother was my greatest fan, but couldn’t quite put it together. Frankly, neither could I, but I was drawn to her.
Sue also had a talent for quick verbal repartee. No one could “one up” her. She didn’t care who it was, she would cut them down to size if she didn’t like what they were saying. She bowed to no person, male or female. Neither did she seem to be that impressed by anyone. Everyone was treated the same. She was slightly courteous, but came off as not overly interested in the routine of polite society.
She was aloof, but interesting. For example, she was a flirt. And older guys were attracted to her because of that. Enough said on that one.
Anyway, after I had won the election, members of the prestigious Varsity Club came together for their annual meeting to vote on new members. My name was brought up as a possible candidate. No one knew who I was. The person who brought my name up said, “He was the guy who got up and said big things come in small packages. You know, the back seat entertainer.”
I was immediately voted in, contingent on winning a varsity letter in swimming. (I did. I swam to expectation.)
Things were not yet done.
Sue now approached me and said that I should try out to be a yell leader. This time I put my foot down. “There’s no way in hell I’m going to try out for cheerleader.”
So with that, she started a writing campaign and had all kinds of people sign a petition stating they wanted me to try out. She presented it to me, and the next thing I know, I’m out there trying out. There were three upper class men who were chosen. I was the fourth with maybe twenty to thirty other guys behind me. I lost out, but was told to try out next year, that I had a good chance of making it. And true to their word, the next year I became the head varsity yell king.
I became the single most visible person in school. Jumping, running, yelling, dancing, laughing. Energy, enthusiasm. Actually, it fit my personality pretty well.
The Irony Had Played Itself Out
It was complete. The irony had played itself out for all to observe, to be enjoyed by some and dismissed by others.
A very skinny 10th grader with a limp, who started out as no more than a C water polo player, had within two months become a student body officer, a member of an exclusive club that only varsity athletes could get into, a varsity swimmer, and eventually the head varsity yell king.
How did this happen so quickly and unexpectedly? As I look back on this decades later, the answer seems clear. In my opinion an exceptionally bright and clever young teenage girl took me on as a project. It was a repeat of George Bernard Shaw’s theme in the play Pygmalion. My girlfriend was Dr. Higgins and I was Eliza Doolittle.
Like Dr. Higgins, Sue may not have been drop dead loyal to me, but she was interested in pushing me forward. I think she was able to do this, because she was smarter and more astute than anyone around. I think she thought it through and pulled off an unanticipated outcome.
Had she not done something like this, I think she would have become bored. As with others like her, who are exceptionally bright, boredom is their cross to bear. I believe she saw through the veneer of adolescence, and decided to have fun with it. Indeed, she played with what may not have seemed obvious, and made it real.
Adolescence comes from the Latin: to grow up. If there ever is a time to alter the course of one’s development, this is one of those times. This is a time when the predictable can change up and go in unanticipated directions.
By no means was I a neutral player being acted upon. Like Eliza Doolittle, though I may have resisted and protested, I willingly entered in. I wanted these things to happen, but had no sense that they could. And with no false modesty intended, I needed someone brighter than myself to be able to think things through and take advantage of opportunities. I simply would not have been able to pull these things off, if left alone.
After all this, you would think that I would have been forever grateful to Sue. Yes, indeed, you would think so, but I wasn’t. After a while, I began to resent her. The reason for the resentment was because of something I mentioned earlier. She wasn’t loyal in our personal relationship. For her, it never was about loyalty, it was about creating something that went against what might not have seemed possible.
Was there physical attraction between the two of us? Yes. But, in the end, I think the only concern she had was that I might fall in love with her, and need loyalty to nurture the relationship. In my opinion, that may have been why she would often times act disloyally. She wanted to keep reminding me not to get too attached to the relationship, but to keep my mind focused on the real goal: to pull off a surprise. In hindsight, I believe that each of us derived our own personal satisfaction from that reality.
My resentment has dissipated. It’s destructive to harbor resentment, especially when it is misplaced. It shows an inability for insight. And wouldn’t that be comical – a person who writes but lacks insight?
And in the end, wouldn’t the ultimate irony be that I may have been the only one who didn’t think those things were possible to accomplish? Maybe no one was surprised at the outcome but me.
Or, even more ironic, maybe I was the only one who cared or noticed.
Whatever ! !
It was a big time for me. A full measure of gratitude is in order.