Life Finds a Way…

I kept working my job at the toy store, but with my hours being cut (shakes fist at education payment program and its loopholes), I had to take on a second job.

So, like any rational, sane adult, I applied for a position at a nearby pet store.

Yeah, okay, I let my inner child basically run rampant for a few years. It happened. I’m not proud but I’ll fess up to it.

I’d work five hours at the pet store, have an hour long lunch to go home and eat ramen with veggies added, and then I’d go work five hours at the toy store.

I once sold a woman a hamster and a barbie doll in the same day!

She didn’t recognize me at all, and I’m pretty sure it really freaked her out when, as I sold her the doll, I said that I hoped her daughter’s party went well and that she liked her hamster. That look of confusion was priceless.

On my days off, I’d hang out with my friends or play video games. Dating seemed like too lofty of an endeavor with my work schedule, or at least that’s what I liked to tell myself so I didn’t feel bad about my lack of effort on that front.

Plus, after my fiasco with Damion, which I realized was idle gossip for a few days at the toy store, I was hesitant to even look at any of the guys at work.

Stanley knew how to get past that roadblock.

Short in stature, tall in personality, Stanley was forever cracking jokes about his diminutive size. He was about as tall as me (5′ 3″-ish), but where I was chunky, he was skinny as a rail. One of his favorite pastimes was cramming himself into the toy chests, just to prove he could. On more than one occasion he’d managed to get himself stuck. It was both amusing and depressing all at once.

Annoyingly energetic and cheerful, Stanley was nice, just a bit much.

He was also desperate to find a girlfriend.

Every girl in the store, at one point or another, had been asked out on a date by Stanley. While not overly aggressive, he was still an HR nightmare.

I had been warned by co-workers that I’d be approached too.

Months rolled by and nothing. Eventually, I forgot the warning.

Then, one evening Stanley let me know that a group of employees were meeting up at the restaurant near the store for drinks after work. It was a typical meetup that happened maybe once a month. It was kind of short notice, but I figured it’d be nice to go since I’d missed the last couple of gatherings.

End of the shift, I make my way to the restaurant, but I don’t see anyone.

Suddenly Stanley appears. He’s nervous but donning a Cheshire cat grin.

He tells me that no one, of the typical group of fifteen, could make it. I started to look for the door, but he begged me to stay and eat with him. I relented, but said that I’d only stay for a single soft drink.

Stanley tried to get me to order something to eat. He pulled out my seat for me and offered to pay for my meal. I declined the meal offer and stated that I’d just have the lone drink. He insisted on paying for it and I reluctantly allowed it.

It took a while, but I realized that I’ve been tricked into a date. I wondered if there ever was a gathering planned as I sipped my Dr. Pepper.

Stanley talked a mile a minute, and I tried not to let my discomfort and irritation leak through into the conversation too much. I finished my drink quickly, earning myself a bellyache.

He looked lost as I started to leave, and a small part of me felt badly, but only a very small part.

Maybe I could have been mad. Maybe I could’ve made a scene, but it wouldn’t have done either of us any good. I didn’t see a threat when I looked at him. I saw a sad, lonely man who knew he’d made a mistake.

I thanked him for the drink, said goodbye and fled.

The next day I asked my co-workers about the gathering. Stanley had indeed started to ask a few of the front-end gals if they wanted to meet up, but they all had plans. He never extended the invite to the guys and gals on the sales-floor or the guys in the stockroom. He just saw an opportunity when I said I’d go to the restaurant and he took it.

I think the whole situation kind of embarrassed Stanley, as he seemed to avoid me altogether for a month or so. He kept cramming himself in toy boxes, so he still had that going for him…

 

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I’m an idiot.

I moved to the big city, sure that I could change my life around with new scenery.

To appease my inner child, I found retail work at a large toy store. Also, it held the promise of college funding if I met a certain set of criteria (which I later learned was near impossible as managers cut my hours when I got close to the achievement).

The closing shift was what I typically worked, which often meant just a bit of overlap with the morning shift.

After a couple of years, I met Damion.

He worked the opening shift, and we’d talk a little in the few hours we worked together.

Damion was terribly immature, but nearly everyone who worked at the toy store was. It was just the sort who were drawn to the place, I guess.

Tall, handsome, with this bright, happy, perfect smile, Damion had me swooning when we talked.

He asked me out for coffee, and I quickly agreed. Unfortunately, the logistics of our would-be date didn’t quite work out. We kept trying to plan a time that would work, and then, suddenly, Damion asked me to Prom.

What?!?

My brain nearly exploded. I was twenty-four at the time, and I had been sure Damion was at least twenty-two.

With probably little to no tact, I asked him his age.

He had just turned eighteen.

I died a little inside.

He again asked me to Prom, or, he said, if that wasn’t cool enough, I could come cruising in his car with him and his friends instead of going to the dance.

I shuffled off as much embarrassment and guilt as I could, and I came clean with Damion. I explained that I hadn’t realized how young he was, and that he was very nice, but our age range, at this point in our lives, was going to make dating an issue for me.

Thankfully, he took it really well.

And, on the plus side, someone finally asked me to a dance…

*cringes*

Getting Back on the Horse…

So, Casey wanted to set me up again…

I was skeptical. This time I asked questions before agreeing.

Did she actually know the guy? Yes, she did. He was very nice, but incredibly shy. She was sure we’d be perfect for each other. He didn’t draw comics, he had a steady job in construction, he loved his family and was super sweet.

I agreed to meet him.

George was everything Casey said. We went on a few double dates with Casey and her boyfriend before striking out on our own.

George was a gentleman. He was polite and handsome, but he was terribly shy. The conversations were a touch stagnant. I found myself talking most of the time. He’d smile bashfully and add a word or two. With a lot of effort, I was able to find out more about him. He liked his work, and was glad to be done with school. He had no plans on going to college, but he seemed interested to hear of my plans to make an attempt at a degree.

One major issue was that he lived some 90 miles away, so, as my car was on its last legs, he drove up to see me every weekend. I felt horrible that he traveled so much to see me. It felt unfair, but he never complained.

Three months in, I started to feel a little frustrated. On a few nights, after quite a few drinks, I’d get a little cuddle in, but George wouldn’t really reciprocate. He’d get tense and giggle, but that was all.

Six months in and we still hadn’t even kissed. My inner ugly duckling started whispering cruel thoughts. Was he repulsed by me? Did my breath smell? Was he just not interested?

Truthfully, at that point, the only boy I’d ever kissed was Chad Tiddleman at a boy girl party I was pity invited to in fifth grade.

Even though I knew I was only there because my best friend had demanded it, I was so happy. We were going to play spin-the-bottle!

When that bottle finally came out at the party, I was beyond nervous and excited. On my turn, it landed on my crush, Chad.

We went into the closet, closed the door and let the darkness encase us. I recall sweating profusely. My pits were like swamps. The closet smelled of must and muddy boots. I held my breath, just waiting for Chad to tell me what to do.

He shoved one meaty hand in my direction and said I could kiss the back of it.

I did. Then we stumbled out of the closest to the hoots and hollers of the other party-goers. No one else landed on me, and the game dissolved right as my turn came around again. I pushed my heartbreak aside and ate cake.

So, as an adult, I struggled with George’s lack of physical intimacy. It hurt so badly.

I decided to make a move.

On a lazy, warm, summer afternoon, after eating our fill of Italian food, George and I were strolling across the parking lot to my apartment. Always a gentleman, he was walking me to my door. My neighborhood wasn’t the best, so it was a nice little comfort to have him do that.

I was riffling through my purse, looking for my keys, when I gave a playful laugh and said ‘Walking me to my door, huh? Maybe someone is thinking of getting a goodnight kiss?”

I looked up, ready to lean over and, hopefully, receive my first real kiss, but George was running away.

It was the kind of mad dash one might do to get away from a rabid animal. This sprint had actual terror laced in it.

He hollered something about calling me later, jumped in his car and drove away. I just stood there, watching his every move, heart slowly freezing over.

I stumbled inside, went to the bathroom and checked my teeth for food. Nope, they were clean, so that wasn’t it. So, like any rational person, I decided that I was just a gross monster that he didn’t want to kiss. Perfectly healthy, right?

We dated for a few more weeks, but George always seemed embarrassed, and I was just confused and hurt. We didn’t talk about that evening. I wanted to, but I didn’t know how to bring it up, and he seemed desperate not to bring it up.

Eventually, he stopped coming up to see me. Our phone conversations stalled and then grew non-existent.

I saw him a few years later with another girl. They seemed happy, and I wondered, miserably, if he ever kissed her.

Thanks, I Think?

I have been miserably lonely for quite some time, and yet I always managed to bellyache the few times my family tried to set me up with anyone.

There was the time my stepfather mentioned to a casual acquaintance that I’d be in town visiting. He had the guy over chopping wood, waiting for me to show up. I ended up not being able to drive up that weekend. Poor guy ended up chopping a fair stack of wood. I asked my stepdad about the guy and his response was something along the lines of ‘he’s single, lives in the mountains and has some of his teeth left.’

Okay…thanks for thinking of me, I think?

My mother, on the other hand, is forever pointing out that the mailman is very nice and single, or that the bagger at the store wasn’t wearing a ring, or that the bank teller smiled at me.

Twice my sister tried setting me up with a guy who was just cruising through town on his way to a job in another state. I’m not even sure if the guy knew he was being set up on a date. It was rather painful. Of course, the wound felt even deeper as during the same date she set up one of our mutual friends with a guy who lived in town. They eventually got married. I was a bridesmaid.

I’ve been a bridesmaid five times now. I’ve been the maid of honor three times.

My family eventually gave up, or just ran out of even semi-appropriate guys to set me up with. Either way, it left me with a strange sense of relief and disappointment.

 

So, that happened…

After graduating high school, I joined the work force. College probably would have been a better idea, but my parents weren’t paying, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle the debt. Plus, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, or if I was smart enough to pursue further education. The thought of making the commitment, signing my life away and then flunking out was too much from my young, mush brain.

Anyway, I found myself in a typical nine-to-five making minimum wage, living alone, struggling to make rent and thinking life was great (even if it really wasn’t). Ah, to be young and stupid.

A friend, Casey, noticed my single status, and she decided to give me a hand. I was actually elated. I really wanted to meet someone – whether it was casual or long term. I just needed to have someone for a while.

Chris was nice. He wasn’t a massive looker by any means, but I really was in no position to judge. He was polite and talkative. Most conversations drifted back to the fact that he worked at the local greasy spoon. He proudly proclaimed that he was working a massive load of hours each week – a fact that was very believable as he always had an odor of stale fry grease hanging over him.

I digress. He was nice.

On our first date, he bought a fake rose from the local gas station next to the diner. It was the first flower a boy had ever given me. It was nice, even if it had a made in china sticker and looked like it’d been sat for a few years.

Okay, it was fine. I’m being picky now. The gift was nice.

We went to a drive-in and crammed into the back of my station wagon. It was incredibly uncomfortable. The movie was some cheesy comedy with a million (yes, an exaggeration) sexual innuendos. It was my first date ever, and I didn’t know Chris that well, but I trusted Casey. She was great. She knew what she was doing setting us up; I had 100% confidence in her.

I didn’t feel any spark, but I kept dating Chris. I figured it maybe just took time. He was nice, after all, and he deserved for me to try, right?

He told me about his passion of working on comic book art. He had a series he’d designed and was working on, and he was really hoping to get it published. It was nice to see him really putting his heart into something that wasn’t the diner.

He’d tell me I was beautiful.

No one, outside of my family, had ever said that to me before. My inner ugly ducking was over the moon, but still I didn’t really feel any spark.

Gradually, he started telling me about the story-line for his comic. He said I looked exactly like his main character. She was beautiful and awesome, he said. Then, he’d just smile and gush a bit more, his eyes never leaving me. It was odd, a touch unnerving, but also kind of nice to be such the center of attention after having been ignored by so many for so long.

Then the creepy got too heavy.

The character’s backstory in Chris’ comic was dark, and, very suddenly, I was not feeling great about being her doppelganger.

Apparently, she was sexually assaulted, beaten to death, and then she came back as a resurrected vigilante.

Of course, having Chris explain this to me and then end it all with one last ‘you just look so much like her,’ did not calm my mounting panic.

I noped out of Chris’ life pretty darn hard at that point. I mean, I ghosted him hard.

Somehow, I just didn’t know how to have the ‘dude, are you going to murder me?’ talk. He probably wasn’t. I mean, he seemed pretty normal, and people write comic books about all kinds of things, and yet…

I asked Casey how long she’d known Chris. I thought maybe I could talk to her about this comic and see what her take on it was. Although, at that point I was 100% positive there was nothing that she could say to make me think dating him was going to work.

Turns out, she didn’t really know him at all. She was just eating at the diner and heard he was single, and that was that.

I don’t recall telling Casey about the odd comic book/murder issue. I just told her things between Chris and I didn’t work.

Thinking back over the situation, there is one element that still bothers me (besides the whole odd murder vibe). I never saw a drawing of Chris’ character. I wonder if she did really look like me.

…and that was the first guy I ever dated.

 

When I was a Young Warthog…

Sorry, title is an homage to my obsession with The Lion King when I was a kid.

But, seriously, to understand how deeply rooted awkwardness is in my soul, let’s take a brief look back. And by ‘we‘ I mean the maybe one random person who blunders into this blog and manages to get this far.

Picture this: bowl cut, thick caterpillar eyebrows, kitten sweaters, chunky, rosy-cheeked, shy and completely, desperately boy crazy.

That about sums up me from third grade through high school graduation.  Oh, did I forget flat chested, late bloomer? Yeah, add that to the list.

In school, all I ever wanted was a boyfriend. My friends all dated. Some of them even dated my crushes. One of them even dated the boy I had sent her to ask out for me (as you did back in elementary school). She came back and told me he said no to me but now they were going steady. I was crushed, but also not popular enough to risk one of my few friendships, so I said it was fine.

Whenever there was an announcement that a new boy would be starting school, I’d be sure to wear my best outfit on his first day. I’d try and get myself all dolled up, and then I’d watch with dismay as I was totally ignored. Now, it all seems ridiculously silly, but my silly, young heart just didn’t understand why I never got the fairy tale story outcome.

In third grade Jason asked me to be his girlfriend, but he’d asked every girl in the whole grade before me and been turned down by everyone. He just wanted a girlfriend so badly. He might have had more luck had he also not done an experiment to see if he could stop brushing one of his baby teeth and let it rot out of his head. He did. It took a while, and he had one little black tooth for a good many months, but he accomplished his task.

I was tempted to say yes to Jason’s dating request, but everyone knew I was the last one on his list, and, with wounded pride, I declined.

In junior high, my cousin set me up with a boy from another school. We made plans to meet up and see a movie, but he kept cancelling, saying his grandmother forbade him from going out. Later, a friend told me that she’d heard that the boy was telling everyone how we were boyfriend and girlfriend and made out and all this other stuff. I never heard from the boy again. He just stopped picking up the phone. My only boyfriend in school, and I never even met him. *sighs*

I was never asked to a dance, and, if I worked up the nerve to ask anyone, I was politely, or impolitely, told ‘no.’

At some point, I decided that maybe I was just an ugly duckling. I daydreamed about one day realizing I was a beautiful swan. I clung to that notion, fantasizing about coming back to my high school reunion looking like a knockout. No one would recognize me. Everyone would be impressed and want to talk to me!

Silly, naive child…

The Journey Begins

My spirit animal is probably an otter…or Tina Fey….or the ghost of Bea Arther.

I’m awkward. I never seem to say the right thing at the right moment. This morning, I ate expired moon-pies for breakfast. They were delicious.

See? That is exactly the kind of thing I shouldn’t bring up, and yet I did…

I’m hopeless.

And I’m getting older, so I got that going for me as well. A couple of days ago, a young co-worker and I were talking about staying up late. She mentioned that late was like 2 AM. I countered with 11 PM being pretty late. ‘Oh, that’s cause you’re ol...’ She didn’t get the rest out, but I’m pretty sure ‘old’ was the next utterance there. We let the conversation drop and moved on.

40 is just around the bend. Which only seems old for my lack of actually living. I’ve never married or had a very serious relationship. Things just always got awkward (yeah, I’m sure I’ll get to those stories later).

So, here I am, hitting mid-life and ready to dip my toe into the dating pool and hope to god I don’t drown.

This might all end in flames. Might as well have some fun with it along the way.

 

I’m not playing a role. I’m being myself, whatever the hell that is.       -Bea Arther

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