Picture it. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Late 70’s, early 80’s. We didn’t have any money. And GO…
1. The fact that I would go out in public looking like I did in the photo above.
2. A female friend had to pull me aside and discreetly inform me that my clothes were supposed to match. This was an astounding revelation. It also partially explained why I was a late-comer to the dating scene. By about 10 years.
3. I drove a beat-up, wood-paneled station wagon to school, parking next to the souped-up hot rods that everybody else had, and my stepdad’s empty beer cans would clatter out when I opened the door. Yay.
4. When the untrustworthy station wagon wasn’t running, I had to ride the school bus. No one else my age did this. No one. I was a lumbering, poorly dressed giant that served as a solitary target for hyperactive third-graders with good aim and a steady supply of juice boxes.
5. I wasn’t just in the library club, I was the president of it. And I was the state treasurer. Clearly, I took my literary duties quite seriously. It also meant that I continued to not date.
6. I had absolutely no interest in football, despite the fact that the entire state was essentially founded just so we could have schools that played Friday-night football games. Taking land away from the Native Americans was only a secondary reason for statehood.
7. I completely missed out on the whole “everybody who was anybody goes to the roller-skating rink on Saturday night” thing. Of course, I also missed out on the things that went on behind the building, like drinking Strawberry Hill and getting pregnant. I think I’m okay with not having experienced that.
8. I thought the cafeteria food was excellent, and I would race to be the first in line at lunch time. And that cake the hair-netted, white-shoed ladies would make, using beets of all things? Best cake ever.
9. I was always offended by people who took the “freebie” elective classes like Study Hall and Eraser Cleaner. What academic benefit are you getting out of that? (I was a total scholastic snob.) What I didn’t realize is that we simply had different life plans. I wanted to go to college. They just wanted to be old enough to buy alcohol without a fake ID.
10. I would put Clearasil on my face (horrible acne for a while there) but not bother to rub it all the way in, with my pasty face making me look like Toe Tag #814 in the county morgue. Still no dating.
11. I loved math class. And it loved me. Until the fateful day when my lover went through a mood swing and turned into Calculus. I didn’t understand this Calculus or what she wanted, try as I might to please her. Our relationship soured and my GPA plummeted. I had to move on, and so I dropped her.
12. I worked for a while at a quasi-department store called David’s. (Think “distant cousin of JC Penney, the cousin that will probably never get married”.) In the Men’s Department. Yep, the fool who had only learned about “matching clothes” a few days ago was now responsible for advising patrons on what looked cute and hot, fashion-wise. The department manager soon realized that I was much more effective stacking boxes in the warehouse rather than pretending to be Calvin Klein. After a few months, I quit. And went to work for JC Penney. (No really, I did. Swear.)
13. I was so not into the hair metal bands that the cool kids were playing in their fancy cars as they dragged Main street. My 8-track collection? Things like Barry Manilow, Helen Reddy and the original cast recording of A Chorus Line. Uh huh. I don’t think anybody should have been surprised by a certain announcement I made later in life.
14. I would drive into downtown Tulsa late at night, which one shouldn’t have been doing at that time because it was not the safest place to be, just to watch foreign, art-house movies at the only theater around that played such things. It would just be me, and maybe five other people in the vast expanse of otherwise empty seats, sitting there, enraptured, dreaming of a magical life-change that would get us the hell out of Oklahoma.
15. Of course, I would also go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show on weekends, with me and my friends piling in a car and driving en masse to a much closer theater where they hosted those audience-participation free-for-alls. (Yes, despite the geekiness detailed in the above items, I did have friends. Good ones. The square pegs always find one another, eventually, and those bonds are tighter than the Strawberry Hill connections.) But, try as I might to pay attention and make notes, I could never get the shouted dialog just right. I was always yelling out the wrong line at the wrong time, and half the audience would turn and throw leftover rice at me.
16. One of my best friends was an amazingly rebellious woman who didn’t take anything from anybody. She didn’t suffer fools, she had little respect for authority, and she would ride her horse into town just for the hell of it, clomping along and sitting at stoplights, waving at astonished people in their cars. Sometimes her actions thrilled me, sometimes they scared me, but she always had my back. Always. And we all need someone like that in our lives, especially in the messy pain-world of high school.
17. I had usually read the book before the movie came out.
18. The best way to spend a Saturday when I wasn’t working? The downtown branch of the Tulsa Public Library. It was five stories, people. Five stories of discovery. I’m actually becoming a little bit aroused thinking about it, even after all these years.
19. I drove to the Senior Prom in another of my family’s questionable vehicles, one that managed to up and die while sitting at one of the busiest intersections in Broken Arrow. Cue the faded image of my date and I frantically running through that intersection, she hoisting her beautiful dress and me groaning with shame in my tuxedo, as we tried to keep from getting killed on our way to the Otasco parking lot so we could find a phone. Help arrived in the form of her best friend and another man in a tuxedo, one that the friend would eventually marry. Later that night, still on edge as we ate at a fancy restaurant, I realized that I didn’t have enough money to even cover the bill, never mind a tip. Rains, pours.
20. But still. Things could have been better, things could have been worse. In the end, the foundation was set. And here we are…