A few days ago a woman told me she loved me… and it wasn’t Kristin.
Let me be clear: I am not cheating on Kristin. This was… an unexpected complication in a growing friendship. This was me doing what I like to do… having deep conversations about history, literature, the state of our current social contract, the effects of childhood abuse on adult behavior… and flirting.
I only flirt when I feel safe. It’s a sure bet that if I’m flirting with you it’s because I feel confident that such flirting is not going to get me in trouble. And by “get me in trouble” I mean – put ideas in your head so that you might think that I actually walk my talk. Kristin is the one exception. And frankly, I didn’t do such a hot job of flirting with her (and still don’t). It was my geeky clumsiness that got her, my failure to flirt gracefully (because I had no experience with flirting when I actually meant it to lead to a tousled bed and a long night) rather than the teasing quick-wittedness and risqué humor I’m capable of displaying when I don’t really mean it.
I only like to play when the field is vacant of hearts. I’m a tease, but I hate to be cruel.
I was always the ugly one in school. I was the fat one (even when I was 5 ft 9 and 120 lbs I was called the fat one… because my breasts were larger than any other girl’s in school). I was the one that cute boys would talk to in order to get closer to my friends. Once, there was this cute guy… let’s call him Brad. I had a massive crush on Brad. He was a year older than me, but he was in a lot of my classes. One day we were all sitting in debate class and goofing off. Brad had a yo-yo that he was making do tricks in front of the girls. I asked him if he could do Walk the Dog and he grabbed my hand and pulled me across the room (And OH! I wanted to swoon when he touched my hand!) and then he said. “There, I just walked the dog.” And everyone but my friends Laurel and Amy laughed.
I was the ugly one, the fat one, but I also became the untouchable one. Sophomore year, first debate meet, my “mentor” (a senior boy) thought that being my mentor meant he could touch me. I put up with it and put up with it. And then he tried it again when I was standing at the edge of a group of people. I think he thought that my fear of attention would keep me quiet. But I lost it. I screamed at him to keep his filthy hands to himself. And everyone looked, and there he was with his hands up and “hey, it’s not my fault the girl misunderstood a friendly hug over a victory” and from that moment on the only touches I got from boys were hostile. I became the fierce one, too, even though inside I was always shaking. Sometimes I was capable of gathering my reputation around me like armor and stepping between another girl and a boy who was bothering her, and sometimes I wasn’t.
Another boy, another day: I’m sitting in the hall outside the drama room, rehearsing lines with a friend. Clark comes up behind me, sits on my shoulders (he was a slight guy) and begins scratching my head. My heart began beating; get out get out get out. My friend asked him what he was doing. “I’m scratching my balls. Isn’t that right, ball-breaker?” My paralysis cracked and I flung him off my shoulders. He skipped off, laughing.
While other teens were learning how to flirt, how to date, how to kiss, I was learning how to defend, how to fight off, how to hide, how to cry and hide it. And the sad thing is I’m betting most of you were learning how to do those things, too.
I’ve said many a time here that my only motivation in writing this blog is to get as many people to fall in love with me and offer to have my love children as possible. But really? If any of you (or anyone, really) were to come up to me and say with great sincerity, “Trista, I think you’re beautiful, inside and out. You get me in a way that no one has ever gotten me before. I’m falling in love with you and I don’t know what to do about it.” I think I would probably vomit on your shoes. Not in a “I am so disgusted by what you just said that the only appropriate response is to vomit on you immediately” kind of way, but in a Turkey Vulture kind of way. Still, when you're the one with vomit squelching between your toes, does it really matter why it's there? You've still been barfed on.
But I like her. I want her for a friend. And I never intended this. So I listened to her. And I offered sympathy. And though I don’t think she’d be flattered by the comparison, sometimes I felt like I was talking to my teenaged self. And that really sucks. Because if I’m going to be talking to my teenaged self, I don’t want to have to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t love you.”
I hurt her. I didn’t mean to, but I did. And the only honorable way out was to choose the lesser of a thousand hurts and do it quickly. At least I said it kindly. And at least I didn’t vomit and run away.
There’s something to be said for that.