I had my first boyfriend in 2006. We were terrible together. He was tall and awkward and so was I and I made the mistake of telling him that I loved Trader Joe's Australian strawberry licorice. The day after we broke up (I spent an hour on the phone crying, apologizing that I just didn't have feelings for him anymore, that I was sorry, so sorry, I just couldn't do it any more), we had class together. He'd brought in a bunch of Trader Joe's Australian strawberry licorice. We avoided each other's gaze, like proper sixteen-year-olds (or was he seventeen?), as if we would explode if we by mistake had the misfortune of making eye contact. He passed the licorice box around to everyone else in the class; I got the distinct feeling that he didn't actually like strawberry licorice. I might have asked at some point, but I've long since forgotten.
He did not sign my senior yearbook. The white space in that yearbook is plastered with teenagers' graffiti, illegible signatures and inappropriate jokes, some obligatory and some heartfelt. None from him. I wonder what he would have said if he had indeed signed my yearbook. "Gabby: I can't believe your dad actually cornered me and told me not to say inappropriate things about you and your BFF"? "Gabby: Watching you make out on the prom dance floor with your too-short-for-you sophomore boyfriend was gross. Talk to you never."
"Gabby: Have a great summer."
I always wondered how genuine people were in signing yearbooks. I felt like yearbook signings were the one time of the year I had permission to talk to people I didn't ordinarily talk to--the popular, pretty girls (we had those, even at Nerd High) who radiated confidence wherever they went, the stars of the school musical I secretly hoped I would one day be as talented as, the boy I'd had a pathetic crush on for four years. I wondered if those people ever thought about me outside of awkward social exchanges and yearbook signings. I wondered if those pen scratchings on those white pages meant anything at all.
Here are a few actual excerpts from my senior yearbook:
"Interesting," back in 2006, was an alarm word for me. I pretended to love being "interesting," but I really wanted to just be "normal" (even though I had no idea what that was). I wanted my neck to not stick out so long like a giraffe. I wanted my hair to cooperate like the other girls'. I wanted to be strong and smart and attractive and awesome. "Interesting" was the thing you said when you couldn't honestly say "great." I wanted to like myself.
A lot of people told me to have a great summer. A lot of people wished me luck in college. My first boyfriend did not. He did not think I was interesting. I didn't think he was interesting, either. But I had been given the greatest gift of all: the chance to re-invent myself. The chance to start over again. To be the awesome girl my ex-boyfriend had never met but wished he had; to be the normal-interesting person that when people met her, they said, "Wow. She's really interesting," with the implication that they wanted to know me further. I didn't want it to be the last thing they said about me.
Of course, somewhere in between then and now I met my husband, who incidentally also loves Trader Joe's Australian strawberry licorice. Somewhere between then and now I realized, too, that it didn't matter what people said about me. Somewhere I also realized that most people were just too busy worrying about their own lives to worry about whether or not I was interesting, and that was possibly the greatest comfort of all.
The person with whom I had seventh-grade P.E. is a pretty cool person. I also can't wait to see how he turns out. The best thing about time (and Facebook) is that when you look in on people now, they seem totally cool. Part of that is electronic editing, of course; but the other part of it is getting to see how people have portrayed themselves. In 2006, I thought of myself as one of the least-worthy human beings on the planet, incapable of someone really liking me for me, unkissable, unlovable except by the two friends who had stuck by me since the very start of freshman year.
The evidence shows otherwise.
Prom photos from senior year show an excited girl, one who'd already gotten into a college and was thrilled about the prospect of higher learning. Even though there weren't as many photos of me in the yearbook, the writing on the walls (well, book covers) is full of messages that I now regard as at least mostly genuine. Ten years later, I am a glass-half-full sort of person. All of the everyday angst has fallen away, and now all of those days were simply learning experiences to build the confidence I sport now.
I married my husband in 2012. We're awesome together. He's tall and awkward and so am I. But it hardly matters anymore. And I did have a pretty great summer.
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PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST
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