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Thoughts From the New Girl

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Thoughts From the New Girl

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Normally, I like being the new girl in the room.

“Who’s that girrrl?…..Who’s that girl?….It’s JEN!” I freaking love that show. #NickAndJess4Ever

Being the new girl means that there’s a certain gift of freshness to your new relationships. You can be who you really want to be without any of the baggage or weirdness from your past.

When you’re the new girl, no one stares at you and remembers that awkward time in Jr. High when you decided shaving your sideburns was a good idea.* Or when you were 13 and had to wear a weird immobilizer arm brace that strapped your arm down across your tummy and how you still attempted to make overalls work at the same time.

Shoulder immobilizer

I had to wear one of these sexy, little numbers when I fractured my growth plate in 9th grade. Due to my own incredible ability to get in my head and freak myself out, I was in the middle of a back handspring, soaring backwards through the air, when I had the random thought “What if I actually can’t do back handsprings as well as I think I can? Sure I’ve been doing them the whole class up to this moment, but what if…?” This thought triggered a signal in my brain to stop putting my arms up and over my head and instead, I careened through the air, rotated over to my left side and landed with a thud, right on the upper side of my left arm. Apparently, when you do that, you can fracture things that are important. Hence the doofy arm brace. I also managed to miss my big shot at being the flyer in a basket toss during the next day’s football half time performance. #MissedOpportunities #JustTryToPairThisWithOveralls #IDid

These days, I’m the new girl with my new job.

Let me just start off by saying, yes –having a new job, especially at one of the places I’ve always wanted to work, is pretty awesome. There are days I miss my leggings/couch/Netflix opportunities, but I will say that being able to afford leggings/couch/Netflix is something that brings great peace of mind. I’m sleeping much better at night and doing a lot less mid-day crying. It’s a great thing.

I started just over a month ago and I feel like I strode down the loud, linoleum floors with a confident step and a friendly smile that said “Here I am! Let’s not only do great work together, let’s also be work-buddies! What’s everyone doing for lunch?”

::crickets::

To be fair, everyone did say hi and introduce themselves. I wrote their names down in my new floral notebook and reviewed them throughout that first week. I pictured us taking group walks together when the weather got nicer, maybe grabbing a chai and laughing about the crazy process of paperwork that still involves triplicate forms or how so many people here have such an aversion to using online chat. (No chat? WHAT?!)

But things were pretty busy for the people around me and my 15 minutes of fame as the new girl seemed to dim pretty quickly. I started amping up in my introductions and throwing all the zeal I could muster into meeting new people.

Twice a day, a gentleman comes in to deliver and take away mail. I have memorized his name and have greeted him with such intensity, I think the poor man fears coming into the office. Today I introduced myself to the woman with quiet shoes who walks the hall with her towel and spray bottle. She’s on high alert to catch any speck of dust or smudge on glass. She looked at me like I was crazy when I reached out to shake her hand and said “We haven’t been introduced yet, but I’m Jenny. What’s your name?”

My new job is with one of the largest employers in the city and this place is freaking huge. Coming from a place where I knew everyone’s name to where I’m at now is quite a change. (OK, well, maybe not all of the software developers’ names, but they usually avoided eye contact anyway. The ones I did know were pretty darn cool though.) Even when my last job grew and nearly doubled in size, we still maintained the “Hey, you’re part of our cool-kid software family now. Welcome!” Things at my new job are a little different.

I’ve made so many wonderful friends from my past jobs, not just my recent software gig. Even from back in my casino days, I’ve met people that have invested in me, my family, and have walked with me through some pretty tough stuff.

I guess this is why I was so excited to be the new girl again and have the opportunity to start collecting even more buddies from my new job. But the reality is, I just don’t know if that’s going to be the case.

Perhaps I’m putting way too much pressure on things here. Cue the deep introspection part of my blog.

Since my divorce, (see, I told you it was coming) I’ve learned that friendships can come and go. And I saw a lot of them go.

I really don’t blame them. Divorces are messy, awful things and I get that it’s way too complicated and frustrating for a couple to remain friends with two people who aren’t necessarily a couple anymore. Add in the whole church-thing, where you become akin to a leper once you make the decision that you don’t want to be married anymore, and it makes things even tougher.

This is basically the response I’ve received from my old church crew: Unclean! Unclean! That girl messed up big time and we can’t even fathom what that means because in the church’s mind, bad things like that CAN’T happen so when they actually do happen, we have no practical way of processing and/or handling them like normal humans! Let’s stay away from her so we don’t expose ourselves to her bad choices and only ask her things about her children if we happen to run into her in the store. She, as a human, has no more value or worth now, only that she happened to make two lovely children back when she was normal/married. Oh, the children! Their lives are surely doomed forever more because of the sins of their mother!

I’m sorry.

I got a little lost in that description, didn’t I? It really isn’t that bad. Most of the old church crew just avoids talking to me all together, honestly 😉

Oh, and for anyone taking notes, my children are still just as amazing, funny and clever as they were before the split. They’ve adjusted well to our crazy new lives and they’re excited about all the new people who get to be around them and love on them. And boy, there are lots of them! We talk about how cool it is that there are so many new people in their lives, so many new humans to learn from and spend time with.

My kids are happy, healthy and have chosen to make the best of a situation they had zero control in. I only wish some of the adults I know could do the same thing.

But back to the part of my blog before I started venting.

Remember when you liked someone in school and you went out of your way to impress them and get them to like you? For the record, I have since learned that usually, a person can’t really ‘get someone to like them’. It kinda just is or it isn’t. Humans just don’t have that level of control over each other. (10 points Gryffindor for adult lessons learned.) But back in my school days, I could have earned an additional high school diploma for my mad skillz in boy-crazery.

Newsflash: Nope. They usually weren’t interested.

Other newsflash: That usually didn’t dissuade me from liking them, and in fact, them not liking me the same way I liked them, actually triggered my massive competitive gene and made me even more obnoxious.

Cue high school flashback: “What? You only like me as a friend? I’ll show you “FRIEND”!

Watch me go above and beyond when you’re sick from school. I’ll not only pass the card I handmade around to the class, I’ll also go shopping and spend my very last dollar on Star Wars themed trinkets and treats cause I heard through the grapevine that you may have a thing for that movie. What’s that? You think it’s weird that I spent my lunch break driving over to your house to deliver these things to you? Nope. Totally not weird at all. And how else would I have discovered that when you were sick, you blew your nose on a t-shirt because it was gentler on your gorgeous nasal cavities than standard tissue? You adorable, creative, genius, you…

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I could have given this overly attached girlfriend meme a run for her money.

God bless the Jr. High and High School boys who survived my crushes. Seriously. I’m surprised I haven’t been billed by their therapists.

Whelp, here I am now.

Hopefully, I’m way less obsessive about proving my affections for the people I care about. That could get awkward when you’re a thirty-something lady and you’re trying to fit into the world of being a cool-as-eff grownup.

But those new potential work-buddies better watch their backs.

I’m friendly. I’m kinda clever, and I have the memory of an elephant and the skills of a PTA mom when it comes to birthdays and such. I’m fully equipped with delicious recipes for potlucks to share, an overflowing candy dish on my desk and ample opportunities to hear all about the crazy / not-crazy weekend you just had.

Hi. My name is Jenny, and I’d like to be your new work-pal.

*Let’s be honest. I knew shaving my sideburns was a stupid idea, but when you’re 12 and your super-cool, 14 year-old-friend and all of her friends are telling you it’s the cool thing to do, you can only do so much. I remember backing away from the pink, disposable Lady Bic razor, but in the end, I totally caved and let it happen. It was awful. We quickly realized that the girls this “shaved hair” trend ‘worked’ on, were girls who had these heavenly, thick manes of glory. Not the spindly, baby-fine mesh I was rockin.

 

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Drive

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Hey. It’s been a while, but I’ve managed to conjure up a long one for you. You may want to save it for some relaxing vacation reading by a nice cool pool, lake or whatever…enjoy! – Jenny

I was 17 years old when I was ordered to see a judge.

It was Thanksgiving break and I had woken up early (at least to a college freshman) and driven down to some courthouse in LA by my dad.

I had received yet another speeding ticket and this time there was a judge who wanted to scare me straight, although I think the drive to the courthouse with my father was even more frightening than the meeting with the judge.

We had directions from MapQuest, a relatively new gimmick at the time, that my mother faithfully researched and printed out for us. They were wrong, and we got lost. Or they were right and I failed to read them correctly from my lofty (yet unwanted) post of ‘navigator’. Who knows.

Being my dad’s navigator was (and still is) the least desirable place to sit in any vehicle for any human being. I would sooner be on a dirty train to Darjeeling than in the plush, air conditioned comfort of “Navigatordom”.

Fortunately, the world has blessed me, my mother and any other poor soul who must guide my dad from point A to point B with satellite navigation. That inventor has my deepest gratitude. Unlike me, the little voice inside the GPS-wonder won’t start crying when it gets asked, “RIGHT OR LEFT? RIGHT OR LEFT, GOD DAMMIT?” Although I admit that I would enjoy hearing the computer-voice snark back to him, “Simmer down, sir! All I said was to merge with traffic in two point five miles! I’ll let you know what to do as we get closer! Do you need me to drive?”

Back in the judge’s office (is it OK to call them ‘chambers’?) I was nervous, yet cocky at the same time. When the judge asked me, “Do you realize that I can take away your license?” I remember thinking “Yeah right! I’m only 17. In a couple days I will be 18 and many of this drops off my record!” (Which the judge had previously mentioned).

I apologized to the judge (somewhat half-heartedly) and endured a cold-yet-fuming father all the way home. (And yes, I think we managed to get lost on the way home, too.) I don’t remember because I was completely obsessed with just getting home to hang out with all my other friends  who were also home for break. Yay, friendship!

Later on I received a letter in the mail from the then-Governor, Pete Wilson, because I had received three speeding tickets within a year. Or was it 6 months? Not sure. I still have the letter somewhere, but it was just full of ‘shame on you’ text that his secretary had written and contained no real penalties. Of course I wasn’t paying for my own auto insurance at the time, so I’m sure my poor mother would have much to say about how much my speedy road trips were really costing.

Driving is one of my absolute favorite pastimes.

Driving always symbolized that I was getting to escape one place and trade it for another.

All my family was out of state, so every vacation was to either Las Vegas or Phoenix. The roads were straight and the speed limit was lax, and when we all figured out that a child (me) with extreme motion sickness should not be allowed to read in the back seat, these drives became relatively uneventful.

Normally, I’d hurl on any road trip that was over 30 minutes long (or past the bustling metropolis of Acton on Hwy 14) but soon we curbed this annoying habit and we were good to go.

Check out this handy visual I made for you! Home = no problem. Acton = time to start puking. And yes, I miss Hwy 14 every time I have to drive Chico’s janky Hwy 99.

A typical family road trip followed these basic steps:

  • Drive through the Air Force Base to shave off 30 minutes? Check.
  • Stop for food around the halfway point? (A McDonalds that resembled a train car)? Double check.
  • Only pee at the restaurant? Absolutely. Rest stops were gross.
  • Beg my parents to go visit the giant Cabazon Dinosaurs from Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure movie? Every time.

We actually did stop and visit them once when we were driving with my friend Monica. They were really cool, albeit, blazing hot inside. No A/C inside those dino-babies.

As I got older, driving became my thing.

My car, an unassuming silver 1992 Hyundai Sonata with a sneaky V6, was surprisingly, the most reliable vehicle out of all of the clunkers my friends owned (or didn’t own). This meant I was often the one elected to drive on our many outings. (Oh, and the free gas credit card from my parents also helped.)

Growing up in Lancaster, CA  these outings were usually all about escape! We’d venture 30 minutes to Santa Clarita to visit our teacher for a card game or old VHS movie night (Oh yeah – party on, kids!) or 45 minutes to Magic Mountain. Sometimes we’d push the curfews and scream our way to Beverly Hills so we could try and eat at our favorite fifties diner, Ed Debevic’s (Now closed for 10 years – boo!).

When I started college 7.5 hours away from home in balmy Chico, California, my driving was, once again, a huge part of my life. Even if you didn’t count all the I-5 trips home (any 3-day weekend I could muster) I was one of the rare students in the dorms that had a car, so late night trips to Winco for ice cream and candy to console a friend’s broken heart became my duty.

Vent-Driving 101 – An Introduction and Case Study

If you know anything about me from this blog, you know that there were a few boys who played a big role in my girl-chases-boy phase. This phase was probably about 14 years long and often ended up with me finally getting the picture: No — That boy does not want me to chase him any longer!

Once I had my driver’s license, my go-to venting/crying/radio-blasting/purging myself of all things “HIM” was done behind the wheel. Is it smart to drive when you’re freaking out and blubbering about that one time he smiled at you over bumper pool? Is it the safest idea to go racing down a highway while simultaneously gazing at the yellow sticker he gave you from McDonald’s that said “SPECIAL”? No. Absolutely not. Get yourself together, woman!

But vent-drive I did, and damn, I was good at it, too. The first time, I vent-drove, I had recently received my license and was on my way “to the sunset” (Dramatic much?) and I got pulled over for speeding. As the CHP approached me, he got a front row seat to my ugly cry-face behind my gas station sunglasses and my passenger seat full of used tissues. Plus, I had never been pulled over before, so I was majorly scared about getting in trouble. And wasn’t this just PERFECT? What a crappy day…getting pulled over made things even more dramatic! I felt like I was in a movie 🙂

The CHP could see I was upset and told me that it wasn’t a good idea to go around driving in that condition. Then he told me to scamper along home with just a warning. He had a teenage daughter too and hated to think of her vent-driving and heart-broken like I was. Mwuh ha ha! I mean, “Thank you, Officer.” {Sniff-sniff}

I think I turned around and went to the beach instead, which was probably about two hours from that pull-over point. (I know. I know.  I was a big-time brat. I can still be really bratty when the occasion calls for it now, too. Look out.)

But again, I love me some dramatic moments and shaking things off via vehicle is still my number one choice. Getting out of Chico and cruising up to Lake Almanor (Curvy roads have nothin’ on me if I’m behind the wheel – Puke problem, be gone!) or driving over to to see family in Reno. Both journeys have been very therapeutic for me.

When I used to commute to work, that drive home was just the antidote I needed to belt-sing away my stress from a crummy work day, which were the majority of my casino-worker days.

These days, it’s trickier to just hop in the car and drive.

We have a family vacation that will involve a good 10+ hours of driving (yay!), but belting out your troubles to your favorite Civil Wars/Alison Krauss/Phantom of the Opera soundtrack (Don’t judge me) is a bit harder to do with an audience of children in the car. Or a husband who’s head may explode if he ever witnessed the hot-mess that is, me BELTING “The Music of the Night” or one of my many “My Fair Lady” movie soundtrack ditties. I know we’re supposed to be ‘ONE’ and all, but there are just some things I will forever draw the line on. Scream-singing in the car is just one of those things best left to some alone time.

What do you like to do to shake off stress?

Does driving soothe you or add to your problems?

PS: Curious about the three dumbest things that ever happened while driving?

Mom, you can stop reading this now. Kids, you may read this only to know that there is nothing you can do that will surprise me. But don’t even think of trying to top me. To the rest of you, I implore you not to hold these driving-sins against me. I am much less reckless now that I am a mom with two kids in the car at almost all times 🙂

1) Attempting to remove the glass insert to my custom installed sunroof. While driving.

Just picture a giant glass window the size of a cafeteria lunch tray, flying backwards through the air, then — a huge glass-explosion, as it disintegrates into the road. Two seconds later, a motorcyclist came up behind us. It still makes me shiver to think how close we were to killing someone that day. The rest of the damp Seattle-outskirts summer (an El Nino summer, by the way) seemed like a small price to pay for the stupidity. Did I mention I was trying to impress a boy?

2) Driving my sedan (same car as above) over a rusty, springy bed-frame in the desert while the entire car-load of sleepover girls were only wearing their bras for tops.

I can’t even begin to explain this one, but I managed to get my car caught up in the springs, despite climbing under the car to jiggle it free by hand, and yes, I am completely aware how inappropriate that outfit-choice was at that time. When I eventually gassed the car free, I managed to damage something that covered up some other part underneath my car so every time I pulled into a driveway or parking lot, my car scraped unceremoniously loud and caused everyone to look and say, “What an idiot. Look at that big plastic thing hanging down under her car.” I think I told my parents I broke it on the washboard dirt road of my friend Rob’s house. This was not true. I apologize for the mistruth although that horrible road probably could have damaged my car on it’s own too.

3) Four-wheeling at night, in the rain in my ‘86 Bronco II over a giant boulder.

Once again, I was trying to impress a boy (make that three) with my fearless girl-power skills.

Had I ever been 4-wheeling before? Sure.

Had I ever been the driver on these 4-wheeling expeditions? Nope.

Did I try to get one of the boys to drive instead and get denied by all of them? Absolutely. Those chickens!

So, after a few donuts around some power line guide wires, I was feeling pretty confident. Eat my dust (mud) cute boys! Then – BUMP! – my Eddie Bauer-edition beauty was off the ground and rolling on a huge boulder that had been lurking in the grass. Good bye, drive shaft. Hello, broken car. Hello, humiliation and the beginning of weeks and weeks without a vehicle which at that time was torture.

But the next thing I knew, I was riding in the passenger side of my broken beat-up car while a pair of blue eyes smiled at me from the driver’s seat. This boy, who I had just met that night, said he would drive my Bronco II out of the mud, back up the ravine and to the main road so we could get it towed to town. (AAA has a thing about rescuing dumb girls who break their car in a mud pit.)

Even though it was a dumb choice and I had made a mess of things, I had him. And it would be OK in the end.

Running Hates Me and the Feeling is Mutual

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Have you ever done something completely uncharacteristic or insane to impress the people around you?

I have worn ridiculous clothes, participated in lame activities and even gotten baptized* to capture the ardor and attention of those I hold dear to my heart.

Lately, I’ve added a new activity to my life that has been inspired by some close friends. And by “lately” I mean, the past two days, because frankly, who knows how long I’ll be able to keep up this charade.

Perhaps you’ve heard of this torture I speak of? In some cultures it’s called “running”. In other cultures it’s called “escaping”, “fleeing persecution” or “chasing dinner”. I prefer to call it a four-letter word that would make the mothers in my life turn purple.

It’s a well-known fact that I have never run a mile without stopping to take a break and walk.

Never.

Well, maybe in high school softball, but I was crying at the time, so I’m not sure if we actually ran a mile, or if it just felt like it. I probably blocked it out. What I WISH I could block out is the memory of our softball coach (who, I assume, would have much rather been coaching the football team and not messing around with some sissy girls) and his very unique huddle position.

To any of those old BCHS softball team players out there reading this, do you remember how our coach used to stand in the huddle? He’d be wearing those classic blue BIKE-brand coach’s shorts, a tucked-in BCHS polo shirt and his well-trimmed mustache. Then he’d take the softball bat and balance it on the ground between his feet and up and under his man-zone like it was some sort of tripod. Then, with hands-free to gesture to different areas of the field, he would chat about the things we needed to improve upon and how we needed to stop being big babies about having sliding practice on a field littered with broken glass and desert gravel that STILL has left scars on my knees. So much for my knee-modelling career, Coach! Ugh.

Anyway…I chose to play softball in high school to impress my boyfriend and because my older friend Monica said they needed players. Turns out the baseball team my boyfriend was on traveled to all the same schools we did for away games, so we got to hang out.

Random fact: I chose the softball number 19 because it was the closest thing to my boyfriend’s number (61). I justified my choice by saying if I did a handstand, my number 19 would turn into 61! Ah, dumb young love!

But back to my new-found torture – running.

Oh, and if you think this will be one of those blogs where it starts out all “Oh, I hated it but now I love it! Whoopee! Running is awesome!” then you’d be very wrong and I’d be forced to ask you, “Do you even KNOW me?!”

I’ve always love the drama of running; the idea of getting outside and escaping the stresses of the day. The symbolism was not lost on me and I freaking love symbolism. (I have been known to get all googly-eyed over stargazing and sunsets, as well.)

I had had a particularly annoying day that included the return of the dreaded “wonky-head-itus” that I had juggled for three months last summer. (Think ‘vertigo’ but not as bad, and without an explanation, cure, etc. Just spinning and dizzy feelings that jump out at you when you’re driving, typing, walking, microwaving, etc. They come and go throughout the day, every day, until they just randomly leave.)

Anyway, I had been talked into playing a 9:30 co-ed company softball game because they needed the girls to be eligible.I was feeling better after it was all said and done which was a welcome change. After the game I pulled into the driveway and thought, “Holy cow. I think I’m going to go for a run!”

I was wearing my black Pilates pants (think wannabe Lululemon pants but much cheaper), my black company softball tee and the deciding factor – an actual sports bra! When in the world would I EVER being wearing one of those? And tennis shoes, too? It was all too perfect.

I walked in the house to find my husband on the phone talking about motorcycles. (Conditions were continuing to be even more perfect for a run down the street.) I told him I was going for a walk-run and he looked at me with a look that said “Are you wanting a divorce?”. Apparently previously storming out of the house for a late night walk to cool down after an argument has permanently typecast my activities. I assured him I was fine and quickly left to avoid more questions and before I could lose my nerve.

I was going to DO THIS!

I grabbed my phone and my son’s Storm Trooper earbuds. Runners listen to music, right? Psh, I’ve got this. Wait a minute. I don’t have any pockets. Am I just supposed to hold this thing? Wow. It’s really dark outside. Wearing all black is not the wisest choice.

But I’m running! Oh my gosh! This is really happening! I am such a bad-ass! Won’t all my runner friends be so proud of me? Is that a raccoon? Yikes! Nope. Just a dark stain on the road. I really wish there were a few more street lights on this street. The light from my phone and JT’s lovely face on my music screen should be enough to guide me though, right? And if I get attacked or pass out, my last name is printed on the back of my softball shirt so that will help identify me, despite my lack of identification, birthmarks or tattoos.

As I was skipping music tracks, I heard a loud noise. Phew. It was just me wheezing and gasping for breath. Is that normal? I hate running? I’m turning back now and getting out of this stupid sports bra. Is this a long enough run to brag about to my runner-friends? Damn, I hope so.

After a few more walk breaks and then making myself “finish strong” with a paltry jog back to my driveway, I checked the clock. 10 minutes. THAT’S ALL? I feel like I just left a lung on the side of the road for a whopping 10 measly minutes? Jeez, running! I hate you even more!

The next morning, I measured the distance with my car and learned that I had limped out a one-mile trek. WOW!

The next night, I talked myself into trying again. At that point, running down the street, albeit in pain, was better than cleaning the bathrooms, so off I went. I managed to run a longer distance before stopping to catch my breath, but it still took me just as long. This bugged me.

Is spent a good 10 minutes cry-texting some of my running friends about how much I hated running. None of them told me that it would get easier and that I would grow to love it. They said they loved it but that it was still hard.

What was wrong with these people? Why did they like this crappy thing? What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I like it? Why have I always been so horrible at it? (Memories of me trying out for the track team in Jr. High to impress a boy (surprise-surprise) and ending up tripping on my face at the turn right before the finish line came back to me as I cried dramatically on the new rug in front of the TV.)

My husband was off the phone now and realized I was doing my whole ‘after-exercise’ crying thing. He gave me a hug and I told him how much I hated running. I told him how much I hated that ugly line that was forming on my stomach and — look! — there a new line even lower now too! Good Lord! Just kill me now!

Let me just say that my husband has NEVER been one of those guys to say, “Ah, shucks, honey! You’ve had two over 8-pound children. You work a full-time job plus a stressful side job. You are juggling weekly softball games and little league games for the boy. When in the world would you even have time to work out? You look fabulous the way you are and I’d still do you.”

Nope. My husband is the type of guy to honestly look at you and say, “I know you aren’t satisfied with the shape you’re in.” The end. That’s it. (More tears from me and dramatic stomping for good measure.)

Husband, attempting to change the subject: “You want to watch Survivor with me?”

Me: [Sniff] Ok. Let me go rinse off real quick. (Even though I only ran for 10 minutes, apparently it’s enough to get sweaty as if I just did a big-girl workout.

The night ended with TV watching (as straight as I could make my stomach so as not to continue the ever-growing crease) and some crunches.

Lord, help me. I’m not cut out for this crap.

* The blog about the time I got baptized to impress the pastor’s son and his family, is available for your cringing pleasure here.

Confessions of a High School Streaker

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I have a mental list of people that I would consider as possible suspects, in case I ever get murdered or kidnapped. (Doesn’t everyone have this list?)

Some of them are old co workers who excelled at giving off a creepy vibe or always had that weird look in their eye. A few are old schoolmates or acquaintances who seem really into me, although I haven’t talked to them in person since I was seven. I have shared this ‘persons of interest’ list with my husband, so if I do happen to go missing, be sure to talk to him and ask about it.

One of the people that has been on my potential future kidnapper list is a strange man who used to live around the corner from me when I was growing up in the Antelope Valley. Today I could have sworn I saw him driving the same beat up old car he always had in his driveway, but this time he was in front of me on the Esplanade. The license plate was the same old-fashioned blue background with yellow text-style plate we Californians has in the 80s. The license plate frame said ‘Valencia’.

Right then, as I was coming back to work from my lunch break, I was 16 again and traipsing down the street in my underpants.

Allow me to back up a bit.

The year is 1996 and although my high school years were completely free of alcohol, drugs or learning the art of smoking a cigarette, my friends and I decided to dabble in the art of Truth or Dare. No joke — we were amazing at that game and we were more than capable at accomplishing debauchery without booze, drugs or tobacco. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Somehow or other, though, our sleepover shenanigans almost ALWAYS ended up with us daring each other to run up and down the street in our underpants. Not very creative, if I think about it now.

Our neighborhood was a quiet one with personal mailboxes for each house positioned on the good conditioned neighborhood sidewalks. There were lots of cul de sacs and it was very rare to see a dumpy house. Most people there had lived there for a long time. It was a great place to grow up.

In high school, we were serial sleepover participants and if it was a Friday night, you could almost guarantee that we were all at Becky’s house around the corner, getting our soda/chip/sugar-high on ‘til the break of dawn. We also excelled at Phase 10 competitions that would involve the non-stop hits of the Oldies on K-Earth 101.1 FM. Good times.

If it was one of our larger girl-gatherings, you could be pretty sure that less than half a mile away, in the other subdivision across 25th St. West, there was another sleepover taking place, but with a group of rowdy boys from our class.

The guy-hang out (something tells me they never called them ‘sleepovers’) was within walking distance and it was the ongoing task of our girl-gaggle to sneak over and attempt to hear the boys talking about how into us they were. Well, at least that was my goal. See? I’ve always been into myself, especially when other people are into me too.

The one time we caught the boys actually outside and within eavesdropping range, they were playing basketball and talking about lame things like video games and sports. It was not the riveting ‘Whose cans are the best in class?’ or ‘How adorable are those cheerleaders, anyway?’ topics that we were hoping to stumble upon.

We ended up stomping back to our sleepover and decided to act as cool and carefree as we could, all the while, glancing furtively over our shoulder to see if the boys had just so happened to try sneaking over to spy on us.

A few times, we actually were wrapped up in doing girl stuff (talking about the boys and trying on each others clothes) and we were surprised by the guy-group. They had snuck over to our neck of the neighborhood and were chucking apples at the tent we had set up in the front yard. (In our neighborhood, this was a completely safe thing to do and we didn’t run the risk of waking anyone up in the house with our high-pitched shrieking.) Why apples? I have no idea. I just figured it was a weird boy-thing.

I will always feel proud of my quick witted deduction when I analyzed the apples that were being thrown at our tent.

“Wait a minute. These apples are Golden Delicious apples. Vinny had a Golden Delicious apple with him at lunch today! It must be the boys!”

Quickly we checked our hair and outfits and burst out of the protection of our tent. We eventually hunted them down a house away, crouching behind a cinder block wall. It always did feel nice to be the ones being pursued.

It was this truth, that at any time, the boys could possibly be hiding around a corner, that added such a thrill to Truth or Dare: The Scantily Clad Edition.

The Game

Late at night, we’d dare one of the girls (usually Becky — the bravest streaker in the bunch) to run across the street, touch the other sidewalk and then we’d let her back inside the house. The dare-posse would hide in Becky’s bedroom and watch the dare-victim scamper across the road in everything from bra and underwear, bra and pajama-boxers, etc. Sometimes we’d even make our streaker wear high heels and a garter we had lying around from an old French Maid Halloween costume. (Note to self: NEVER buy my daughter a French Maid costume. You never know what lascivious acts those accessories may induce.)

I will not go into the details of how Becky earned the nickname “Bucky” but I can assure you, I was too embarrassed to even watch her claim her infamous title after she dropped her robe on the sidewalk and strutted fearlessly to high school glory. Man, was she awesome! No one else ever had the guts to bare all.

An Unexpected Audience

One evening, we got a hankering to walk from Becky’s house to my house. Usually we drove my car, but we purposely chose to be active that evening. Not something we did often. We were fully clothed and chatting about how the objects of our affections came ‘this-close’ to actually being as awesome in real life as we had built them up in our heads.

As we walked by the creepy-guy’s house (technically, I think it was his handicapped mother’s house and he just happened to live there with her) he was in the front yard and approached us by walking toward his front gate. Picture an older man with a comb-over wearing a tight, white, undershirt tucked into short 70s denim shorts (not cut-offs). He also wore socks pulled up straight (too short for knee socks) and fast-food worker-ish black sneakers.

Creepy neighbor: Hi there.

Us (avoiding eye-contact but responding because we had good manners): Hello.

Creepy neighbor: You have any sleepovers lately?

Us (Confused because we were totally naive to the fact that ANYONE could have easily seen us): What? No…

We kept walking and turned the last corner onto my street before we realized — OH MY GOSH! THE CREEPY GUY IS TALKING ABOUT OUR STREAKING CONTESTS!

Then two beats later we realized — Wait a minute…he doesn’t live anywhere near Becky’s house! OK, sure, he lives on the walking path between our houses, but he doesn’t live in a place where he could have looked outside and seen us scuttling about. Nor is his house on a path that he could have been driving by her cul de sac that was located in the back part of our subdivision.

We were beyond freaked out.

I’m pretty sure that we had already given up our tawdry ways before we had our Megan’s Law candidate encounter, but it surely helped put the final kabosh on any future nude activities.

Even this past summer, nearly 15 years later, when Becky and I went for a walk in my old neighborhood, his house still gave me the chills.

I’m really hoping that wasn’t him driving down the Esplanade in Chico.

If you are one of my offspring, please read this:

I’m glad that you have somehow managed to find my blog and that your reading level has improved to get you this far into the post. Be sure to write down your reading times so we can add it to your homework log!

Now, you may read about some things that mommy did when she was in school that may shock you. I hope you take them as examples of stupidity and not examples of awesomeness.

Although they certainly seemed awesome at the time, there is nothing commendable about dangling your teenage body (or any aged body) out as bait for potential creep-encounters. I will continue to pray that you will grow up with more sense and personal dignity than I had when I was a teenager. Now get back to your homework/music lessons/SAT prep tests.

Love you, forever,

Mom