Day 72: Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

1) When a young man says, “I’ll call you,” the statement is often equivalent to “See Ya.” It’s another form of goodbye, where you never see the person again.

2) Just because a man goes to couples counseling with you doesn’t mean he’s not married and also going to couples counseling with his wife.

3) People will most definitely look away and cringe, if you share up close photos of giving birth or breastfeeding. Then they won’t want anything you offer them to eat.

4) When you are a restaurant hostess at a popular night spot, even if your boss says to be honest with the customers about the wait time for a table, do not smile and say: “That will be about 137 minutes.”

5) If one hairdresser tells you that you should always wear bangs, that doesn’t mean you have to wear bangs for the next five years.

6) If a dentist says, “In order to blend in your dead front tooth with your other teeth, the best method would be dyeing all of your other teeth darker,” run and don’t look back.

7) When the orthodontist tells you, as a teenager, to wear the headgear and neckgear for your braces to middle school, don’t!

8) If a boy calls you cow eyes, don’t go home and cry, punch him.

9) When you are little, don’t wear the same hippy dress you love two years in a row for school photos.

10) Don’t play tunnel tag in the short, Italian wool dress your grandma gave you , unless you wear shorts underneath.

11) Tell your mom when you get your period. Don’t wait three months, and don’t use the free, plus-size, super absorbent, expandable tampons that the gym teacher passed out!

12) Don’t buy life insurance and agree to automatic payments from your bank account, and then wait three years to research if the company exists. It doesn’t.

13) If you have just given birth, and you are sharing a hospital room with a new mother who talks nonstop on the phone into the late hours of the night, complain.

14) If you are an elementary school teacher, and spend three hours on a letter of recommendation for one of your fifth grade students, make sure you spell the student’s name correctly, especially if you don’t want to irritate the parents.

15) While a student in middle school, don’t draw pictures of different boys’ body parts, label them with names, descriptions, and insults, and then leave the illustrations behind at your desk on accident.

16) Even if you have dyslexia, don’t put the spelling words for the test inside the pleats of your cheerleading skirt. You will greatly disappoint your teacher.

17) If you have big ears that stick out, and people laugh at them, wear your hair down until you have high self-esteem.

18) If Italian in America, pluck thick Italian eyebrows, and remember Italian only has one letter l.

19) Don’t save a drowning honeybee in a swimming pool; sensing danger, he will buzz super loud warning his friends. His friends will land on your arm and sting you!

20) When a fake blonde, with a fake tan, and fake nails tells you, “You would look pretty with highlights in your hair.” Don’t say, “I prefer the natural look. I don’t like fake things.”

21) If your boyfriend’s mother invites you to a private lunch, with just you and her, and then says in confidence, “Don’t date my son. You are too good for him,” listen.

22) If you have the flu, and are ghastly sick, don’t beg your boyfriend to take you out-of-town to meet his parents for the first time.

23) Don’t date your weight-lifting trainers. Just don’t.

24) If you are getting a haircut as a teenager, and the hairdresser ignores you long enough for your wet hair to dry, before she returns, leave.

25) The movie Fargo is not a good first date movie.

26) Ask Dad before rearranging his entire dining room and living area.

27) Ask Dad before bringing the puppy home.

28) If you are going to miss one day of college for a funeral, you don’t need to write a letter and then cry to the professor in the hallway, in order to be excused.

29) French classes in high school and college are useless as a second language when you live in California.

30) When you have a long-term boyfriend, and you meet someone at the public swimming pool, you don’t give another boy your phone number and say: “I have a boyfriend, but let’s be friends.”

31) When a young teenager says he’s going to travel from his town 100 miles on his bike to come see you, he might just do that. Better to tell him ahead of time, you have a boyfriend and you aren’t interested.

32) If a young teenager says he’s going to drive his car across country to see you as soon as he gets a job, his license, and a car, probably not true, regardless of what he promises.

33) If you write enough letters to a school district office about the hard water from the sprinkler system damaging the paint on your new red Mustang car, when you park in the parking lot at the school where you work, the district will pay for all the employees to have their cars detailed; however, the superintendent of the district will not smile at you ever again.

34) If you consume too much Excedrin, iced tea, and soda at the same time, you will have a caffeine overdose; and to avoid a thousand dollar hospital bill, you will have to convince the health insurance company the trip to the emergency room wasn’t due to a panic attack.

35) If you’re a teacher and the principal says to you, “You should choose between raising a family or being a teacher, you can’t do both well,” sue him.

36) If an acupuncturist tells you about his failed marriages, his mortgage, his childhood, his parenting woes, and then spanks his wife on the butt in front of you, all while you are under treatment atop the table, don’t go back to that acupuncturist. And don’t feel guilty about not going back.

37) Doctors are practicing medicine.

38) You will offend a LDS person by calling them LSD, even if you have dyslexia.

39) Not a good idea to say, “That pisses me off,” in front of an entire fifth grade class, when you are a teacher.

40) No amount of protesting and letter writing or phone calls will keep a principal from assigning you to teach seventh grade, instead of elementary school, if she thinks you are a good teacher, even if you cry and tell her you hated middle school as a child.

41) If you kiss a mean ugly man enough times, he remains a mean ugly man.

42) When you ask a boyfriend, “Should I get a shorter haircut,” and he says, “That depends.” And you answer, “That depends on what,” and he responds, “That depends on if you are planning to lose weight, or not,” run away from the relationship.

43) The joke: When you’re dancing with your honey and your feeling kind of funny, and your nose is kind of runny, but it’s not, isn’t funny after the age of ten.

44) Don’t read your personal diary to fickle teenage girls.

45) When you are a kid, don’t announce to your seventh grade class you are wearing your first training bra.

Day 56: Nothing But a Heartache

 

At any given time, from the age of fifteen to twenty-seven, I tried to have a best friend and a boyfriend. This pair of people anchored me: the best girl and the best boy. In some ways, people would consider me lucky, as I seemed to attract the handsome boys. But some handsome boys, and boys in general, I later discovered, could be bad boys, too.

Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome have reported that they didn’t have a romantic relationship for a long time, if ever. Me? I instinctively clung to boys starting at the age of five. Probably as a result of the gap I needed to fill based on the absence of my father and the busyness of my single mother. Being an only child in a world of ghosts, precognitive dreams, and extreme sensitivities to people, places, things, while having an acute sense of sight, sound, hearing, and touch, left me longing to cling to something, if only for balance and retreat.

As I reached my teenage years, I became liken to a high-quality, food storage, plastic cling wrap. I’d seal a male over with my entire essence, and remain stuck there, in full-grip mode. I remember thinking I was experienced with relationships. Keen on how they worked, what to do, and how to keep a “man.”  But I wasn’t.  I was weathered for certain: rusted around the outside like a metal pole set out in the rain one too many winters. But I definitely wasn’t experienced.  I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to take care of my needs and wants, beyond lassoing a male to do things for me.  I was quite pathetic, in an unintentional, hadn’t-meant-to-be, way.

By my early twenties, after graduating from college with honors and starting my first teaching job, I was deeply ashamed of the woman I’d become.  And more times than not, I didn’t know the part of ME that I played in life—didn’t know my lines or even where to find the script. From one moment to the next I was changing.  In one scene I played the role of the dedicated soon-to-be school teacher, and in the next a desperate crazy fool clinging to whatever man she could get her hands on.  A fisherman in the game of love, I’d learned to bait my hook and cast my pole, but hadn’t known to catch and release.

As time passed, each man I met, no matter where or when, who showed the slightest interest in me, soon became my new love interest.  I was fortunate in high school to have had two boyfriends (at different times) that treated me tenderly and with respect. However, later, I dated men from all walks of life, most of whom were extremely damaged in someway or another.  And all who were addicted to something or someone.

The worst of being with a man came in not what they ever did, but what I let myself do.  I made men my bed, and I slept in them while walking through life.  And I fooled myself repeatedly into thinking I was content.  It didn’t matter if the bed was too small, or too big, or if it had lumps.  It didn’t matter if the mattress was missing all together and I was made to sleep on the cold hard floor.  It only mattered I was in the bed, or at least what I’d thought to be a bed.  My mind fooled me.  My heart fooled me.  My logic fooled me.  While all along my spirit wept.

There has never been such a horrible part in my life as the years I walked half-blind to my own wanting.  In essence I was a prisoner, unable to move forward, sideways, or even backwards without pushing, dragging, or tricking myself in any given direction.  Best to stand still in one spot—best not to move an inch—if that was possible.  But it wasn’t.  I had to keep going.  I had to keep stepping somewhere.

The highlight of my dating career had to be the season I spent with the habitual lying, sexually addicted Don—a man five years my senior, who behaved ten years my junior.  At first glance I’d fallen head-over-sandals in love with Don.  The summer day he confidently strode through the Catholic daycare where I worked, I’d tucked myself halfway behind a shelf of books and drooled over his perpetually sun-kissed skin.  He was everything I’d wanted, dark and handsome, and tall enough to look down at me with his bedroom eyes.

The times Don and I were together weaved in and out sporadically through a span of half a decade.  When I first met Don he was separated from wife number one; when I last reunited with Don, he was struggling to patch it up with wife number two.  I was the in-between, but one Don swore up and down he intended to marry.

The majority of our relationship played out like an ill-plotted soap opera, with me as the dimwitted, star-struck mistress, and Don as the notorious villain. I can laugh now, find many lessons in the journey with Don, even thank him for the crash-course in what-not-to-do ever again; but back then, having no other models for beneficial love relationships and no avenue for escape, I was stuck in the mire of pain and misery, a self-invented trap that I had no idea of how to release. I cried daily. I wrote dark or needy poetry. My focus from morning to-night was Don. My life was Don. My reason for living was Don.

There was the time I dialed his number obsessively, about twenty times, just to hear his voice on the machine; the time his lover called me and said: “Just so you know I’ve been sleeping with Don every morning after he leaves your house. I’m those ‘business trips’ he’s been on.”; the time he totaled his uninsured truck out-of-town, and called me to come get him from the hospital, even though he’d been secretly rendezvousing with another that day; the time Don and I threw a Halloween party (which I obsessed and over planned about) and no one came (except a few of my teaching program college mates), because all of Don’s “friends” didn’t respect him; the time I drank an entire bottle of wine and slammed my finger in the closet, because I’d yet again been waiting for Don to show up.

He had a habit of just not showing up. Just not being there. I’d come to expect it. To recognize the raw acid-burning pain in my chest that signified the abandonment soon to come. There was pain continually lurking behind the wall of my psyche. I’d be in bed, the only one awake, and ritually would cry up to the heavens, begging for a way out, for understanding, but mostly for a way to make him love me.

I didn’t know any better. No one had taught me. And Mother, though I love her, hadn’t prepared me. Everything I’d learned from romance came from Mother or movies, or maybe from watching soap operas or another person. I didn’t have standards. I didn’t know what standards were. And I didn’t know why someone wouldn’t or couldn’t love me. I thought everyone was good, everyone just, everyone honest, everyone sorry.