Why My Creative Nonfiction Professor Thinks I Am A Mess With The Ladies

If things had gone differently, I have full faith that I would still be with a girl named Lauren N. Lauren was the cutest girl in my second grade class. Our relationship developed, as most second grade relationships do, on the playground. The playground is essentially the bar of elementary school. You go there to do other things (drink, talk, dance in the bar; chase, swing, slide in the playground), but everyone knows if you are spending time on the playground, you are single.  All the boys with girlfriends play kickball.

I was a committed bachelor. Whereas other boys were self-conscious on the playground, chasing girls so that they could ultimately land spots on the kickball court, I reveled in the chase. I had no interest in kickball. I had chase strategies: Foster a friendship with the girl. Converse with her on the swings. Jump up suddenly. Chase her. Direct the chase to the Hill. Outlast the girl on the Hill.

If I managed to outlast the girl on the Hill before the end of recess, in my head, I had two options. I could choose to be the girls’ boyfriends or start again next recess. Before Lauren, I always chose to start over. But Lauren was special.

Chasing Lauren started off like chasing any other girl. I got her to the Hill by the end of recess without any problem. Then something interesting happened – Lauren began to talk.

“Oh, I am just so glad you are my boyfriend.”

Emergency lights began flashing in my head. I hadn’t committed to anything, had I? This wasn’t part of the plan. Identify, chase, reset. That’s what I was used to.

***

  • Chelsea B., if I hadn’t been too afraid to talk to an older girl.
  • Libby H., if I hadn’t written that short story where the love interest was named “Libby” and then published it in the school newspaper that her mom was the faculty adviser for.
  • Ruth Z., if I hadn’t believed that her parents didn’t want her dating.
  • Elizabeth G., if I hadn’t told her that when I hugged her it felt like I was hugging my sister. I don’t have a sister.
  • Mary T., if I would have let her drunkenly make out with me.
  • Lindsey J., if she knew that one of our professional dinners was actually a date.
  • Jess R., if I had never asked her on a date.

***

I gulped as Lauren took my hand and led me back down the Hill to stand in line for the end of recess. My days of recess bachelorhood were over. I didn’t even know how to play kickball.

I didn’t take well to a relationship. I disliked being around Lauren, but she insisted that we spend all of our free time with each other. It became quite clear that puberty had not yet hit me. I knew girls were different, but I was not yet attracted to them for that difference. I was more attracted to the fact that they would run when I chased them. If a boy had done that, I would have chased boys. (And would have probably faced ridicule from the kickball courts.)

Imagine my surprise, then, when Lauren began whispering about a secret plan. A secret sleepover plan. Lauren, being the worldly woman she was, knew that couples sometimes spent the night together and so she began talking of me coming over to her house when her parents were asleep. I was petrified. Never mind that we were eight years old, had no sense of direction, no transportation, and no way of getting past locked doors. I thought this plan was a very real possibility. It literally kept me up at night.

I spent hours wide awake, trying to devise an excuse. But I knew I couldn’t come up with an excuse for every night. I was only a second grader, after all. My schedule wasn’t exactly brimming with other engagements.

One night, as I was lying awake in my bed, quivering fearfully from the thought of spending an entire night with Lauren N., my father came in my room to check on me. He noticed I was awake.

“Is there something the matter, son?” he asked.

“Lauren N. wants me to have a sleepover with her!” I said tearfully.

My father waited patiently as I explained the situation to him, and then he introduced the greatest childhood excuse ever devised. “Just tell her that your mother and I aren’t comfortable with it.”

***

  • Staci B., if she hadn’t gone to an all-girls school after kindergarten probably because her father was frightened by the fact that I was her only friend.
  • Liz A., if her parents hadn’t forbidden her reading Harry Potter.

***

After my parent-developed excuse, the issue, for me, was resolved. I told Lauren the next day that my parents would never go for it, and in a weird not-yet-rebellious second grade world, that seemed to work. I was free to chase again! Life regained its sweetness.

But I soon realized my mistake. Lauren, after all, was the cutest girl in my second grade class. I had ruined my chance with her. The first reason, then, that Lauren and I are not still together is because I, in my second-grade ignorance fearfully told my parents about what would have been the first of what I can only guess would have been hundreds of romantic trysts.

The second reason that Lauren and I are not still together happened a week later. Right before lunch, we were pulled down to the guidance office. The guidance counselor, a small, kind, middle-aged woman named Mrs. R, ushered us into her office.

“I hear that you two have been thinking about… dating,” she started. I rolled my eyes. Back at this. I had been chasing new girls on the playground for a whole week. Lauren had tears in her eyes.

“I think we can all agree that the two of you are a little young to date.”

I was nodding profusely.

“So I thought we would come up with some appropriate ages for dating.”

Mrs. R pulled out some hokey picture book that she had bought with school funds for occasions like this one, and read us a story about Jack and Jill who dated in high school and then got married and lived happily ever after.

“See,” said Mrs. R. “Dating in high school doesn’t put you behind. So, what do you think would be an appropriate time to start dating?”

Lauren answered first, sniffling as she did. “High school?”

“That’s great, Lauren. That’s really great! Now what about you, Spencer? When do you think is a good time to start dating?”

We had just read a story about people dating in high school and getting married. Lauren had just answered high school. The answer should have been obvious. But I crossed my arms and answered: “College.”

***

  • Bethany M., if I hadn’t smeared dandelion on her Abercrombie cardigan at recess.
  • Lauren P., if I hadn’t gone to the Spring Fling with Amy V.
  • Amy V., if I hadn’t almost elementary-school cheated on her with Lauren P.

An Incomplete List of Things I Don’t Understand

1. The process of growing up. How do I know when I am thinking like an adult? Is the fact that I am asking that question disqualify me from adulthood?

2. The chorus of “Racks.” This is not entirely relevant but it still bothers me.

3. Athens attractive. Only in Athens, as far as I know, do women find barefoot, unbathed men with long unkempt hair and beards universally attractive. This is not to rail against those men. I love them very much. It’s just that Ryan Gosling, Usher, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Justin Timberlake, and George Clooney are men I can admit to be attractive. I have no problem doing it. I can’t say the same for Athens attractive.

4. Why people “like to flirt.” That’s like liking to put your keys into the ignition or liking to use a fork to pick up your food or liking to put lids on cups. These are necessary things, but they aren’t the fun part. The fun part about human interaction is not the flirting. It’s intimacy. Intimacy is also scary, I know, I know. But seriously…

5. Who invented chain e-mails? Who was the first person to be like “I’m going to make my friends forward this useless message to their friends by threatening death by maniacal clown?

6. Women.

7. House parties. I can’t hear you when you are talking. All the girls are going to be gone by midnight with the tall, unbathed, bearded guys. And everything is going to be sticky in the morning.

8. People who use texting as if they were writing long, instantaneously-received letters to each other. If my thought to you can’t fit into 160 characters, I usually feel like I’m being annoying.

9. All human relationships. Why anyone would willingly yoke themselves to me is beyond my comprehension.

10. Analytic philosophy.

11. Rape jokes. Is the idea that if you tell enough of them, they magically become funny?

12. Engagement pictures. What do they do? I mean, they are fun, but wouldn’t it be more fun to dress up and go do cute things together  and pose without a camera? Think about all the funny looks!

13. Coffee. I drink it sometimes, but aren’t coffee-drinkers a more “sophisticated” form of the kid we used to make fun of in sixth grade for drinking a Mountain Dew every morning?

14. Pinterest. It’s like a mysterious universe filled with wedding dresses.

15. How people get invited to weddings. I am now in my 20s. I should be being invited to weddings of friends. That way I can show off my dance moves and woo women by telling them my theories on why liking to flirt is silly.

Turning the Other Cheek Turns Emotions Into Justice

I’ve always kind of struggled with the concept of turning the other cheek and all that.

Our God is one of justice, right?

The Lord works righteousness
And justice for all the oppressed (Psalm 103:6)

So why then are we not allowed to help with that whole justice thing?

A lot of people try to explain this away by saying that we don’t really know what justice is – that only God can judge. I don’t know about that. I know that rape, murder, and slavery are wrong. That’s a judgment. I think I am capable of judging. And we forget that turning the other cheek has to do with someone slapping you. Slapping is pretty wrong, I think. I know that I don’t like it when someone slaps me.

I’m in a Psychology of Gender class this quarter. In that class, we are learning about pro-feminist men right now. Pro-feminist men are men who actively support feminist women to push gender equality. I think pro-feminist men are pretty awesome. Feminist women are pretty awesome, too. It takes a lot of courage to stand up against oppression. But I’ve been thinking a lot about pro-feminist men. I’ve been thinking about how they don’t really have a lot to gain from gender equality. Men are on top. In fact, a lot of men fear that gender equality would mean loss of status for themselves. Pro-feminist men have to believe that gender equality is intrinsically more important than having a wife who stays at home or who is submissive.

There are studies out there that show that the shackles of oppression begin to fall off when members of the oppressor group begin to speak out for the oppressed. Sexism is most successfully combated when men correct their friends when they make a sexist joke or when men refuse to take a job that they have obtained based on sexist hiring practices.

Like most things Jesus taught, the turn the other cheek policy shows a keen insight into human nature. It’s easy to be angry when you have been attacked. It’s easy to clamor for justice, then. But mostly, that’s just emotion. When a friend makes fun of me, I am not mad because my friend has violated the intrinsically moral rule that making fun of people is wrong. I am mad because I was the subject of the ridicule. And if I say anything, it is easy for my friends to say that I am making a mountain out of a molehill. But what if I never got mad when people made fun of me? What if, instead, I made fun of myself?

Then, when someone was making fun of another friend, I could say something. Because people would say “Hey, Spencer is usually so chill about joking around. We must really be out of line if he’s not okay with this joke.”

That’s what turning the other cheek does. It creates a world in which people know that your emotions are not tied to your sense of justice.

What It Means to Fall in Love a Dozen Times a Day

Sometimes, I like to tell my friends that I fall in love at least a dozen times a day. I tend to get a lot of weird looks and people yelling at me when I say things like that. I obviously don’t mean that I daily go through the complicated process that might end in marriage or that I think the real falling in love thing requires no social interaction.

What I mean by it, then, is that I develop crushes like nobody’s business. Are you an artist? Then I probably have a crush on you. Are you a musician? Then I probably have a crush on you. Can you speak intelligently and convincingly about something? Then I probably have a crush on you. Are you driven? Then I probably have a crush on you. Are you passionate about something? Then I probably have a crush on you. Do you consistently love people in really big, awesome ways? Well, you get the idea…

Believe me, I understand how silly all of this is.

But, a crush is simply defined as an “usually temporary infatuation.” And this is what my crushes signify. It’s not that I believe I could spend the rest of my life with almost every woman I meet or even that I believe I could successfully navigate a relationship with them, it’s that there are things about almost every woman my age that I find temporarily infatuating.

And then I got to thinking. Right now, these “crushes” are really unproductive. I recognize them as “crushes.” Society tells me that crushes are important. I don’t want relationships with all crushes. I avoid until crush is over. Silly.

I figured out a way to make crushes really productive though: I recognize them as things about people that I really admire and like. I tell the person in question about her quality that I really admire and like and why I admire and like it. I spread good cheer. Awesome.

See, I do that last strategy with my male friends all the time, or I like to think that I do. I tell them that I love them and when they do something awesome, I tell them. But I’m all jittery about doing it with my female friends, mostly because I think when I recognize something cool in them, it means I’m crushing. It’s probably time to graduate junior high.

What types of things make you “crush”?