Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The good old days

I'm not Peanut, obviously, but Peanut has kindly given me permission to write things that you probably shouldn't read.  Yay!

Let's start with a story for people who idealize "simpler" times, before the hustle and bustle of cell phones, when neighbors helped each other out and families worked the land to provide for themselves.  Want to know what it's like to live off-the-grid and have a family in a quiet country area?  I can help!  As a bonus that surely isn't at all related, I can also tell you about grade-schooler pregnancies!

For some back story (bear with me), I grew up just outside of a rural town with a population of 450 people.  We didn't have cable, or the internet, or even 911 service (because they needed fancy city luxuries, like street names).  The public school, however, was amazing.  It raked in obscene amounts of money from oil, meaning we took a lot of field trips and had so many books.  (Teachers were still a bit of a crapshoot.  While I was there, three teachers and one principal were accused of being a little too friendly with students.)

We had pretty normal school crushes, despite our options being naturally limited by math.  But once you had a "boyfriend," you were permanently attached to that guy.  Sure, you could fight and break up like people did on TV, but you always got back together.  Always.  These matches were locked in by the 3rd grade at the latest and could only be shaken by drastic events, like a new kid moving into town.

I paired off with a boy who had the same hair color as me, which seems like as good of a reason as any when you're in first grade.  We'll call him John.  John was "the rebel" of my class.  His parents were divorced, which was unheard of there.  He lived with his dad, wore torn jeans and a black leather coat, and liked skulls.

John was the perfect boyfriend for a tomboy.  We had lots of fun exploring abandoned houses and catching lizards.  I had two best friends (who were also appropriately matched off), and we all played together like normal kids.

Years passed like that.  We entered the 5th grade.  One of the girls in my class was mysteriously absent for a while, and when she came back, she had a baby with her.  How cute!  She was seeing a guy who went to college in a city about 30 minutes away.

This didn't strike me as odd.  I was 11, still at an age where I accepted most things.  My parents weren't ready to explain why it should've been unusual.

Unconcerned, I continued to spend my free time reading lots of books and playing computer games.  My friends were more adventurous.  John started smoking and pressured me to try it (note: we're still 11).  Unfortunately, my parents were already heavy smokers and I thought it was gross, so this became a huge point of conflict in my relationship with John.  His friends started getting frustrated with our weekly breakups.

Two of them finally approached me one day during lunch.  I was sitting in the elementary school cafeteria.  "You need to hurry up and have sex with John soon," they said.

I was stunned.  No one had brought that up with me before.

They explained.  "You need to do it before you get your period so you won't get pregnant."

I don't remember what I said, if I responded at all.  It suddenly felt like my friends were living on some other planet and had left me behind.  Half of my sister's friends (2 years ahead of me) either already had kids of their own or were about to.  A few years further, the girls turning 16 were getting married.  Why?  Because those girls wanted to move out of their parents' houses, and they had to get married to do it without being considered runaways.

None of that seemed unusual.  It's what I grew up around, so of course it seemed like a perfectly normal choice for them to make.  To me, they were just growing up.  But I still believed in fairies and unicorns.  I wasn't ready to grow up.

So at the age of 11, before my parents had even thought to sit down and have "the talk" with me, I broke up with John for the last time.  I didn't want to start smoking.  I didn't want to have sex with him.  That was final.

I was an instant outcast.  I no longer belonged with my friends.  I couldn't just move on to someone else, because all of the other boys in my age group had already been matched up.  Like any good pre-teenage girl, I dramatically accepted the fact that I would be alone for the rest of my life.

Two years later, my family moved to "the city."  Population: 100,000!  There, I finally learned that it wasn't normal for girls to have kids by the time they leave high school.

(John called me a week or so after we moved away.  Before you think it's too pathetic for a guy to call a girl two years after she broke up with him, note that when I made the decision to break it off, knowing I wouldn't have anyone else to date, I also similarly doomed him.  He was forced to be single for those same two years because of math.

Okay, yeah, it's still kind of sad.

Anyway, when he called, something didn't sound right.  I asked him if he was drunk.  He replied, "No.  Well... maybe."  I hung up.  That's the last memory I have of my first-ever boyfriend/crush/whatever.  I was 13.)

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