“Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?” (or Mulan, Fundamentalism, and Me)

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It was 1999 and I was twelve-years-old as I sat on my bed listening to Christina Aguilera’s self-titled debut album on my Walkman to prevent the parental units from hearing some of the racier lines that weren’t exactly church-sanctioned—“Hormones racing at the speed of light / But that don’t mean it’s gotta be tonight … I’m a genie in a bottle baby / Gotta rub me the right way honey.”

I was an extremely sheltered Christian homeschool kid whose only real friends were other Christian homeschool kids at our church. The closest thing I ever got to sex ed., even while in high school, was when I was assigned to read I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Passion and Purity. The basic premise of the books when it came to sex: Just say no. We never even talked about anatomy, that was the Forbidden Zone.

But despite being so isolated even I knew that some of Christina’s songs could get her added to the ever-growing Banned List—the list that included things like Pokémon, almost all fantasy worlds besides Narnia, some Disney movies, computer and video games and movies that had magical components, and anything and everything that seemed to be going against my parents’ conservative Christian beliefs. Even I knew “rub me the right way” didn’t exactly fit with my family’s abstinence-only and no-dating/courting-until-you’re-old-enough-to-get-married rules.

Christina was my little secret. But what that album showed me as I sat in bed listening to her sing through my crappy Walkman headset was just how many secrets I had hidden. Read More


The Day I Ripped Up My Bible

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Before I even fully think through what I’m about to do, I grasp the edge of one of the pages and with a swift yank the tissue-paper page tears out with a satisfying rip. I’m holding a crumpled, torn page from my gray fake-leather bible in my hand. The page barely weighs a thing and yet the words on it feel as if they’re printed in the heaviest element in the universe.

I toted this particular bible around with me as I went to youth group camps, volunteered with the middle school group, and sat through countless messages on purity and modesty and “a woman’s place.” It was my companion as I strove to be “on fire” for God,  to follow the modesty dress code (which was continually growing and changing by the day), and to invite my “non-Christian” friends to church because the fate of their eternal souls was my responsibility. It was there as I had nightmares about the End Times thanks to my church’s fixation with the Rapture and it was there as I wore my light gray hoodie — JESUS SAVIOR written in enormous lettering on the front — around town in order to be a “witness.” It was there as I swallowed more and more mouthfuls of salty, toxic messages about my identity and self-worth until I was beginning to drown.

Nearly every morning during my adolescent years I opened its pages, praying that God would show me wonderful things from his word (a paraphrase of a verse I was taught to pray). I even snuck it along on sleepovers the way children bring along a favorite teddy (I’d read a few chapters early in the morning before everyone else woke up). I even read the painfully boring books like Leviticus, the books like Judges that could rival Game of Thrones in gore and violence, and the confusing, scary books like Revelation.  Each word, I was told, was “God breathed” — so I read them all, again and again.

I highlighted so many passages in my favorite gel pens, took so many notes in the margins that it was transformed into my spiritual diary. When I read it, I read not only the text but also all of the messages I heard, all of the articles and books I read, and all of the bible studies I went to. Even without the notes, I could hear the voices of so many people in my ears.

It was no longer a book that I read; it was a book that conjured up the dogma I’d been conditioned to believe without question.

Thanks to my Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome I haven’t even been able to look at it for a few years, so I’ve been storing it out of sight, behind a row of books on a rarely-used bookcase. But I’ve still known it was there. It’s still been there haunting me. As I held it, I just couldn’t take it anymore. And in a split-second I decided to rip a page out, hoping it might make me feel a little better. I’d planned on finding some meaningful way of disposing of it; maybe something therapeutically artistic or maybe something more somber like a funeral service for my old self, my old life, and this old book. But that rip was so satisfying, freeing, healing.

I immediately grasp the back cover of my small bible and rip it right off.

Rip.

I wrench a handful of pages out of the New Testament, and then begin shredding them into little bite-sized bits until the highlighted portions of the text are shredded and the marginalia is unreadable.

Rip rip rip.

My jaw is set as I fragment the Holy Text, taring and shredding as fast as my hands are capable. This is a violent, sacrilegious assault on a holy book — the holy book. This is a declaration of my freedom.

Rip rip rip.

I never thought I’d want to destroy a book, but now I feel as if I won’t find peace until the job is done.

Rip rip rip.

Tearing. Ripping. Breaking. Destroying. The pages, thin as they are, fight back — leaving red, raw marks on my fingers. But I keep pulling the pages apart as if my sanity dependeds on it. And maybe it does.

Rip rip rip.

Shredding some of the pages brings Younger Kelsey — with a passionate love for Jesus and a desire to be everything a Good Christian Girl is — back to life. She didn’t know she was being hurt; I didn’t know I was being hurt. And I cry for her as the rip rip rip continues.

Some of the thin bits of texts, like ashes, cling lightly to my clothing and float onto the ground. Ashes of my old life.

Rip rip rip.

Finally, when there is nothing left but a pile of paper shreds, I stop.

The bible no longer exists. I forcefully ripped it out of the present tense and damned it to the past tense. It’s gone. I metaphorically and literally destroyed the lies I’d been taught about my self-worth, personhood, and value; the lies I’d been taught about the people outside our  particular church building, the world, and even Christ.

I destroyed it, but not because I ripped it up. That book was destroyed the first time I’d graffitied religious cliches and self-loathing inspired theology on its pages. Today, I didn’t destroy it; I put it out of its misery.

It no longer exists.

It’s gone.

As I survey the literary carnage that lays in a pile on the table, spilling onto the floor, I notice a few tears on my cheeks; I notice how much my ink-stained hands are beginning to ache. Sometimes you don’t noticed how much something is hurting you until it’s over.

***

The journey towards healing from religious trauma, just like anything else, is such a personal thing. What are some ways — sacrilegious or sacred or something else entirely  — that you’ve found a little peace and healing in your own life? 


A Sunflower for Gilbert (Or, that Time I went to Hungary)

Flickr CC Rachel Samanyi

Flickr CC Rachel Samanyi

Honestly, I’m not sure we were supposed to be up there in the first place. Or even out of bed for that matter because the school, in order aid in the celibacy of the students, had a strict curfew. But there was something about quietly sneaking through a dark castle with towering ceilings and great windows that felt, to use an Anne word, romantic.

We weren’t kindred spirits to begin with. It’s not that we ever fought, but common ground seemed to be in scarce supply.

I’d only graduated from high school a matter of weeks before. Only spoke English. And was living and traveling on my own for the very first time.

Hermina, on the other hand, had grown up in Serbia, but after attending a university in Hungary had decided to call it home. She was very well traveled and spoke multiple languages fluently.

And we were roommates.

My ex-denomination had a bible college in a tiny rural town in Hungary. During the summer the old Hungarian castle — yes, it was a castle — served as a conference center for pastors and missionaries throughout Europe. And in 2005 Hermina and I found ourselves living together for three and a half months as we volunteered during conference season doing dishes, making beds, working in the coffee shop, and enjoying our one day a week off work.

As an “on fire” Evangelical youth I’d gone to Hungary with the goal of aiding those who were sharing the Gospel. However, what I actually ended up doing was converting someone to the Gospel of Saint Anne of Green Gables, patron saint of romantics and misfits everywhere.

One of the American staff members at the college owned all of the Anne films on VHS and Hermina, to my horror, had never even heard of Anne. So we located an old TV in a finished section of the attic that was used during the day as a classroom for the teachers’ children.

We didn’t have a lot of time for movie watching, so it took us a while to get through the films. But every night that we could, after the Hungarian castle was asleep and the lights were off, we’d tiptoe through lonely rooms that in their previous lives may have held grand balls but now, only a few hours before, hand been bustling with conference guests.

We’d climb several flights of spiral staircases with wrought iron handrails. And then, when we got to the top floor, would open a small door that looked like a closet but was  another set of stairs leading to the attic. Once there, we’d sit on the rug in front of the TV since the furniture in the children’s classroom was all on the small side. Hermina would lay on her stomach, taking in every moment, as I sat there feeling proud of my new convert.

The Canadian films were very foreign to Hermina. And some aspects about the historical context and word usage required a little translating.

“Why does Anne have such a strange last name?” She asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Of Green Gables — What kind of last name is that?”

“‘Of Green Gables’ is more of a title,” I explained. “It’d be like if I called you ‘Hermina of Serbia.'”

But one thing translated just fine: Gilbert Blythe. We may have been different when it came to age, education, and the section of the globe we called home but we both couldn’t help falling in love just a little with that steadfast Canadian. We fell in love with the idea of a romantic someone encouragings us in the pursuit of our dreams rather than standing in the way. The idea of being loved for both our mind and our daydreams. And the idea of being loved because of, not just in spite of, our quirks and faults and even the beauty we couldn’t see (like carrot red hair).

He wasn’t some rugged bad boy tamed by the love of a woman. Or a two-dimensional Prince Charming. Gilbert was the character, the man, who showed us what it meant to be cherished.

I loved watching Hermina react to the story that was by this time very familiar to me. It made it feel new again. She was annoyed with Gilbert when he had the nerve to call Anne carrots and pull her braid (and appropriately shocked and proud when Anne responded by cracking a school slate on his head). And then when Gilbert started to grow up and his admiration and love for Anne became increasingly obvious and endearing, she lamented Anne’s long-held grudge. She’d routinely ask, “Is she ever going to like him?” And I’d just laugh but wouldn’t say a word.

Hungary will always remind me of Anne and Gilbert, not just because I had the chance to share their story with Hermina but because Hungary would’ve suited them so well.

Anne would’ve loved spending a summer in that castle; she would’ve imagined the love affairs that had transpired there, and the ghosts that couldn’t bear to leave. She would’ve loved strolling through the little town past a small Catholic church with an overgrown, forgotten cemetery; the petite cottages that lined the street and were practically overrun with flower gardens; and the bright orange sunsets.

She would’ve loved the summer storms that seemed to roll in out of nowhere, and how the lightning would be so close that during the night it’d light up the entire castle like something out of an old horror film and how the windows with their old locks would sometimes blow open during an especially hard gust. She would’ve loved Budapest: the architecture, the vastness of the city, and the romantic but not-so-blue Danube.

Anne would’ve loved my favorite part of Hungary, too. She would’ve loved the fields of yellow as far as the eye could see, so bright it hurt my eyes. When Hermina and I’d drive in to Budapest I’d point out the window like a little kid who’d just spotted the gates to Disneyland for the first time. Look at that! It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. “Kelsey, they’re just sunflower fields,” Hermina would laugh. But there will never be such a thing as just sunflower fields. And Anne would’ve understood that.

And Gilbert would’ve loved how happy Hungary and the sunflowers made his Anne girl.

Like so many fans of the books and movies I’m heartbroken about Jonathan Crombie’s death (the actor who played Gilbert). But he will always live on in the movies and my memory as the one and only Gilbert Blythe. I’d leave a sunflower at his grave if I could. My memories of sunflowers and Hungary and late nights spent watching Anne finally, slowly, fall for Gilbert are all so closely tied together that no other flower would seem appropriate. But this will have to do, instead.

Wishing you fields of sunflowers, Gilbert.


Planning Wonder Woman’s Funeral

Wonder Woman “Today we’re going to get into small groups,” my thanatology teacher announced, handing out a list of questions. The challenge: planning Wonder Woman’s funeral.

Wonder Woman, according to our assignment, had tragically passed away after many years of kicking butt as a sexy crime fighting crusader in the name of justice. Because she was loved the world over, Ms. Wonder Woman’s only direct request was that her body disposition (what’s done to the body), final disposition (the body’s final resting place), and funeral service equally include all of the many unique death-related practices without offending or marginalizing any of the inhabitants of the earth.

The request was sweet … but not exactly simple.

Despite appearing noble and caring, for a universal icon to not play favorites when it came to cultural death-related practices, her request wasn’t practical or even, well, possible.

“This is taking too long; we’re not going to get done on time if we don’t hurry,” I said, looking at the clock on the wall.

“Maybe we need to just pick something so we can get started—say embalming, that’s a popular option,” one of my funeral planning teammates suggested.

“Yeah, it’s a popular option here, in the States,” I reminded. “But not even everyone in the United States wants to be embalmed. Entire groups of people would still be left out.”

It’s just flat out impossible to sprinkle someone’s cremains and simultaneously embalm their body. It’s just not going to happen. And someone looking for an all-natural just-dig-a-hole-and-throw-me-in-it style burial won’t want all the embalming chemicals and they’re not going to want their body sprinkled somewhere like crumbs being shaken onto the ground off a picnic blanket, either.

Then there are always the more unusual options, like cryogenics or allowing the corpse to rot (yeah, it’s not really my first choice either) or possibly even rockets (well, at least in a universe infested with super heroes). That’s not even all of the options when it comes to deciding what the heck to do with someone’s body!

Therefore, whatever we did with the body of our deceased crime fightin’ gal, someone was, inevitably, not going to be a happy camper. Some entire culture, if not multiple cultures, would feel forgotten or completely offended. At least a dozen sacred religious traditions would be violated. And there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it.

We couldn’t even decide what to do with the body let alone what type of funeral service we’d have. Would it be somber or celebratory like a wake? Would it be religious—and, if so, what religious traditions would it follow—or secular?

“Why didn’t Wonder Woman just say what she wanted?” one of my partners said in exasperation. “Then, even if people didn’t like it we could at least tell them that it’s what she wanted—that it was honoring her wishes.” But now all the blame for this imaginary funeral planning would fall squarely on our shoulders’

However, unfortunately for us, Wonder Woman hadn’t considered the level of stress and frustration her vague request would cause her poor funeral planners in their sociology class.

As I weighed various personal, cultural, and religious reasons for cremation versus embalming, it suddenly occurred to me that “don’t spend a lot of money”—my only stipulation for my own funeral and body disposition—was just as impractical and potentially problematic as Wonder Woman’s request.

No matter how well my family knew me they would still be left guessing about the specifics: Would she have preferred embalming, cremation, or an earth burial? What about a viewing? Would she have wanted specific music or a slideshow at the funeral? Would she have wanted a funeral at all? And if so, should it be a secular or religious? Or some combination of the two? And what about a grave marker?

I realized not giving my family any details would be like when a friend says, “Oh, you know what I like” in response to what she wants for lunch. Instead of her nonspecific order helping the situation by making it less complicated, it just makes things unnecessarily difficult for everyone (Does she want a hamburger or a cheeseburger? What size fries? Would she want a drink? Diet or regular?).

Whether I want my family fretting about my funeral or not … they will. And unlike Wonder Woman’s funeral planners, who were sitting comfortably in their Sociology of Death and Dying classroom, their biggest concern being the upcoming midterm, my relatives will also be grieving. They’ll be mourning, overwhelmed with options, and unsure what I would’ve really wanted.

While it might be impossible to please all the inhabitants of Earth the way Wonder Woman had naively hoped, I can at least take some of the future burden of funeral planning off of my family members by making my final order a little less vague.

Fries, and supersize ‘em


How I Met My Nerd

Day 1

It was a crisp early morning in January, the very first day of my second quarter at community college. As I unpacked my purple notebook, purple gel pen and matching purple stapler, I felt nervous about all the newness of the quarter — will I like my teacher and how will I do on the tests? After 4.0-ing two out of three of my classes the previous quarter (let’s just say PE and I didn’t exactly get along), my personal academic aspirations were pretty high. I was sitting in the front row, determined to fully live up to the good-students-sit-in-the-front stereotype in all its glory. I even highlighted my goal grade — 4.0 — on the class syllabus in, of course, purple.

Adventuring in Seattle a few months after we started dating (March '11).

Adventuring around Seattle a few months after we started officially dating (March ’11).

Dr. Jansen, our Intro to Political Science teacher, began class that morning by informing us all that Syllabus Day (the most boring day of the entire quarter: it pretty much consists of explaining that, yes, we have to do homework and it’d be a good idea to show up for class) was going to be moved to the following day. Today, we were going to be concentrating on getting to know each other. Oh, boy.

The class of groggy college students groaned at the idea of human interaction at eight o’clock in the morning. Several were still nursing their morning cup of joe. And it appeared, at least to me, there’d be not just one but two boring days to start off the quarter. Sigh.

First, I introduced myself to the girl on my right. Her name was Nicole, which I promptly wrote down in purple ink in my purple notebook to keep from instantly forgetting. She did 4-H, liked horses, and also loved the color purple. The boy on my left’s name was Ian, which I didn’t bother to write down because that’s my brother’s legal name so there wasn’t much chance of me forgetting. Based on his t-shirt, he seemed to like video games. I had no interest whatsoever in video games. And I decided, after our brief exchanges, to make more of a point of getting to know Nicole; after all, she was a girl, liked horses, and also carried a purple pen, so we had things in common.

Later that afternoon, while sitting in my third class, Introduction to Formal Logic, I noticed the guy with my brother’s legal name and the video game t-shirt sitting across the room from me as our philosophy teacher lectured on the syllabus: Yes, there’d be homework and, yes, it’d be a good idea to come to class. Here, I learned video-game-t-shirt guy was a philosophy major.

Day 2

He moved across the room in Logic so that he could sit right next to me. Uh-oh.  Warning bells went off in my head. It was only the second day! If things kept up, I feared I’d have some brokenhearted philosophy major on my hands by the end of the quarter. Would that mean he’d plunge into an existential crisis when he realized I was so focused on school and work that the only dates I went on were with my textbooks?

After he’d settled into his new chair directly next to me, he tried to make small talk. He complimented me on one of the pins on my backpack which read: I heart nerds. Oh crap. I just thought the pin was funny! And I’m not even really that nerdy, sometimes I even have to think before saying Star Wars or Star Trek to make sure the right one comes out (and, sometimes, it doesn’t). And now some guy is going to take it as encouragement! Ugh. 

Once home, I decided it was best to not wear the pin declaring my love of nerds anymore in public and, therefore, promptly pinned it to my bulletin board. There, I thought, it would never have the chance of giving anyone false hope.

Day 3

He noticed my pin was gone. Awkward. 

Day 4 

We hung out between classes. Well, actually he followed me to the library and I didn’t know how to politey say, “This is the hour I spend happily and completely alone. And like a smoker missing their smoke break, if I don’t get my ‘me time’ alone with my own thoughts, homework, and dreams of getting stellar grades in college, I might get pissy later.” But because I couldn’t think of a nice way of telling him to scat so I could be by myself, we worked on Formal Logic homework together. A logical way to spend my interrupted personal time.

Day 8

I was feeling nervous about Formal Logic — it’s like algebra, only more alien looking and without any numbers — and math gave me anxiety like nobody’s business. Ian offered to look over my homework before it got turned in. After taking Intro to Psychology the previous quarter though, a class where 25 percent of the students flunked simply because they didn’t bother to ever crack the $100 hardback they’d purchased, I didn’t have very high expectations of my fellow classmates. But he seemed to be getting the whole alien puzzle thing our teacher called “Formal Logic,” so I let him take a look.

Day 12

Letting him look over my homework had been a mistake, I decided. Sure, he’d been able to catch a mistake, which meant I’d gotten a perfect score on the assignment … but now he wouldn’t stop trying to help me! He was constantly attempting to look at my homework so he could “help.” Frustrating boy. I could do it just fine on my own, thank you very much.

Day 17

He’d continued unabated in his attempts to help me with my homework — usually Formal Logic but he was game to help with Intro to Political Science, too.  At this point, I began to complain to my family: “I’m so frustrated! There’s a guy at school who thinks I’m cute but really stupid. He’s always trying to help me with my homework because he thinks I’m dumb and can’t do it on my own! Ugh.”

This was the very first thing my family ever learned about him.

Day 29

He was still asking to help me with homework! How insulting. He obviously thought I was an adorable moron. How nice.

The now almost daily complaining to my family about the boy who thought I was cute but dumb, had continued for a while. They all seemed to empathize with my plight. That rude nerdy boy.

Day 35

It’d been one of those everything-that-could-possibly-go-wrong-did-go-wrong days. So I was feeling pretty blue. He noticed I was feeling sad and offered to treat me to a movie, so we went to see Sherlock Holmes that evening. It was surprisingly fun, and he didn’t treat me like he thought I was dumb either. He actually seemed to think I had interesting things to say.

Day 36

Hanging out had gone well the day before and life was still pretty crappy, so he initiated getting together again. We walked around a park and ran a few errands. One of the stops involved swinging by his folks’ place to pick up a few grocery items. His parents seemed nice, but it was a little awkward to meet the parents of guy you only just decided you might be able to be friends with. A few days later, he told me that his mom thought we were dating — or nearly dating — and had even told his sister about “the cute girl Ian was with.” AWKWARD. Like, super awkward. In reality, I was only just coming to terms with the idea of maybe being friends because maybe — just maybe — he didn’t think I was dumb, after all.

Day 1461

It took about six months from the time we first hung out before I decided that I liked him (for him, it was oh-she’s-cute-and-I-should-get-to-know-her-by-trying-to-help-her-with-homework at first sight). Then, I was concerned about compatibility: we had some very different ideological perspectives, which meant that we viewed life, relationships, and all kinds of very important things from different lenses. This began our six month long ideological discussion: we read books, watched lectures on DVD, discussed and disagreed.

Almost exactly a year after we’d met, we eventually decided that we’d reached a point where we were compatible on the main issues and were wiling to be gracious on the minor ones. I’d spent the entire six month long discussion wondering if it’d end with the answer being no; I’d tried to brace myself for it. But the answer, thankfully, wasn’t no and I couldn’t have been happier.

And, after we’d been officially a couple for almost three years, we book the chapel, I bought a dress, and we said our vows. And that brings it up to today: exactly eight weeks since we were announced husband and wife, and exactly four years since we first met in Intro to Political Science. I guess being made to introduce myself to the students sitting next to me turned out to not have been a waste of a day. And I guess I do love nerds — well, at least my nerd — after all. But I still don’t wear the pin. Instead, I now wear a wedding ring, which I guess pretty much means the same thing.

Copyright 2014 Kelsey Munger. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email me at KelseyMunger1[a]gmail.com. Stay up to date by following me on Facebook or Twitter


My Life as the Invisible Eighth Grade Girl

Eighth grade was the year I decided my self-assumed secret identity — Invisible Girl — sucked.  It was also, coincidentally enough, the year I met Older Boy. He was a ninth grader, and I was fairly sure there was some sort of middle school social code indicating that he was out of my league. After all, he was a whole year older than me. But even if he was never going to know I was alive, since I was only an eighth grader, upgrading to Partially-Invisible Girl still seemed like it’d be a nice change of pace.

There’d been guys who’d caught my eye before. But even the ones who’d made me furious with myself for becoming one of “those girl” whom I’d vehemently sworn I’d never become — a boy’s-name-doodler, an oh-my-gosh-he-actually-knows-my-name teenager — had still never interested me enough to attempt to have a conversation.

So, I accepted my new and potentially horribly embarrassing mission: talk to Older Boy. Okay, so at that point I hadn’t even managed to spit out my name successfully, but I was aiming high.

I began keeping a detailed account of my attempts at first contact with my targeted member of the opposite sex in my journal (I refused to call it a “diary” because that seemed to imply I wrote about nothing but teenage angst and boy drama).  The entries read something like this:

Dear Journal,

Older Boy sat next to me in youth group today. I’m sure that’s because it was the only chair available, but it was still nice.  He tried to talk to me about what language I want to take next year in high school, but I got embarrassed and just ended up muttering something. Not even sure what I said. Gosh, I wish I wasn’t so invisible.

Dear Journal,

On the way home from winter camp Older Boy sat next to me. Everyone on the bus was singing to pass the time, except me because can’t sing that well.  He tried to get me to sing and, when I wouldn’t, he looked into my eyes and sang directly to me until I finally sang along. It’s nice when he happens to sit next to me.

I wish I was one of the pretty girls that boys actually notice.

Dear Journal,

I wore mascara and green eyeliner for the first time today. Older boy made a big deal about it and said it looked nice on me. I can’t believe he noticed. How embarrassing! Maybe I don’t like wearing makeup after all.

Dear Journal,

Something exciting happened today! He invited me to his birthday party!  I really, really wanted to go but I didn’t want Mom to know I like a boy. That’d be so embarrassing! And I couldn’t think of a good excuse since none of my friends who are girls are going.

Everyone teased Older Boy after he invited me to his birthday, said he really wanted me to come.  I wish that was true.

Dear Journal,

Well, I’m back from the mission trip to Mexico. One of the girls on the trip told me that her cousin hates me because she likes Older Boy and thinks he likes me. How silly is that? Older Boy still doesn’t even know I’m alive and now some girl hates me because she thinks I’m competition. It’s so not fair. Sigh.

I dedicated an entire written work (cut Middle School Kelsey a little slack here, it was a small journal and the lines were spaced rather far apart) to my hopes of one day being Slightly-More-Visible Girl.  I wrote about how lucky I felt that Older Boy just happened to end up sitting next me so frequently. He didn’t really know I was there, but it was still nice.

Sometimes I wondered if I was supposed to tell him that I liked him; that’s what the movies and songs on the Billboard top 100 seemed to say, right? You like someone, so you tell them. But that just seemed terrifyingly awkward and I wasn’t sure what the point would be, anyway. Like a house cat finally catching the elusive robin in the backyard, I wouldn’t have had the foggiest idea what to do if Older Boy had returned my I-don’t-know-you-at-all-but-you-seem-cool-and-funny-so-I-like-you affections.

As I hoped he’d notice I was alive, he sat next to me, tried talking to me, playful flirted, hinted that it’d be great if I came on various youth group events that he was going on, complimented my looks … and would probably fall out of his chair today if he found out that the girl he could never get to talk to him, the one who seemed so utterly uninterested, had actually been logging all of our encounters with a green gel pen all through eighth grade.