When I was a senior in high school, I had been dating my boyfriend for over a year. (Note: This was in my heterosexual days when I hadn’t yet realized my love for pussy. Aaaand proceed). His name was Nico and he was my best friend. We spent every day together and were practically Siamese twins, attached at the hip/neck/you choose. I admit, we were pretty co-dependent, but I loved being part of a duo. Even as a 17-year-old girl, amidst all my imperfections and my menstrual periods, I understood what it was like to be unequivocally on someone else’s team, no questions asked. If he had to work a double shift at his job, you bet your ass I was bringing him lunch that he didn’t have enough time to buy for himself. I’d fill his car up with gas, babysit his younger brothers when he couldn’t, help him with homework, you name it. He was my partner. (Side note: He was also technically my partner-in-crime, we went through a big shoplifting phase.)
As a bit of a cinephile, I had romanticized what my senior year of high school would look like because of the movies I idolized: “10 Things I Hate About You”, “She’s All That”, “Never Been Kissed”, and so on. I was the protagonist to my own 90’s high school movie, so of course my senior year Homecoming Dance would be built up as a pivotal moment. I would wear a dress! Heels, even! And I’d dance to songs like “Yeah” by Usher (because that’s what was popular at the time). Move over Jennifer Love-Hewitt, it’s my turn bitch!
I never desired the “girly” things like being on Homecoming Court. I much rather would’ve been moved up to the Varsity softball team for my tireless efforts as Girl-Who-Is-Probably-Totally-Gay. In terms of coveted popularity, I knew that titles like “Homecoming Queen” were reserved for girls like my friend, Danielle Burry: a human cupcake. To this day, I haven’t met a person who dislikes Danielle. Though she was a close friend of mine, she also happened to be Nico’s ex-girlfriend, the ex whom I always knew he still had a thing for. I don’t blame him. The girl was a dreamboat with breasts that shouldn’t have been on a 16 year old. My insecurity towards him still harboring feelings towards her was a point of contention in our relationship but we worked past it as best as two young adults that had never taken Psych 101 possibly could.
I didn’t have the most conventional childhood. I was expected to understand larger concepts of the world like death, mortality and disease when kids my age were learning how to tie shoes that didn’t have Velcro. Once my mom passed away, my Grandma Georgianna stepped in as the caretaker while my dad worked around-the-clock. I watched “The Price Is Right” more than any 6 year old should, ate fish sticks as a regular part of my diet and loved every second that she read stories to me. My dad remarried a few years later and we moved when I was in 6th grade, which uprooted me from the only sense of normalcy I had ever known. Throughout middle school, I played after-school sports and consistently had amazing grades but at home it felt more like my new family and I were doing our best impression of a family more than actually being one. Vacations to places like Orlando or Myrtle Beach were a fucking nightmare but we made sure to smile in every picture for the benefit of someone else who wasn’t even in the room. As a teenager, I tirelessly wrote in my journal like Sebastian from “Cruel Intentions, stealing scissors and paste from my sister’s desk drawer so I could really authenticate the entries by pasting pictures and tiny objects like necklaces onto the pages of my notebook. I incessantly re-watched comedies like “Dumb and Dumber” over and over again until my step-mom Lynette was finished slamming the door in my dad’s face. I turned the volume all the way up on my TV to drown out the endless yelling, the threats, the cops, the sounds of a very damaged marriage ending horribly. For most of my formative years, I felt utterly alone. TV shows like “Buffy” and “Saturday Night Live” or movies starring Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler were the only things that made me feel less like an alien because they made me laugh. If I didn’t have a TV in my room, I honestly don’t know how I would’ve even gotten through the terror of middle school and the abundance of cyber bullying and AOL Instant Messenger. My Grandma GG died a year after we moved and the loneliness grew even deeper. High school was no picnic. I desperately wanted to fit in but I always felt one step behind. Guys only started to notice me once I got contact lenses and ditched the mouth fashion because as we know, beauty is skin deep. I hadn’t met any romantic prospect that sincerely laughed at my jokes, genuinely wanted to spend real actual time with me and gave me a sense of belonging until Nico came along. My 90’s movie love interest in real actual form with eyes so blue you’d think his dad was part Atlantic Ocean.
The week of Senior Homecoming started like the Act I of my 90’s high school movie. On Election Day the halls were a buzz about who was going to be on Homecoming Court. People in my classes would tell me they were going to vote for Nico and I, something I never even considered in my wildest dreams, especially given my pedigree of unpopularity in middle school and practically being invisible (I wore a lot of khakis and the colors of the rubberbands in my braces coordinated with whichever holiday was coming up because I had seasonal mouth fashion). Once this possibility of spotlights, sashes, popularity, recognition, and all other elements of being on Homecoming Court entered in my brain, I suddenly wanted the conventionality I never had. I wanted the girly things! Just this one time, please give me the girly thing of feeling beautiful and liked! When it came time to vote, I felt less alone. I felt seen.
Alas, I didn’t get on Homecoming Court. I remember sitting in Mr. Jackson’s Sociology class and having that sinking feeling when I didn’t hear my name over the intercom. Sad, but not the end of the world. However, Nico’s name was called. My partner. My Siamese twin. His once-conjoined body being torn apart from mine.
I could’ve gotten over not getting put on Homecoming Court. It wasn’t that big of a deal. When the time came for the Homecoming football game the day before the big dance I was practically numb to it. I drifted through the night with a fake smile and an “I’m so happy for all of them” grin that here in adulthood we all have perfected.
Let’s get real. This post is not about how I didn’t get put on Homecoming Court and me whining about the politics of social hierarchy. You see, before Nico and I had started dating, he had a best friend named Jason. Once Nico started dating me, the time he spent with Jason started to dwindle. Jason did not like this very much. In the words of every parent that met Jason, he was “a horrible influence” and in the words of me, he was “a total piece of shit.” Rather than saying, “Hey man, let’s go kick a ball around and talk about feelings,” Jason decided to take his latent anger out on me, which most of the time I could laugh off and then bitch about to Nico in the car ride home.
At the Homecoming Game, after I had already buried my feelings about going back to being plain old courtless-Brittany, I overheard something while I was sitting on the bleachers watching Nico receive his sash at the 50 yard line along with the 9 other chosen ones. I found out (and then was told in great detail) that Jason and a few other dickless guys told everyone in their classes to not vote for me to be on Homecoming Court because Jason pitched to everyone that it’d be funny if Nico and his ex-girlfriend were crowned King and Queen, to my chagrin. My largest fear, the kryptonite of mine and Nico’s special (albeit juvenile) partnership. That dickholey antagonist took exceptional effort to make sure that I would be hurt for his own amusement, so I would have to watch my insecure 17-year old girl nightmare happen in front of my face.
In bleachers surrounded by my entire Senior class, I felt entirely alone. I needed my partner. My person. My confidante. I excused myself (probably told everyone I had diarrhea) and I ran t0 the locker room that I knew Nico would be headed towards. I sprinted across the parking lot, tears trying desperately to not escape from my eyeballs. Stay in there, saline demons! All the football players, cleats clacking, were ahead of me. I caught up to Nico in the parking lot and grabbed his arm, desperately hoping he’d be the Freddie Prinze, Jr./Heath Ledger/Michael Vartan to my damaged protagonist that needed him so badly. He’d hold me. Wipe my tears away. He’d pummel the shit out of everyone who made me feel so hurt. I could hardly get out the full sentence of what Jason had done before Nico brushed me off, only thinking about himself saying that he “played a shitty game tonight” and therefore couldn’t “deal with me” right now. He walked off and the cleats kept on clacking as I stood in the middle of a full parking lot. Alone. In my room. Writing in my journal. Trying to drown out the doors slamming in my house. The screaming.
That night I lost the one teammate I truly ever thought I had. My partner. My Siamese twin. Up until that point, I had never understood disappointment quite like that. Of course I was hurt by how many people went along with this fucked up movement against me, by people I considered friends and overall just being in the dark about something so hurtful. I ghosted through Senior year with an emptiness towards everyone. I quit the softball team that year and completely disassociated myself. I didn’t even want to go to Prom for fear that this would happen on repeat. I was mad at everyone. But nothing compared to how I felt towards Nico after that. The one person I expected to have my back, stick up for me, or at the very least show a sign of human dignity had completely failed me and I was heartbroken. We dated the rest of our Senior year, but I never forgave him and I operated through a very limited range of emotions towards him. He failed to do what I, without question, would’ve done for him.
Is this currently being pitched for the “She’s All That” reboot? No. But I’m trying to get at something deeper here.
Since the fiasco in the parking lot, I’ve had my own adult versions of not getting Homecoming Court that have manifested into mental breakdowns, long road trips by myself and even longer Microsoft Word documents that will never see the light of day. I realize now (and of course, shortly after my Senior year) that Nico was never actually my teammate. He would’ve never brought me lunch, would’ve never babysat my (non-existent) brothers, or would’ve never even known where my gas tank was. He never knew about the journals, the desire for the girly thing just once, the perpetual slamming door, my Grandma’s funeral. In all honesty, him and I aren’t even friends on Facebook anymore. He takes a lot of selfies and I’m pretty sure he’s Republican now.
I’m nearing 26 years old. I’ve been in love with two women. Beyond that, I’ve had a decent handful of romantic relationships, ones that acknowledged exclusivity and a loyalty to the other person in the most basic sense. In all honesty, I rarely have romantic prospects that stick around longer than 3 months. For various reasons: because I’m not ready, or because she’s not ready, or because we’re not a match, or because Mercury is in retrograde, you name it. However, at this point in time, I can say with confidence that I’ve never found a teammate. I’ve never even had a relationship that closely resembles anything that I’d want for myself. No one has ever held my hand through the fire that is life. No one has beat the shit out of other Jason’s I’ve encountered in adulthood. No one has ever made me feel less alone on the bleachers. There’s not one person I’ve dated that knows my deepest feelings about my mother, my Grandma Georgianna, my family, death, depression, marriage/kids or my career. They never asked. And I’m not blaming them. I mean nobody can possibly know the expectations that someone else has set up for them, so how would they know when they fall short of them?
I float through my love life burrowing disappointment after disappointment the way I’ve burrowed loneliness throughout the years. I’ve learned to cut something off quickly when I discover that someone I’m dating lacks compassion. I feel myself shut down more and more with each shitty realization of not finding a partner in someone I thought would’ve been. I spend my free time planning a Kickstarter to fund enough money so I can scientifically clone myself, then date myself, and be my own god damn partner in life. I’ll bring me water before bed, leave the coffee on in the morning and beat the shit out of anyone who hurts me. I’ve gotten choosier in my still-not-old-age. Just like my greatest Little League coaches, the moment that I sense you’re not a team player, you’re kicked off my team. The sad truth is that some adults can’t even be their own partner, let alone yours. But the even realer, sadder truth is, we’re all so afraid of being vulnerable and talking about that vulnerability, that we can’t really admit to someone what we really need to feel secure and loved and less afraid and in my case, not in the bleachers. So we all just drift alone like free agent ghosts until someone waves at us eagerly and says “I pick you!”, slaps a jersey on you and then promises not to pull the rip cord that dangles in front of all of us when we fear getting hurt.