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Ah Junior High, that terrible den of hormone-driven drama and iniquity. I’m sure everyone has some interesting, if not embarrassing stories. Lots of people bury their experiences, but looking back I just have to laugh. Some of it is so silly that I don’t wonder that I know people who say that teenagers aren’t human. My diary from that time reads like a manic roller coaster list of cute boys what shifted from week to week. Lots of ‘so and so asked so and so out and she said yes!’ and laments over wanting a boyfriend as though it were something like owning a dog.

But then there were the horrible instances of being asked out by the wrong boy. Not the cute blond or the adorable brunette with dimples; the athletic golden boy or the whip-smart science buff you wanted as a peer tutor. Not the new kid with the sandy hair, freckles and the mildly exotic accent. No, my wild-haired bespectacled self seemed to attract the less athletic, less vibrant suitors. Instead I got the social outcasts.(Of course, it never occurred to me to actually do the asking rather than just fantasizing about it… I might have been pleasantly surprised rather than horribly crushed like I’d imagined.)

The instance I’m thinking about was in March of my Seventh Grade year, a couple of months before my thirteenth birthday. (and incidentally shortly before the second school dance of the year.) The kid in question was a pale, skinny guy who’d suffered a growth spurt just before school started and tried to hide this coltish limbs in enormous t-shirts. His hair was always stringy and he suffered – like most of us did – from acne all over his face and neck. His hands were always dirty; whether from working on cars or just because he didn’t wash, I didn’t know. I have to give the guy credit for creativity though.

I walked into Social Studies to find a paper bag on my desk. There was no writing on the outside, or anything. Not just any paper bag either: this had obviously been handled quite a bit. I remember this distinctly, because it was soft when I went to peek inside. Inside was this yellow-green gummy cat. At least I think it was a cat, it had ears and a tail and a face of sorts. It was also huge, about the size of my palm. I looked up and around at the people bustling around me to catch this skinny kid wave at me and smile nervously. I knew in an instant that it was from him and that this – offering, was some kind of overture, his way of “asking me out”. I smiled back and quickly sat down, leaving the bag on the corner of my desk and feeling the inevitable blush creep up my face.

I had this nasty butterfly feeling in my stomach – not the manic butterfly kind you get from the positive romantic possibilities, but the “OMG what am I going to do?” type jitters. This kid, lets call him Kory, was a known loner. When we had to group for projects I was nice to him (because why not?) and that’s probably what had prompted the gummy cat. I can’t recall who it was, but someone started snickering about the bag which caused a tidal wave of giggles and whispers that made the teacher get stern. I shoved the bag into my backpack and beat a hasty retreat as soon as class let out. I avoided Kory for the rest of the day, sticking close to my best friend whenever possible and ducking into the girls room when it was not.

My best friend, of course, was no help. “You should just throw it away, who knows where it’s been!” she said snidely. She may have been right, but I still felt bad. I agonized over what I would say to him the next day and even (gods forbid) enlisted my mother’s aide in figuring out something that wouldn’t crush him too much. I finally decided that the next day I would return the gummy cat and tell him I couldn’t accept it. There was no way I was going to eat it. And there was equally no way I was going to accept any overtures from a kid I had no interest in because how fair was that? Of course when I handed him the cat he was crushed and visibly so. I had waited until the end of class so that we could both slink away unnoticed. But that was not to be, I was teased about that cat relentlessly for weeks afterwards – as was he! Totally mortifying.

God, teenagers can be such assholes, eh?