October 6, 2009

The Fine Line Between Crazy and Crazier

I spent a good chunk of my teen years being Emily's sister. She is three years older than me and beautiful and smart and talented…you get the picture. Oh, and did I mention she was sweet and kind, too. So, when I was a freshman in high school and she was a senior and she suggested we double date to go to the Winter Formal I jumped at the chance. Her date, John, was a guitarist in a local band called The Socials that played the CYO circuit. He was what the kids call "cool." I was not.

I managed to procure a pity date and a dress. The date, Gary, was a friend from junior high who I am sure accepted the invite because his mother made him. He was sick the night of the dance but came anyway, thank God. He may have been burning up with fever, but he was there. The dress wasn't really a dress, but a long black taffeta skirt paired with a white blouse. I looked a bit like a witch with big hair.

John drove since Gary and I were only 14 at the time. Plus, he had a convertible Volkswagen Rabbit. I know what you're thinking, how cool could this guy be? Way cool.

Emily, I am sure, did my make-up and hair and likely instructed me how to pose in the pictures. She was pretty excellent like that. Next to her, I looked like the youngest sister-wife on a polygamous compound, but she didn't seem to care. She wore a blue taffeta off- the -shoulder number, probably in a size 2.

We went to a Chinese Restaurant before the dance. No doubt Gary and I never said a word. I was terrified. Sure, he was just a friend, but this was a date. A DATE.

You might be wondering why I remember all these details. Emily and I discussed them this past Saturday night on the way to The Socials reunion concert at Carrollton Station. Driving there, Emily reminded me of the double date. She remembered that while at the restaurant, a little boy got stuck in his chair and John rescued him. I had forgotten that part. I was too embroiled in my own self-pity and fear to notice the other people on the planet.

I remembered that John's car got broken into while we were at the dance and his radio was stolen. I also remembered that I was exhausted by the end of the evening because I was tense the whole night from fear, self consciousness and being in a mild state of panic.

Therefore, my level of enthusiasm on the car ride to the reunion show was not stellar. I felt 14 again. I was Emily's little sister. I wasn't dressed like a teen fundamentalist, but still, I felt like Julia Child next to my sister. She is effortlessly beautiful and petite. I am big and loud and feel like a giant next to her.

I am also 40 years old and pretty successful in my career, but somehow those aspects took a back seat Saturday night. Instead of a successful businesswoman and mother, I reverted to that 14 year old girl whose pity date had walking pneumonia and whose skirt was too tight around the waist.

We listened to the band and they really sounded quite good for guys who had not played together in over 20 years. But it was loud and smoky and I kind of just wanted to go home and go to bed after, but we decided to wait and say hello to the guys in the band after. I figured it would go like this:

Emily: Hello, it is so good to see you! Blah, blah, blah…witty and charming quips.

Band Member #1: Emily! Oh you look so beautiful, you are so wonderful, I remember everything about you and I adore you.

Emily:     And you remember my little sister, Claire?

Band Member #1: You had a sister?

I wasn't upset about this; it is simply how I expected it to be. It was how it always was, right?

But, it was not how it panned out. All 4 members remembered my name and who I was and did not need an introduction. They were kind and inviting and charming and, well, regular people. Their wives were there supporting them and cheering them on. They have kids and lives and grew up, just like me.

I had appointed myself second chair; I was not elected into that role. I spent my high school years pretending I didn't care when I did, and acting like I hated everyone when I didn't. I feared everyone and it always came out wrong.

On the way home from the concert, I felt a little sad that I have spent so much of my life here on this earth boxing myself in and comparing myself to the people around me. Abysmal self-esteem is a difficult place from which to escape. Its vine-like grasp is constantly trying to suck me back into that dark place. In truth, I am comfortable there.

But the sadness lasted only a moment, and then it was gone. I am in the here and now and I am, today, the woman I always wanted to be. I took a circuitous route that involved lots of ugly dresses and poor choices, but I got here all the same.

I am still Emily's little sister, but today, I am honored to be in that role. It is one of the many roles that I cherish.

Just for kicks, I unearthed my journal from my high school years. I did this for 2 reasons: 1) I figure reading my old journal entries would give me insight into my mindset back then and 2) Emily swears I dated one of the guys in the band, but I have no memory of it.

I did learn some things about teenage me. I was obsessed with boys. Sure, every girl at that age (well, every straight girl) is obsessed with boys, but seriously, I was obsessed. Like, future stalker obsessed. And, every time I would "fall in love" with a new boy, I would start my journal entry with "I am in love with William James Smith*" I listed out their full names like a string of serial killers. (*Names have been changed to protect the innocent victims of my "love.")

Also, I had some serious anger issues. Frankly, I am shocked I didn't end up spending senior year at some institution getting my GED using fat crayons instead of sharp pencils. Daddy issues abound and if anyone at my high school had found the journal, I would have been prosecuted a la' Columbine.

I also had body dysmorphic disorder. I still have that, but I only weighed 115 pounds in high school and thought I was obese. These are the words I used in the diary, "I am fucking obese." Oddly, my writing style has changed very little over the past 25 years.

Anyway, Emily was right. I did "date" one of the guys in the band. And by date, I mean I wrote in my journal that I was in love with him (his full name of course) and then a few pages/days later, I wrote that he was a jerk and that I was now in love with some other wonderful boy. Relationships back then were so easy and brief, weren't they? Now it's all, we have to stay together and make this work.

I also found an entry that detailed my plan for running away from home, which I suppose I scrapped because I did not ever do it. And, I was under the impression that Emily and I were best buddies all through high school, but even poor Emily did not escape the wrath of teenage me, the serial boy lover/stalker.

All I can say is thank goodness for time and distorted memories.


damselfly said...

Claire - If you rememeber Emily and I were good friends our senior year. I remember your freshman year and also remember you being your own individual Claire - never referring to you exclusivley as "Em's little sister." I also remember which one of those "Socials boys" you dated... ;^). Shell

Fish Out of Water said...

It's funny how what we feel on the inside and what people see on the outside are so different sometimes.

Laura Ferry-Jimenez said...

carmen's not even a year older and I totally get this. that and the fact that a boy on the bus once called me "carmen's lil sister" and pretty sure that was signed in my yearbook, too. hmmm... katrina has washed away any evidence I have! grrrr.

and I always thought I was sweet and passive til my cousins corrected my vision with that of a stubborn child who rips up crayons! hahaha. xoxo.