Nothing ruins a good story like telling it to someone who actually remembers the details.
On Valentine’s day this last week, I posted the following on Facebook:
On this day in history, 1973, I had a tiny classroom valentine I had given to a girl returned to me, unopened. I was in 5th grade.
Everybody gave valentines to everybody. How she knew it was mine I’ll never know.
I knew it was deliberate when I heard some other girls complaining that they didn’t know they were allowed to do that, or they would have, too.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Pretty sad, huh?
Yes it is… as I told it. However, I talked to my sister this last weekend (that would be my sister Squashya Russell) and she reminded me of a few facts I left OUT of my telling of the story. Squashya is seven years older than I am, and was in 12th grade that year, her last year at home. One of her best friends had a little sister in my class.
“Oh, you made those girls’ lives *hell* back then. You fancied yourself some kind of king of insult comedy. You’d get all this material off TV, or out of joke books, or dream it up yourself, then embarrass your classmates with it. The guys didn’t care, because they could take it out of you at P.E. playing football or basketball or whatever, but the girls hated it, and they hated you.”
Somewhere back in the dusty reference material that feeds into my self-serving memories, this seemed to have been indeed the case. It had, um, slipped my mind.
“That Valentine’s Day was the best thing that could have happened to you. You really got your feelings hurt, so — and I know this because you told us this, at dinner — you decided to start aiming all of the jokes at yourself. Some of the girls still didn’t trust you at first, but others thought it was funny, and by the end of the year, that cute Bridgit girl was sweet on you.”
“It was Velvet, but, yeah, that was the end of that year.”
“Of course, by the time you hit your high teens you couldn’t turn off insulting yourself and sabotaged every relationship you had for a good decade. But still, it was a step.”
As I recalled, I learned the art of verbal jousting as a defense mechanism against Squashya, and I reminded her of it.
“Yes, well, um, this isn’t about me…”
To any of you who want to withdraw the sympathy you expressed for me on Facebook, I will understand. The truth appears to be, that girl snubbed me on Valentine’s Day because I was a jerk.
My wife has said that my mom and my sister could have done a lot more to help me understand girls than they did growing up; however, they each had their own stuff going on. I wanted girls to like me, but, it was a long time before I realized that becoming a fully-realized human was and is the best approach for improving those sorts of situations.
The weird thing was, my tendency to have a large number of female friends did indeed start to blossom around sixth grade. I genuinely liked girls, which is (if you’re a guy) an entirely distinct thing from wanting them to like you. That turns out to be a quality some girls and women value highly, including the woman I’m married to.
But I owe you one, Squashya — you’re going to reminisce in my presence one of these days…