I have never felt like "one of the guys." I did not know how to be "one of the guys" and I much preferred to be around girls. As noted, I had my first crush when I was in first grade, but I have found that I just feel more at ease around girls and women than I do around other guys. I read a book recently about George Washington in which the author said that the first president also felt more at ease around women, but that this did not mean, as it did with other like Jefferson or Hamilton, that the general had affairs. The fact of the matter was that Washington simply liked talking with women; he was more relaxed in their company than he was in the company of men.
One night during my ninth grade year, I was playing basketball at the stake center with "the guys", members of my ward's teachers quorum. We got to talking about girls and after awhile one of the guys asked me if there were any girls I particularly liked. I said that I really liked a girl named Susan (as usual, names have been changed). While I thought about Julie, my gut reaction was to not tell them about her.
I had met Susan two years earlier when we started our seventh grade year. I knew who she was before we actually met because she had won an election for class officer. One day a reporter from the school newspaper stopped me in the hall to ask me a “man on the street” type of question. Susan walked by as I was finishing my answer and the reporter turned to talk to her. When he asked her name I found myself suddenly blurting out her name and her title as a class officer before she could say anything. I walked off embarrassed and wondering why I had done that.
Later in the year, Susan sat behind me in my English class and I wondered if she remembered that little encounter in the halls. One day, when we were supposed to be doing class work, she started bugging me by poking me or tapping me on the shoulder – I don't remember exactly what. I would turn around and she would try to look all innocent. I would turn back around and she would tap me again. I couldn’t help but laugh as I turned around to tell her to stop. This went on for another minute or two until the teacher gave us look that said “Knock it off.”
Quite uncharacteristically for me, I didn’t take Susan’s teasing as anything more than friendship. Perhaps I thought that there was no way a popular girl like her could be interested in a guy like me. I didn’t have many friends throughout my elementary and junior high school years, and those guys who asked me about any girls I might have liked were certainly not my friends. When I told them I liked Sue, as her friends called her, they encouraged me to ask her to "go with me." They kept at it when I expressed a reluctance to do so.
I don’t know why I said I liked Sue; she was a friend but never anything more than that. Maybe I mentioned her because she was not in our ward. Beginning that year there were some girls, including Susan, who would say hi to me in the halls, but I was very shy and the best I could manage was to return a smile.
Anyway, the guys were very persistent in trying to persuade me to ask Sue to go with me. Finally I agreed to do it just to get them to shut up. I probably hoped that they would forget about it, but they kept asking me about it over the next couple of days. It soon looked as if I had no choice but to ask Susan to go with me. One day I saw her in the halls and stopped to ask her, but she was talking to someone else and I was too shy to interrupt. One of the guys saw me walk away and he asked why I didn’t ask her.
At the end of the school week, there was a dance after school. I asked Sue to dance twice; then after the dance was over I went up to her and asked if she would go with me. She said she was already going with someone. Maybe she was, or maybe she was just letting me down easy, either way I was actually glad she said no. I had no idea what I would have done if she had said yes because I didn’t think I was ready to start dating.
As it turned out, this was only the beginning of the story. For Christmas I received a new 35mm camera and when the new year started I took it with me to school because I wanted to take pictures at a basketball game. That year Susan was a cheerleader and she was on the far side of the court from where I was, leading cheers.
A few days later I was sitting at my desk in economics when Sue walked up. She said that she would appreciate it if I didn’t take pictures of her and then walked off. I sat there in shock because I honestly did not know what she was talking about. Okay, I admit to taking a crowd shot, which she would have been in as a cheerleader, but I really was taking pictures of the game. Now, I did not have a telephoto lens, so I could not have gotten any close-up shots – also, this was indoors and I wasn't using a flash, so these photos would not have been very good (even if I had not exposed the film trying to get it out of the camera).
The next week I brought my new camera to another after school basketball game. I had taken up a spot on the baseline near the stage and after awhile Susan walked up to me. “What are you taking pictures of,” she asked. After a moment of shy speechlessness on my part she asked, “The game?” I nodded and she walked off. The little photo crisis seemed to be over.
The story was still not over, but the next part would be completely my fault. Sometime that spring, my seminary class was assigned to relate personal experiences in turn during daily devotionals. Right away I had a problem; I did not have any personal experiences to talk about. At least, I did not think that I did.
I never had much to say, and I never thought I had any stories to tell. I can still remember back to fifth grade when I saw my former best friend listening as one of his new friends who was telling him a great personal story. I watched and realized why he had dumped me, I was boring.
In English class the year before we were given an assignment to write about a meaningful personal experience. I did not turn the assignment in because I thought that I had no meaningful personal experiences to write about.
As an adult, now I know I have stories to tell. I was recently teaching training classes at my job, and I shared many stories, from history as well as some personal stories, that I thought were relevant to the subjects being taught. I have this blog where I am always writing stories. But as a kid, I thought that I had no stories to tell, certainly none that would be of any interest to anyone.
As I tried to think of a personal story with a moral that I could tell when it was my turn for the devotional the only thing I could think of was how Susan thought that I had been taking pictures of her at the basketball game. The moral being something my brother always said about false accusations, “Get the facts first.”
But now I had another problem; Sue sat front row center in the class. How could I tell the story without everyone knowing I was talking about her? I tried to think of another story to tell but could not. So I told myself that maybe if I did not use her name and did not look at her while telling the story, then maybe no one would know Susan was the girl in the story. You may telling yourself that I was being naive, and you are probably right. Discretion, as they say, is the better part of valor, and I have learned how to be discreet, but discretion does not work when everyone else already knows the story.
The day came and I got up to tell my story. All seemed to be going well as I looked at everyone but Susan. It honestly did not occur to me that looking at everyone but Sue might tip people off that she was the girl who thought I was taking pictures of her. Near the end of my story I panned the classroom and caught a glimpse of Susan whose face was bright red in embarrassment. I knew right then that I had blown it.
As I suggested above, it also had not occurred to me that other people probably already knew about the camera incident and thus would already know who I was talking about. After my last class that day, the girl with the locker next to mine walked up as I was putting my books away. She said I had done a really mean thing to Susan that morning. Apparently the word had quickly got around the school because this girl was not in my seminary class. I tried to be coy and pretend Sue was not the girl I was talking about, but she wasn’t fooled for a minute.
This would not be the last time where I have felt that everyone knew the whole story when I knew little or nothing. Others had it together when I did not. Others knew the rules, the protocols, but I did not. I was lost in a wilderness of mirrors, but others had the maps. There are times even today that I still have that feeling.
Susan never talked to me about how much I must have embarrassed her that day; and I never went to her to apologize. On the last day of school Sue wrote in my yearbook that she was glad we could still be friends.