A Salute to Stupid Moments.

Many Moons Ago, back when all the world was young and I was in high school, I was in love with this girl.

Let me be clear: I was surpassing smitten. Totally twitterpated. Beyond befuddled. Past Pathetic. You get the idea.

We had known each other since middle school, and things had never quite worked out. There were 150 miles between our homes but by the time high school rolled around it sometimes felt like there were only inches between our hearts--THAT kind of pathetic.

I suppose this story takes place in late high school, maybe 15 or 16 (I graduated high school before I turned 17). We'd been conversing at this point for maybe 4 or 5 years. We saw each other maybe three or four times a year if we were really lucky, but it didn't matter. I'd met her mom, but hadn't yet had a chance to meet her father, though I'd heard a lot about him (Architect, Vietnam Vet, Professional-Quality Photography hobby, a bit on the serious side, etc.).

We were trying to keep things on an even keel, because we knew the distance, so we tried our best at being close friends without ever really committing or starting a relationship, and it gave this this surreal air that drove us both nuts, but it was easier than committing and then spending our months openly pining for one another, I thought. All that reall happened was we pined secretly, but it was high school, and that sort of stupidity on the part of our hearts was tolerated by our adolescent brains, which hadn't yet developed properly, I suppose.

I distinctly remember a get-together of a large group that we jokingly called "The Krew" at the time (a name I gave it, I suppose) at a mutual friend's house. His story and how her story and mine interact are their own series of dramas for another day and another time. Beyond complicated. Anyway, the lot of us (maybe six or seven teenagers, all close friends) were hanging out at his place and went for a walk.

When we returned from our walk, her father had arrived and she spotted him in the foyer. She drew me aside and introduced me directly to her father (the man who, had I had the smarts to admit it, I wanted to be my father-in-law within a decade) personally.

And stupid, retarded, ignorant, high-school-student me did something truely beyond idiocy.

Over the high school years I was the confident, outgoing kid of most of my social groups, including the Krew. I was the one who was self-assured enough to speak out at any time, tell a joke anywhere, and get away with it. And I was uncool and unattractive enough to still be approachable by most people, so I could dance a fine line with most of my high school friends and be glib and flippant and it came across as arrogantly cool instead of just clueless.

It was a habit I had picked up sometime in middle school, instead of a wave to friends, I would throw an at ease off-hand salute. Almost tossed carelessly from my forehead, it was the ultimate in immature high school gestures.

And standing there, in the foyer, meeting the father of the girl I loved, I saluted in this exact manner.

No "I've heard a great deal about you sir. It's an honor to meet you!" No extending a handshake. Just a flippant gesture and an "Oh, hi!"

Within moments my collosal error had been registered in the deepest recesses of my brain and I felt like an idiot but you can't pause midsentence halfway down the hall and run back and say "Sir. . . my brain misfired. Can I shake your hand and try this first-impression thing again?"

I was so ashamed of it that I never mentioned that meeting again. I never even apologized to the girl (who deserved it, since I'd just made a fool of her with my sloppy manners) for the scene. In different circumstances, months later I would meet her father again and we would have a series of far more successful interactions and conversations, but I would always remember what a horrible ass I had made of myself in that foyer and it's a memory that has stuck with me.

In time she gave up on me, and I moved into school with a gusto and buried myself in my work, and she fell for someone else. I guess in the end maybe it didn't matter that much, I can't imagine that single event was the breaking point or anything, but it still sticks out in my mind as an error I should never have let myself make.

Ah well. Consider this story my salute to stupid moments. We all have them. I guess my objective in life is to minimize mine.

Thursday, June 30, 2005


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