Jenny Williams was slated to be baptized. It was to be an important transitional day for her, she was told. It would bring Jesus into her soul, she was told. It meant that all the eyes of the congregation would be on her, she was told. It meant that she would have a delivered pizza later that afternoon with her preferred toppings and not Eliza’s. With that, she was sold.
When she went to junior high parties and the host’s parents bought pizzas for all the girls and boys present, she felt obligated to share her one pizza story. At first, either no one listened or they nodded in order to make her feel comfortable. When she shared the same anecdote at a high school party in 10th grade, they laughed at her–and not for the good reason.
Jenny’s older sister Eliza had warned her that high school kids were cruel. Her prediction rang true throughout that whole year as she unwillingly became known as the churchy girl in class. Trying to explain to her peers that she and her family do not even go to church much anymore was, she learned, a waste of energy. Kids that age don’t typically listen to rational thought.
As a junior, Jenny began dating a little. Dating in high school is harder and harder to explain. Gone are the aw-shucks scenarios where boys nervously ask girls out to dinner or a movie. Gone are traditions such as opening doors or buying flowers. In Jenny’s case, she’d watched two different boys on different occassions play the same shoot-em-up video game. As optimistic as she tried to be about boys her age, she was constantly reminded of their immaturity.
Then she met Mike. A sophomore. In college.
Mike didn’t go to church but he did smoke pot and go to college parties. Jenny didn’t allow herself to become a statistic–at least not the superbad, criminal kind. She drank a little–Mike knew her tolerance before she did–and met more interesting people.
This story doesn’t end badly, but you were thinking it would, right? You wanted her to get mixed up with the wrong crowd or get raped or perhaps get so high or drunk that she loses her ability to operate a motor vehicle. None of those things happen in this story. If you were thinking they would, perhaps you’ve been conditioned by other artists and writers to believe those are the only outcomes for a character with this setup.
I chose not to let that happen to Jenny.
So I saw my ex-girlfriend in the grocery store this afternoon. She had a baby with her. It (the baby) isn’t mine or anything, but I found myself spending more time looking at it (the baby) than I did her (the ex-girlfriend). We’d been broken up for maybe two years or so, but we’d (clearly) changed a lot in those two dozen months. I noticed no ring on her finger, and she kept referring to the baby’s father as “her father.” Formal, for her; trust me.
That implied a few things. We didn’t speak long, but I avoided eye contact with her and it (the baby) by staring in the direction of a bright red frozen meal inside the refrigerated section of aisle seventeen. It implied that its father was not around, not around very much, or missing. Or perhaps too poor/cheap to buy a ring. Girls will tell you fellas that as much as they say the size of the ring matters, it really truly does not. Sure, they may wish you were richer and could afford a larger ring. Here’s what I’ve noticed, though. They like the gesture more than the ring. If you give a girl a ring and make a promise to her, and she feels the same way about you, you’re golden. Sure, you can make a speech about how you’ll buy her a larger ring after you make some more money. She’ll say No No No..This one’s perfect! If her face is bursting with energy, you’re good to go.
There was no energy–and definitely no ring–on my ex’s finger. When I looked at the baby, I saw the eyes I fell for when I met her mother years ago. It took a full twenty seconds or so making mindless chatter and staring at that baby’s face for me to remember why she and I had broken up in the first place.
Then I remembered that I tried really hard to bang her best friend and neither of them was into that.
Surprising? It shouldn’t be. Men are baseless scum for the most part. We have morals sure, but we’re also programmed to conquer. Some of us seek out women; others, men. Whatever. But if we get an idea and convince ourselves it’s going to work, we’re hard-pressed to let society’s rules pin us down and tell us no.
Sorry, folks. Truth is damaging at times. Frankly, I wanted her to put that baby down right there in aisle 17 and take it as we faced the frozen microwaveable meatloafs.
Wouldn’t you know it, though? Someone jingling keys abruptly interrupted my impromptu fantasy.
“S’goin’ on, babe?” the guy asked, looking me dead in the eye.
She introduced me and I shook the prick’s hand.
She cleared her throat. “He’s a friend from school. Says he and his wife could babysit anytime we need…for free!”
I knew the next day that I’d have to start looking at bigger rings.