I don’t know how old I was when it dawned on me that maybe I wasn’t like everyone else. Maybe in high school? But I loved high school and had the best group of friends whom I treasured and I was lucky to have a few close friends I shared everything with. Almost everything. I never shared my innermost fear that I was different. Even though I had ridiculous crushes on boys, I was literally terrified to date, kiss or be part of any kind of intimacy. And I could clearly see I was alone with my paranoia. None of my girlfriends seemed to feel like me so I said nothing and hoped, in time, these feelings would go away.
Our small school in the village of Greenleigh only went as far as grade 6 and as I entered grade 7, I went from my comfort zone of knowing every kid in the school to being just another face in the crowd. So, you can imagine my astonishment and stunned delight when the most popular boy in grade 7, Randy Bernard, waved to me from across the gym as I ate my lunch with my circle of friends. I choked back a mouthful of sandwich, then smiled shyly and returned the wave over my shoulder, trying hard not to blush. In the same instant, I realized the beautiful and popular Lisa, in the group next to mine, was simultaneously smiling and waving. In horror, I glanced back and realized he was looking at her not me, his sidekick, Matt, grinning at my blunder. Cheeks burning in humiliation, I stared down at my soggy peanut butter and honey sandwich and prayed to disappear. Dork.
Then, in grade nine, when Jimmy in grade 10 asked me, a minor niner, to go steady, I said yes. The voice in my head hollered, ‘What the heck? Why is he asking me out?’ But he was cute and popular and he had noticed ME, insignificant, goofy Maisie Duncan. Well, it lasted exactly 3 days. When he held my hand in the halls and cuddled me close in front of my locker, I froze up like a block of ice and told him it made me uncomfortable; because it did. Dork. He quickly moved on to one of my self-assured friends who obviously did not suffer from the same odd hang-ups as me.
One day, as I walked through the gym, I had the misfortune of passing in front of a bunch of grade 10 guys leaning against the wall. Ridiculously self-conscious, I tried to move quickly past them, hoping not to garner any attention. When I heard a chorus of adolescent male laughter, I turned back to see Mark Feldon, strutting behind me, imitating my walk, his butt stuck out, his chest thrust forward, his finger twirling a lock of hair, his lips puckered prettily. I could have punched his grinning, acne-festered face. Instead, I ducked my head and all but ran from the gym. Dork.
In grade 11 I went to the beach with a big group of friends. Foregoing any kind of suntan lotion, I lay on the beach all day, trying in vain to erase my fair, freckled skin and attain the same sun-kissed glow of my best friend, Lainey. Later, sitting around the edge of her trampoline, everyone compared their tans as the guys looked on. Unfortunately, I forgot that earlier I had removed my bikini top because the straps were rubbing on my blistered shoulders. So, when I pulled up my shirt to show my flawless tan, instead I flashed everyone my blindingly white and naked chest. And I died. Dork.
Near the end of grade 11 I finally began dating a shy guy in grade 12 who blushed even more than me. I was seriously flat-chested so I had the brilliant idea I’d look great if I stuffed my bra. But as the weeks went by and things got a little more serious, I worried Kevin would find out my lovely shape was nothing more than perfect foam cups I fit into my bra. Then I was mowed down with a bad case of the stomach flu and I lost several pounds. Seizing the opportunity, I ditched the pads, hoping my weight loss would explain my suddenly empty bra. I made the mistake of confiding my crime to my friend, Shelley, and as Kevin and I walked down the crowded hall, Shelley yelled out, ‘Hey Kevin, what’s it like dating the Great American Flatlands?’ God. First of all, she was a swell friend. Second of all, I was a Dork.
For me, nothing came naturally; hyperaware of me and everyone else. Everything I did was rehearsed and Mom became my coach when I went on dates. Teen angst did not explain my frayed nerves at the end of every date, when the inevitable kiss was expected. Nor did it explain the fact I just about peed my pants every time I found myself alone in a car with a boy. I routinely hugged the edge of the seat, my cold fingers firmly gripping the handle.
Gay or just neurotic?
I imagine I was thought of as an ice queen. Or perhaps as the dork I envisioned myself to be. Regardless, I sincerely loved high school and all my friends and despite my hang-ups, I had the time of my life.
Never once did it cross my mind, that perhaps being a dork was a whole lot easier then what life held in store for me…