Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Gotta Start 'Em Early

OK Y’all,
So there’s this problem I used to have, and I thought I had conquered, or at least calmed it down enough not to drive myself crazy. But it seems that though I have tried, it still comes back to haunt me from time to time despite the fact that I am all too aware that it’s happening. It’s the problem of “expectations,” or more specifically, “high expectations,” aka “getting your hopes up.” I don’t know why I have them anymore, at least not for other people, because years and years and YEARS of experience have taught me that the minute you put even the most infinitesimal expectations on someone, they inevitably let you down. And it’s only getting worse out there, folks. Not only have expectations become the stuff of myth when dealing with dating partners, but it’s seeping into our collective consciousness too. How many times do you say to yourself on a daily basis, “man, does anybody even CARE anymore?” when dealing with the customer service industries? I know! Me, too.
I was pondering this latest bout of Am-I-Really-Crazy-Or-Do-People-Just-SUCK-itude when it occurred to me that my placement of expectations and the lessons learned by subsequent crushing of them happened quite early on in my life. Like kindergarten early. See, I used to be kind of a flirt at age 5. Seriously—I got in trouble more than once for kissing boys on the playground. So it was only natural that I would expect the boys to like me back. When they didn’t, it cut me, it cut me real deep. Two episodes stand out to me more than the others—picture it, Bristol, 1984. A cute-as-a-button Big E dressed in her tailor made finery (complete with tag reading “Made With Love By Mommy” sewn into the back) was out on the playground when she spies a kid named Andy. He’s got something in his chubby hand that he says is a present, and of course Big E thinks it’s for her. He walks toward her, coming closer, closer…and walks right past, to another girl named Amanda. He gives Amanda a ruby ring he had stolen from his mamaw’s jewelry box (hey, this is Bristol we’re talkin’ about here) and Amanda fawns over it with sickening glee. Big E stomps her tiny oxford clad feet and pouts the rest of the day. The next day on the school bus, Big E feels a tap on her shoulder. It’s Jimmy Yarber, her fellow kindergarten classmate. He says to her that he’s brought her something, and produces a gold metal ring with a red plastic jewel perched atop it. He says that he wanted Big E to have her own ruby ring so he got one for her from the chicken egg machine at the grocery store. He spent a whole quarter on it! Big E proudly dons the ring and walks into Mrs. Tauscher’s class feeling like the best girl in the world.
Cut to first grade—Big E is still not only the cutest girl in her class, but naturally the smartest. She gets her work done, always has examples ready to demonstrate for her “letter of the day” presentations, and knows how to bat her eyelashes for an extra Oreo at snack time. Since she’s a good girl, she always gets to go to recess, but not all of the children are as good as her. Especially not a little boy named Wes Combs. Wes is incorrigible and seems to have a hard time staying in his seat, thus causing him to miss recess frequently and have to sit in the classroom and write sentences. One lovely day, Big E comes in during recess to get a kickball or some sort of game equipment from the room. There sits Wes in all his badassery, writing sentences and generally making a mockery of his education. The teacher assigned to watch him has her head down, reading a book. So what does Wes do before Big E goes back outside? He says, “hey, look at this!” and proceeds to show Big E his tiny, 6 year old wiener. Yep, that’s right—indecent exposure. Big E squeals and runs from the room, still scarred by the experience 25 years later. To this day I don’t know his motivation, but I’m 99% positive he probably saw his dad or his older brother do it and thought it was a good idea.
So what lessons did I learn from these early life experiences?
Lesson #1—there are still nice guys out there.
Lesson #2—those guys usually have don’t stay in from recess because they were bad.
Really though, what it taught me is that I can’t expect every guy to like me, and if I do, that’s my fault. Some guys just aren’t that into you, or they have too many hang ups, or all they want to do is show you their dong. And the minute that you get your hopes up that he’ll call, or take you on another date, or generally act like someone you’d want to be seen with in public is the minute that you can throw all that out the window. People are people, and they screw up. If you have your sights set too high, all you’re going to do is drown when it rains. You have to have a healthy dose of realism when it comes to dating. Trying not to expect too much while still keeping your standards where you want them to be is a tough thing, but it’s not impossible. Trust me, I learned the hard way.