A CHIP ON THE SHOULDER PLANTS A SEED IN THE HEART
“Welcome to the Jungle Jim”
It is the problem, and not only in the way "He’s Just Not That Into You" theorizes. From a young age, girls are taught to silently put up with other people’s shit and make excuses for the way they treat us. Rationalizing one’s actions from a psychoanalytical standpoint based entirely on our assumptions, is merely another tactic we’re taught to use that ends up being harmful to ourselves in the long run. It’s likely the cause of the common “I’ll be the one to change/fix him” mentality. Unless you’re a therapist, it’s not your job to fix anyone. Nor are you required to tolerate things you don’t deserve.
If I was that little girl, knowing what I know now, and someone pushed me to where I fell down? I would have gotten back up and done that boy a favor by punching him in the nose, so he could no longer smell whatever scent he claimed I carried, and so he’d know never to fuck with me again. I’m not suggesting matters be resolved with physical ramifications, I’m simply stating, in the most comedic and exaggerated fashion, my belief that confrontation of some kind should be encouraged because swallowing one’s pain and silencing one’s voice for the benefit of someone else can only be done for so long before it leads to emotional scarring we carry with us forever. I’ve carted around one such scar with me for decades, and looking back, I think I’ve finally pinpointed the seemingly insignificant event responsible for initially breaking the skin of what would later become an incredible wound.
Jungle Jim’s Playland was an indoor amusement park and a godsend to desert kids, like me, whose birthday fell during the winter months. Imagine Chucky Cheese with games and rides, minus any employee having to walk around dressed as a giant mute mouse. This was where I chose to have my 8th birthday party. My guest list was made up of mostly girls, but I invited a few boys to disguise the fact I only wanted one of them there - Mormon Michael.
Mormon Michael was the first boy I ever liked. And it’s true. I’ve never forgot him. He was popular, athletic, and insanely easy on the eyes - like Macaulay Culkin circa Home Alone easy on the eyes. I was obsessed with him, and if I had to venture a guess as to why, I think it was because of his hair. Minus the bowl cut, he had the locks every girl desires - natural highlights that sparkled in the sun while it moved like fabric panels of a car wash swishing back and forth then falling perfectly in line, one piece after another whenever he ran on the soccer fields during recess. Mormon Michael also had long eyelashes which for some inexplicable reason is kryptonite for females - even at the tender age of seven.
Other than the physical, there’s not much I remember about Mormon Michael. Well, there’s not much good I remember about him. I remember he never picked me for his kickball team whenever he was captain, which was always because of his all star athleticism, and that the only time he talked to me was to tease me. Much like the video above, I took all of this to mean he liked me, too - and not because I had my mother in my ear telling me as much (she would have been telling me he was a fucking idiot and if I kept liking him, I was too) but because I had my friends in my ear, regurgitating what their mothers had told them. So, when Mormon Michael RSVP’d “yes” to my birthday party that year, I figured they must have been right.
They weren’t. He was uninterested in me, my party, and my friends, keeping mostly to himself boarding rides solo and managing to stay invisible save for once. It was when we were on our way to the Skiball game. Two of my girlfriends and I spotted him, coasting up and down through the recycled air of the 15,000 square foot space aboard the Jet Plane ride. He caught us looking at him which, of course, sent us into a giggled frenzy with my friends tearing off toward the arcade. Just as I started after them, the sound of my name jerked me backward.
“Rachel!” I looked up to see Mormon Michael’s plane car floating back up towards the ceiling with his middle finger following suit.
“Happy Birthday!” He shouted down, flashing a menacing and rebellious smile.
My heart immediately deflated as I registered the action. I couldn’t understand what I had done that would have caused him to do that. And after racking my brain for some sort of answer, I opened up the floor to my friends.
“He flipped me off!” I said, after meeting up with them at the Skiball machine.
“What?” The girls craned their necks to see an innocent looking Mormon boy still enjoying his airplane ride. “Are you sure?”
I nodded in confirmation. “I didn’t even do anything to him, I like him! Why would he come if he hates me so much?”
Obviously, the only reason that Mormon showed up was because he wanted to get away from his ten other brothers and sisters and sip on caffeinated drinks while enjoying everything Jungle Jim’s Playland had to offer - save for the company that brought him there. But alas, I didn’t know it then, only now, in all my wise and knowing years and developed understanding of Mormonism since.
“Oh, my God!” my friend gasped with the subtext of ‘Eureka!’ “You know why he did it?! Because he really likes you! Boys only do that sort of thing when they really like a girl because they’re too afraid to talk to her.”
“Really?,” I asked, unsurely. I wanted to run what I felt to be a shaky theory by my mother for confirmation. Since her stroke, she couldn’t help but give the uncensored, cold hard truth, but I worried she’d call Mormon Michael’s parents and send him home, jeopardizing whatever shot I may have had with him. So, I went with the theory that seemed most convenient for Mormon Michael and for my immediate feelings; thus, the most damaging to my long term ones, and the foundation upon which my relationship patterns would form, was built.
For the rest of my adolescence and most of my young adulthood, I would find myself chasing after, and entering into multiple relationships with emotionally unavailable, selfish, bad boys who took advantage of what I had to offer for their immediate gain, while manipulating my trust by sending enough mixed signals to keep me guessing and interested, all the while treating me like shit. And just as I’d been instructed to do as a child, I would bury my feelings to prioritize theirs and rationalize away all the red flags, making excuses for their shortcomings.
But, more on my love life later.