Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My worst week ever: part 1

This post is the first installment of a little experiment in longer form writing on my blog. If I told you this whole story in one post, it would be too long for the Internet, and you would stop reading after the third paragraph. So, I'm breaking it up into about three installments.

In order to tell the story of the worst week of my life, I’m going to have to tell you an awful lot about what came before that week to put it in context. I’ll dole that history out in small chunks as necessary.

To this point in my life, I’d have to say that I had my worst week ever as a teenager. Knock wood it stays that way. It started with what turned out to be an ominous letter and ended with me in the hospital.

Although The Week started Sunday November 6, 1988, a letter I received on the previous Thursday, the 3rd should have tipped me off. I was 15 when this bad week rolled in. Remember letters? Remember no email and text messages and facebook status updates? I moved around a lot growing up, and I had friends who didn’t live very close. Long distance calling actually cost enough money that people budgeted long-distance phone time with some care and precision. In my house, that took the form of a brief fatherly lecture, delivered often: “The telephone is a tool for communication.” Loosely translated, this meant “get off the phone”. So we wrote letters. We sat down and devoted time to composing sentences and paragraphs long-hand to one another. They were filled with newsy bits and formulaic liturgical filler (“Hope you are doing well”...”Say Hi to your mom and them.”) Sometimes, we communicated about seriously important or emotional things in this format that enabled us to express deep thoughts without interruption.

That Thursday, I got a letter from the girl/woman I was dating. I don’t merely plunk “woman’ into that sentence because it’s how people who attended college in the ‘90s refer to females of all ages. The person I was dating actually
was a woman. We’d worked at camp together the prior summer when I was 14 and she was 18. She was my older sister’s co-counselor. That fall, while I toiled away at my sophomore year in high school, she was a 45-minute drive north at college. Over time, my impression of that situation/relationship evolved from “this is awesome” to “that was creepy”. Anyway, the letter contained a lit fuse of a sentence that I should have been able to interpret by age 15: “We need to talk on Sunday after church.” The other thing about letters is that their transmission created lag time. So although I didn’t know what we “needed to talk” about, I did carry a certain dread through the weekend.

I dug this woman, and it thrilled me to talk about my college girlfriend at school. We went on my first ever proper date. She picked me up in her black Datsun 210, and we saw the movie Dominick & Eugene - set and filmed in Pittsburgh - in Pittsburgh! I wore a shirt that I loved but which my school friends called “the garage sale shirt”. It was a button down with fleur-de-lis coats of arms all over it. Yes, it was the late ‘80s. Yes, I got it at Marshall’s. In an odd twist, my wife went on
her first date one month later at that same theater with her high school boyfriend.

Anyway, Sunday rolled around, and we walked off to the most private place we could find after the service, a short staircase in an upstairs hallway, and she broke up with me. Despite the letter and the age difference, it came as quite a surprise. Maybe I’d hoped she was just going to request that I not wear the garage sale shirt on future dates. I took it pretty hard. And I didn’t know the half of what was coming.


~liz said...

i loved the days of letters.i had pen pals that i "got" through teen beat magazine and waiting by the mailbox every few days to see if my letter had been returned. i miss the paper letters too.
i can read much more in one sitting...hope the next installment is longer! :)

Paige said...

For Pittsburghers, the movie theater was the dearly departed Showcase West near Robinson Town Center (except at that time, there was no Robinson Town Center). Jeff and his girlfriend kept it classier than my boyfriend and I did -- my first-date move was "Twins," the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Danny DeVito vehicle. (In a genetic engineering experiment, one twin gets all the good genes and the other is created out of the trash DNA.)

ginger said...

some of the young ones (my daughter and her friends) are going retro - actually writing letters to each other. They love it.

Lauren Jackson said...

I was glad to read that the worst week of your life was more than 20 years ago. Wshew. I'm holding my breath for the next installment. Ahhh. I think my first date (a year even later) was also at Showcase West, except it was worse than all y'all's: "Fatal Attraction."

Anne H. said...

This is fascinating! Can't wait for the next installment, though I agree with Liz that I can read more at a time too.

Added bonus: I'm learning new things about my children! Graham where are you? If you went on your first date to Showcase West I'll freak out. But your generation doesn't exactly date so you may have a different way of looking at it. Just knowing it was the same place for Jeff AND Paige is amazing!

K said...

I, too, can read more at once, and would be glad to. And I, too, am glad that your worst week ever was not a recent occurrence.

JFo said...

The people have spoken. Part 2 is longer.

@Ginger - interesting about your daughter and her Victorian friends writing letters.

@Lauren - wow, how'd you sell that date to the parents?