Monday, September 26, 2011


Or, things I wish I wasn’t stupid enough to do in the first place, but now that I’m older and have a little perspective, I’m sort of glad I did.

This week’s Teen Rite of Passage isn’t warm and fuzzy. Nope, it’s about doing stupid things, facing the consequences, and hopefully learning a thing or two. But before we jump into all that, I’d like to illustrate my horribly humiliating point and the only way to do that is to climb into my time machine. It’s already set for 1986. Cue the wavy lines and trippy time machine music….

Silver stars twinkle in a clear, navy blue sky. Low waves slap against the rocky shoreline. Firewood crackles and pop as tiny, smoky embers float in the crisp autumn air. Bartles and Jaymes Premium Wine coolers flow, and so does the Meisterbrau, a decidedly un-premium beer.

It’s a beach party bonfire in my Long Island hometown. A place so small and boring it’s not big enough to actually be classified as a town. Officially, it’s a hamlet, which has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s play or a mini-pig. No, our sad little enclave doesn’t even have a 7-Eleven yet. So, since there’s nowhere else to hang out, we do the only logical thing—set driftwood on fire and get drunk.

I’m here with one goal in mind: to spend some extracurricular time with Preppy Plaidpants, [not his real name] one of my biology lab partners who, despite being an arrogant asshole, also makes my stomach flutter and heart skip. Yup, I’m that 10th grader—a seemingly smart girl who’s so desperate for a guy’s attention, my standards are, well, low. But you see, he and his friends invited me—me!—to the bonfire tonight so I’m reasonably sure I’ve got some chance at success.

My friends and I cluster together, guzzling our beverages. A figure approaches. Tipsy from too much fruity Premium Red, I peer into the smoky haze billowing off the flaming stack of downed trees. It’s a guy, but he’s rounder and shorter than Preppy. Oh, it’s Honcho, [not his real nick-name] Preppy’s sidekick. And he’s smoking a cigar, its glowing tip a bright red beacon in the night. What does he want? I scratch my buzzed head. Maybe Preppy sent him over to ask me to sit with them. As Honcho nears, I stand and brush the sand from my jeans. My heart stutters, wondering what kind of missive he’s been dispatched to deliver.

Puffing his stogie, Honcho gives me the once over. “Hey, you wanna go for a walk?” Since he looks an awful lot like this, I know he doesn't want my help assessing beach erosion:
What's a happenin' hot stuff?
Note: Honcho was not hanging upside down on the beach.
“Um…” I mumble, wondering how things changed so dramatically from my aspiration to reality, but I’m too blitzed to figure it out. Before I know it, Honcho’s nudging my arm. “Come on, let’s take a walk.”

Perched on my shoulder, Bartles whispers into my right ear, “Go on. It’s not happening with Preppy. You might as well hook up with someone tonight.”

But then Jaymes stomps his tiny wing-tipped foot on my left shoulder and yells, “No, you don’t even like Honcho! You came here to be with Preppy!”

“Aw, don’t be such a prude,” Bartles sneers.

“I’m not and I’m sick of that accusation.” Jaymes huffs, exasperated because really, Bartles does throw that one around a little too frequently. But then Jaymes regains his composure. “Listen, Honcho is Preppy’s friend. If you hang out with him tonight, Preppy will lose all interest.”

Bartles snorts. “He already has. Why do you think he let Honcho come down here in the first place?”

Well, put that way, I can’t argue with Bartles’ logic. Ignoring Jaymes’ pleas to the contrary—and those of my bewildered friends—I take that walk and roll around with Honcho in the sand for a few fumbling, beer-cooler-cigar-laced minutes. It’s not terribly satisfying. For either of us. Because we’re both neophytes in the ways of amour, and the liquid infusion hasn’t exactly improved our fledging technique. When we’re done, I wipe my lips and dust myself off, knowing he’ll probably blab to his friends—like I will to mine—but at least this episode is behind me.

Until Monday morning. When it seems I can’t take a step without someone taunting, “Honcho!” Through the halls. At my locker. In class. It’s all I hear. My stomach clenches and I’m fairly sure I might puke. Oh God, oh God, oh God, how does everyone know???? And why do they care? One guy, another member of Preppy’s crew, sums it up perfectly when he nods condescendingly and mocks, “Doin’ the Monday Morning Walk of Shame.” He sounds just like the Makin’ Copies guy on Saturday Night Live. I want to thrust my balled fist into his snide face.

For the record, my panties stayed on. But that didn’t ease the pain of that awful Monday morning. Honestly, I expected one or two comments, but it seems Honcho told more than a couple friends. Judging by the sheer number of jeers, I couldn't help wonder if went something more like this:

Guess, what guys? I made out with Lea at the bonfire!!!!    

So, why revisit this particularly horrifying chapter from my adolescence? Because the abject humiliation was good for me then, and frankly, very good for me now.  Then, because it taught me a valuable lesson: don’t get drunk at a beach party and mess around with a guy you don’t even like. Eventually I even learned not to fall for arrogant assholes. But this particular memory is golden now because it makes me a better writer. Although my characters deal with paranormal foes, they still make mistakes—sometimes innocently, sometimes stupidly—and have to face the consequences. Occasionally they get humiliated, feel small or embarrassed. Remembering something this devastating helps me channel that angst to create compelling characters and realistic circumstances and reactions.

In my book, The Hoodoo Apprentice, the heroine, Emma Guthrie makes a few whoppers of her own while trying to save her brother from a wicked flesh-eating curse. But she’s plucky and smart and works her way out of *most* of her mistakes. Along the way, she finds herself on a moonlit beach with the love of her life. Luckily for her, aside from not being an arrogant asshole, Cooper Beaumont is a southern gentleman, who’d never kiss and tell!


Lea Nolan can be found at her website, on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.  She is represented by the astonishingly fantastic Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.  


PaigeTurner said...

If your panties remained in the "on" position, it was a pretty mild walk of shame! But of course, the teen angst makes it like death!!!

Loved this post!!!

Lorie Langdon said...

Lea – First let me say, I LOVE your picture selections! I think we can all relate to this story on some level. Mine was just a little later in life…college years and involved a public pool and skinny-dipping late at night (underwear on, thank goodness) with the friend of the guy I liked. My exhibitionism didn’t get his attention either. ;-) Great post and beautifully written!

Melissa Landers said...

Ouch, ouch, ouch! I think we've all been there, and alcohol is almost always to blame. My freshman year in college, I woke up beside a guy with a third nipple. He'd seemed so hot the night before, (after I'd pounded back countless shots), but not so much the next morning. My panties stayed on, too, but damn, that was a hella awkward drive-home-of-shame.

Joya said...

Great post, Lea! Who hasn't had that walk of shame. And I'm glad to hear the guy's real name wasn't Preppy Plaidpants. That would have been even worse. Thanks for sharing. :)

Lea Nolan said...

Thanks Paige - yes, in retrospect it was mild, but it was about as extreme as this Good Catholic Girl could get! And, just like everything else in adolescence it felt like the end of the world! @Lorie - Ouch! Naked *and* it still wasn't enough to draw his interest? Bastard! He's probably fat and bald now so that should ease the sting!

Lea Nolan said...

Melissa - I swear I read "third nipple" and spit my diet coke! Yes, alcohol is the root of all evil, causing serious vision troubles late at night. @Joya - his real name was Izod Collar Turned-Up the III, but I though that would be too unbelievable to post publicly! ;)

Unknown said...

You're giving me flashbacks ;) It was a delight to hear you read from this. Cooper sounds like a cutie. But jailbait ;)

Lea Nolan said...

Thanks, Steph! Actually Cooper's 18th birthday is just two weeks away at the book...definitely worth the wait!

Laura Kaye said...

ROFL This was an awesome post, Lea! I couldn't stop chuckling!

And, people, Lea's great storytelling here is a totally true window into her writing.


Unknown said...

So many memories (the movie too). But every one of us go through it at a point in our lives. Like with everything else--you live and learn.

Great post!


Jo Ramsey said...

Great post, Lea. I could feel your cringing!

I was the kid who was never invited to parties and probably would have been laughed out of one if I'd shown up (which I wouldn't have; I was kept so far out of the loop that I never even knew parties happened), so I never had to deal with the Monday walk of shame. I just got picked on daily because I existed. *eyeroll*

Lea Nolan said...

Thanks, Laura! You of all people know my writing best!
Loni - you're totally right, these are the dumb things that we, hopefully, learn from and don't do again!

Lea Nolan said...

Aw, Jo - that sucks! Adolescence is so stinkin' hard and kids can be so freaking mean. But look at you now, girl! All mulit-published and full of AWESOME!

Tonya Kappes said...

Hahaa! Too fun! Love this post. I have to say that my three teenage boys have discovered the 80's movies I grew up on and Sixteen Candles happens to be one of their favorites. It's funny how they are going around the house quoting the movie!!

Lea Nolan said...

Tonya - as long as they don't yell "No more yanky my wanky!" ;)

Jo Ramsey said...

Thanks, Lea :) I even sometimes get invited to parties now. LOL

Jen J. Danna said...

Ah, teenaged rites of passage! Do you think that if we knew then that our antics would be fodder for our writing now, would it have been easier for us? Nah... but we might as well use them anyway! ;)

Jennifer McAndrews said...

Okay, gotta admit, suddenly thankful to have attended an all-girls school and thus been spared Monday morning walk-of-shame. By the time I was walking shamefully, I knew enough not to do it near home *blush*
Second...holy crap, Lea! That was YOU sneaking away from the bonfire with Honcho?!?! Oh, no wait. Your beach has a rocky shoreline. you're a north shore girl, aintcha? ; ) Good to know you north shore types burned driftwood the same as us south shore crews did!

Marianne Harden said...

Hahaha. Lea, what a great story. I could hear your voice in my head as I read. Those darn 'teenage rites of passage' like Jen mentioned, so enlightening, but must they be so embarrassing.

Lea Nolan said...

Jen Danna - You know, if I knew there'd be a reason for all that humiliation it might have made it a wee bit easier! But back then, I thought it was just my punishment for my wayward ways! Jennifer - You got it, the North Shore is in the hiz-ouse! Whoop, whoop! Of course we set bon fires. There wasn't ANYTHING else to do! And don't think I'm jealous of your soft, powdery, smooth beaches that don't break your toes. Nope, I'm not. Not one little bit.

Lea Nolan said...

Yes, Marianne, they must be embarrassing. Otherwise we'd never remember them and be doomed to repeat them. Over. And over. Again. :)

Renee Pace said...

Oh my that made my day. I'm saving my own teen embarrassment for my blog -lol. Sad thing is I'm living a teen life with my own horrible teens (well, they aren't all horrible but I wanted to kill one last night) ugh.

CareyCorp said...

What a great and awful post! I cracked up at your picture selections. Now all I can think is "No yankie my wankie." ;)

Great job, Lea.

Susan Hatler said...

Hilarious story, Lea. From low expectations to NO expectations. Guess that's what happens with too much B&J...

Amanda Carlson said...

Lea, that was fantastic!! So smart and funny. I felt like I was rolling around with Honcho myself (um, maybe not). Great, great post!!! I had a similar shameful experience on the beach in Mexico with an exotic boy. Panties stayed on, but he asked if he could take them as a souvenir!!! I've never been so embarrassed in my life. I said NO. Never saw him again. Thanks for making me laugh!

Anonymous said...

Lea! I'll just say that bad decisions lead to awesome stories! Hahaha. Great post and thanks for sharing!

Lea Nolan said...

I'm so glad to hear that Renee! I can't wait to read about your embarrassing moment, misery loves company!

Carey - I know right? That stupid phrase keeps rolling around my brain too! The Donger needs food! LOL!!!!

Susan - I had to read that a few times and figure out what B&J you meant. Bwahahahah! OMG, it's been a loooong day - started out at 4:00 am when my littlest woke me up so I could restart her "baby music" the lullabies she goes to sleep to. Of course, she zonked out and I was UP!

Lea Nolan said...

Mandy - So glad you liked it! And I'm glad you were wise enough to resist giving him that souvenir. You would have regretted that the rest of your life!

Risa - Exactly, gotta make lemonade out of those lemons!

Jenny Sulpizio said...

Can I just tell you how much I love those Sixteen Candles images dispersed through the awesomeness of this post? Great job and such a great read!

Jenny Sulpizio

Kimberly said...

My favorite Monday morning walk of shame happened my freshman year of college when my roommate and I and two guys went to Seven Springs to ski and everyone apparently knew about it. When we got back, a bunch of the guys asked how the skiing was, and we said it was great. And then they started laughing and said we'd forgotten the skis in the dorm.
I don't blush easily, but I did a bit that day.
What kind of girl goes skiing without the skiis?????
And then can't come up with a reasonable reason why the skis were left behind????
Ah. But that was the best ski trip ever.

Micki Gibson said...

Fabulous post, Lea! You had me at the Sixteen Candles pictures. And at 1986. And at Bartles and Jaymes. And it just kept getting better. Thank you for sharing your Monday morning mortification. I wish I could say I'd have been that friend who might have warded you off Honcho, but sadly I'd have probably knocked back a few more Bartles & Jaymes and been hooking up with an even more pathetic Honcho wannabe. I can't wait until I get to read more of your stuff.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Lea . . . we've all been there. Mine was a dork I "went out with" for like two weeks. Total dork. I only gave him the time of day because he thought I was pretty and because he liked me. I liked that he liked me, but I didn't like him. He rode over on his ten-speed one day when I was home alone. We made out. Hands down the worst kisser in the world. I only stayed awake from fear of drowning. I still gag when I think about it. *shudder*


Anonymous said...

thank you.