Monday, February 6, 2012

I was a Teenage Gutless Wonder

Here we are, at the end of another topic cycle. I'll admit it, I was a gutless wonder.  It's my High School Regret.

First let me clarify—I’m not talking about a general lack of guts, or what some people would call boldness or chutzpah. Because in many ways, I had that in spades. For example, I could get up in front of a theatre full of people and sing and act my heart out. I wasn’t afraid to speak up in class, make friends or date boys. The types of guts I’m talking about are kind that give you the strength to assert yourself; the fortitude to know your own mind and desires, and stick up for yourself when it counts. I didn’t have that. Not for a good many years.

Babyface McShortstuff was adorable. Blond, freckle-faced and be-spectacled, he made me smile the first time I met him. I was in the tenth grade, he the ninth. Witty, mischievous and cool, he wasn’t embarrassed to be in chorus, vocal jazz, and the drama club. And he made me laugh. We’d get together each week with a few other friends to watch Moonlighting and I secretly swore we were the real life (and much younger) version of David and Maddie. Because we bickered and teased each other just like they did. And we were secretly in love.

Sounds awesome, right? We must have dated and had a sweet teen romance. Yeah, not so much. And it was all my fault. The problem: he was shorter than me. By a lot. And that’s saying something because I’m vertically challenged myself—just five-foot-two. Anyway, my parents were vicious in their jabs about how short and immature he was. Surely I wouldn’t waste my time on such a little idiot, right? I was far too grown-up for him and, really, why would I want to be with such a tiny boy? I could do better with someone else. Preferably someone taller. Because no girl wants to be the Cher who looks down at her Sonny.

If my parents thought this, surely the rest of the school would too, right? Doubtful, but I let myself believe it anyway. Overwhelmed with fear about dating an infantile pipsqueak, I shoved my feelings for him deep down into my gut and swallowed them. Over and over again. Because Babyface and I shared this revolving cycle of on-again, off-again hots for two years. Imagine my surprise when he waltzed into school on the first day of his junior year—my senior year—having experienced the growth spurt that had eluded him for so long. He was six feet tall. And gorgeous. And it was too late for me. Because there were a ton of other girls who wanted him now and I didn’t stand up for him—or myself—when it mattered.

It took me a while and a whole lot of growing up (figuratively, not literally) to finally learn to be decisive and assert myself. Part of that is the natural maturation process I’m sure. But I did learn. Only a few years later I met my future husband and despite my parents’ reservations about getting serious so young, I forged ahead with what my heart told me was right. I’m happy to say we’ll celebrate our twentieth anniversary this summer.

I try to keep these and other life lessons in mind when I write. In Conjure, the first book in The Hoodoo Apprentice series debuting October 2012, the heroine, Emma Guthrie starts off shy and introverted, afraid to stake a claim on the hero, Cooper Beaumont, even though she’s been crushing on him for a year. But things change when they unearth a cursed pirate treasure and an ancient Gullah hex threatens the people she loves the most. To save them, Emma finds her voice and discovers untapped strength, and maybe even a little romance, with the much taller Cooper. 


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

So what about you, gentle readers? Did you ever regret letting something as dumb as a guy's height keep you from pursuing true-for-now love? What potential "faults" did you find in your own Babyface McShortstuff? Throw me a bone, people, I hope I'm not the only one to be such a dummy!


Melissa Landers said...

Image is so important to us as teens, isn't it? Your story about Babyface McShortstuff reminded me of my date to the junior prom. The boy was wicked cute and seriously nice, but I remember feeling awkward with him because of our differences. That and because we barely knew each other. Anyway, I look at the prom photo of the two of us and reflect that I should have dated that boy. :-)

Chloe Jacobs said...

Oh, I can relate to that! I remember kids chuckling because one of the boys in our class was a "nerd" -- I thought he was cute as hell but never told anyone. I'm still angry that I let something stupid keep me from getting to know him because I think he's probably an amazing adult now!

Lorie Langdon said...

What a classic heartbreak story, Lea! Straight out of a John Hughes film. =)
I was way picky in high school, only crushing on the cutest, most popular boys. On the last day of my senior year, a friend I’d made in my “math for dummies” class told me a bunch of his friends had wanted to ask me out, but they all thought I was a snob. Yeah, he was the goalie for the varsity soccer team, and one of the most popular guys in school.
If I hadn’t spent so much time being self-conscious and obsessed with boys who didn’t give a fig about me, I could have had a much more enjoyable high school experience. ;-)

SherylKaleo said...

Awww. Babyface McShortstuff sounds like a sweetie. Did he ever try to connect with you again after his growth spurt?

Your heroine sounds so fun! I think we can all relate to feeling too shy to claim what we really want.

Looking forward to reading this fun story!

Lea Nolan said...

Melissa - Yes, image is everything and sadly substance is not. Hopefully we learn to look beyond the physical as we get older, but I know a lot of grown ups who don't.

Chloe - He probably is. In fact, I bet he's a mega millionaire now! And a lot of his employees are former cool kids :)

Lorie - yeah, totally Hughes-esque. Although Babyface wasn't Duckie, he'd have been too hip for me. I think if we all got a do over, knowing what we know now, we'd all have a great experience. But who the heck wants to do high school again?!?!?!?

Sheryl - He was a sweetie. And yeah, we did "connect" once in college. But that's a whole other blog post! ;P

Cecy said...

Love the story. Can relate on the cute little guy's side. Although I'm still waiting for my growth spurt, a LOT of guys supposedly liked me because I made them laugh and was a good friend. They didn't ask me out, though, because I was also dorky, with crooked teeth, bad hair, and thick glasses. They cared too much what others thought. No worries, the ugly duckling turned into a swan the summer before she left for college. She spent the next four years with young men who weren't afraid to ask her out.

Jennifer McAndrews said...

oh, poor Babyface. And poor you. It's hard enough to trust your own feelings, without having your parents tell you those feelings are misguided. While I never had this happen to me, it was only because there was a distinct lack of boys in my life. I am now, was then, always have been TALL. I have no doubt if I had been in your situation, I would have done the exact same thing. I was insecure enough all on my own, it wouldn't have taken a vicious jab to talk me out of a guy; a subtle hint would do it.
And yet...we keep seeing how these things all work out for the best, don't we? You're happily married to someone else, and I burst with pride when my 5'8" daughter brings home the 5'1" boy.

CareyCorp said...

Hey Lea. Great post. I've been racking my brain but I did recall a time in Jr. High where I threw a nice guy who liked me under the bus for a different guy. Different guy turned out to be a real jerk. And I blew it with nice guy. :(

Kimberly said...

I commented earlier, but it didn't make it in for some reason. So, hopefully it will show up this time.
My heart breaks for the teen you torn between your heart and acceptance from your friends and family.
When I was eighteen, I dated someone whose dad was an alcoholic. Every time this boy drank a beer, I thought of my life as the wife of an alcoholic. He wasn't a mean drunk. There wasn't anything wrong with him at all except my narrow minded views. But, my step-dad was an alcoholic, and I knew I never would want that life for myself. A bit of overthinking things....
Anyway, I--heartless girl that I was--sent him a Dear John letter while he was in boot camp. I remember sitting at the post office and crying my eyes out as I dropped it into the mailbox, with my mom encouraging me but crying too.
Although I married my best friend and we have a wonderful life together, there are still those times when I wonder "What if?" Those are the two worst words...
So, Lea. I'll have to buy you a drink sometime so that you can tell me about the time you "connected" with BabyFace. That sounds like a great story! I can't wait. :-)

Lea Nolan said...

@Cecy - Us shorties need to stick together! I doubt you were as dorky as you think because you're gorgeous now and that doesn't just come out of nowhere.

@Jen - Parents can be vicious, can't they? Without even trying to. I bet my father doesn't even remember Babyface much less what he said about him. I try to keep that in mind when I talk to my own kids. Our word carry weight we don't even realize.

@Carey - Those poor nice guys. They get thrown under the bus every time, don't they? And it's always for a jerk.

@Kim - I totally get how your personal life experiences colored your concerns for your future. It's natural and normal. If you didn't think about the consequences of your choices you'd be a dummy and you're definitely NOT a dummy! I've made many similar decisions based on my past or others' experiences, and in hindsight, I'm pretty sure they were right. As for that drink, I'll definitely take you up on it! :)