The Puberty Detective

I was a tomboy growing up, as shown below by the ludicrous black high top sneakers that I’m sporting with those thoroughly 80s aquamarine-colored highwater trousers.  Those aren’t jeans, kids.  Those are straight-up trousers. And you can’t even blame this sartorial choice on the family, as you can see my sister Bonnie is pictured on the left in clothing that is not from the Pouting Dude section at Zayre.

20181210_203138

What’s the saying?  Little girls are made of sugar and spice and black high tops and trousers?  As you probably already know, I eventually grew out of it and became a bona fide painted-up hussy.  A real trollop.  A genuine slut-puppy supreme with tramp fries.

But enough about what I have in common with your MOM.  Ohhhhhhhh!!

Seriously, though, even today my “conservative” office pants are so tight that my dry cleaner returns them to me pre-tipped with dollar bills already sticking out of the waistband.

That being said, in the years between the tomboy and slut-puppy phases, the most disgusting thing happened to me.  The worst, most horrifying thing that had ever happened to anyone.  The most god awful, hideous, terrifying event:

Puberty.

I shuddered just thinking about it.

As a tomboy, the entire process of puberty felt like a personal affront to me.  I tried my best to escape it, but there it was, inescapable and right there in the mirror.  My widening hips no longer fit into my skate shorts, and my skin was as greasy as Danny Zuko’s hair.  I sometimes cried for no reason because I felt “emotional”, whatever the hell that meant.  It was no longer socially acceptable to spend all my time raising tadpoles in the old baby pool in the backyard.  Climbing trees became greatly frowned-upon.  Legs would have to be shaved.  Lips glossed, hair tossed.  Still waiting for the boobs to really come in, though.

Oh god.  I was turning into a teenage girl.  No, no, no, no, no.  What could be worse?  What could be worse than that?!

I’ll tell you exactly what was worse.  The Puberty Detective a/k/a My Grandmother.

20181210_210021

Let me start off by saying the disclosure that you always have to make when you start a story like this:  I love my grandmother.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the disclosures, I can tell you about the nightmare hellscape this woman attempted to inflict upon me between the ages of 10 and 16; the tenacious, torturous pit of Hades that became my existence every time I visited her.

Did she beat me?  No.  Did she withhold dessert when everyone else got some?  Never!  She did something way, way more heinous.

She had questions.  Oh god, the questions.  Not just any questions, either.

Puberty questions.

I had been given a heads-up on this by my older sisters, who’d told me that when they were my age, our grandmother would routinely bust out with gems like, “So have you gotten your period yet?” or “Are you wearing a bra yet?”

I was already in a constant state of panic due to my ever-increasing hormones and related identity crisis, and the mere thought that another human being might ask me these kinds of questions made me want to unzip my skin and run out of the room a skeleton.

I couldn’t very well pack up and leave the country, so I did the only thing I could do.  I formed a plan to thwart the Puberty Detective’s investigation at every turn.

The plan was that I would work diligently and tirelessly to avoid ever being along in a room with my grandmother until the coast was clear.  I figured the coast would be clear around age 16, when it would have been silly to ask those kinds of questions, so I had six years to play “Keep Away” with her.  I could do that.  Hell, I’d been hiding the fact that I actually liked boys from everyone for years already, despite the fact that I was one of the founding members of The Against Boys Club (ABC, y’all) in elementary school.

Laugh if you will, but after enduring years of physical torment and harassment from the boys in our neighborhood, The Against Boys Club successfully planned and executed a bus stop takeover one morning where we totally beat all the boys’ asses.  Don’t let anyone tell you that organized crime doesn’t pay.  Those little 9-year old bastards never even saw it coming.

Now that’s a brag – and I’m braggin’ it.

So for those six years between the ages of 10 and 16 years old, any time I found myself alone with my grandmother, I would find a reason to have to run out of the room.  We’d all be sitting on the patio and I’d see that the other people were getting up from their chairs to walk back into the house and I would go on red alert:  You better find a reason to leave this room and find it NOW.  Then I would say I had to go to the bathroom or something, and flee the room.

Sometimes I would misjudge the timing and The Puberty Detective would actually start to ask one of the dreaded questions, “So, Maggie, have you gotten your…” and I would jump up and disappear like Houdini before she could even get the word “period” out.  One time, I actually did the classic “What?  What?  Did I just hear someone call my name in the other room?” before sprinting out of the room.

I look back on all of this now and wish we had been able to be closer, and that we hadn’t lost all those years to me running out of the room, but I was so freaked out by this Puberty Detective business, she became my number one persona non grata.  The same woman who quietly sang hymns while she vacuumed, who wore one of those flowery bathing caps in the community pool at her 55-plus community, became the person I feared most in the world.

She wasn’t menacing, she was just curious.  Her inquiring mind just wanted to know, but I mean, come on.  Puberty is bad enough without having to field questions from reporters.

Besides, had anyone known what they were in for, they would have never wanted to see THIS come to fruition.

20181210_203241

 

80s Parents and The Saga of BoyCrush 

When I was 7 years old, my favorite song was “Maniac” by Michael Sembello, from the Flashdance soundtrack.  Yes, I was allowed to watch Flashdance when I was 7 years old because “80s parents”.  Anything short of a snuff film would have passed muster with 80s parents.  Now I’m going to make you repeat the words “snuff muster” over and over in your head, because I’m doing it myself and I feel it’s only fair that I spread the wealth.  Snuff muster.  Snuff muster.  Snuff muster.

We discussed this earlier.  Never do anything just because I told you do it.  I will become drunk with power and the next thing you know, you’ll open a bag of Fritos and I’ll appear from thin air, take the bag from your hands and say, “You weren’t eating these, were you?” and then walk away with it.

“You wouldn’t do that!”

It’s like the Maya Angelou quote everybody loves to throw around:  “When someone tells you they will steal your corn chips, believe them the first time.”

We had a local rollerskating rink we used to go in the early 80s, where parents would typically drop you off around 10am with $3 in your pocket, speed away while blasting a Frankie Goes to Hollywood song, and then pick you up 7-10 hours later.  It’s what they now call “free-range parenting”, and except for everyone getting molested and stabbed, it worked out pretty great.

Generally speaking, back then if you were savvy enough when you were 7 to turn down a pixy-stick of cocaine from a 30 year old guy named “Scary Gary” and skate away like your parachute pants were on fire, your parents felt they had done their job instilling a solid fear base in you, as well as the athletic prowess required to escape such stealthy, googly-eyed, predators-on-wheels.  You could basically just self-parent from that point forward.

My sisters and I had been dropped off at the skating rink one Saturday, and it turned out my super duper, #1, oh my god, crush was there.

BoyCrush was, by far, without question, the cutest boy in the first grade.  He had sandy light brown hair, big dark doe eyes, and a smile like someone in a toothpaste ad.  He was always dressed so clean and neat, and unlike every other boy in class, his hands weren’t covered in dirt and warts.

My feelings about BoyCrush were not unique by any means.  Everyone had a crush on BoyCrush.  Aside from being cute, he was the only boy who was ever nice to us girls.  Instead of throwing rocks at us on the playground, he was usually found delicately pushing us girls on the swings or playing Chinese jump-rope with me and my friend Tricia on the basketball court.  BoyCrush was the total package.

My sisters knew about my crush on BoyCrush, and even if they didn’t, anyone could have put two and two together.  This kid was universally adorable.  Any girl could have walked by and someone could yell, “You think this kid is cute, DON’T YOU?” and they’d eventually cave in and say, “YES.  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR?  YES!  HE’S SO FREAKING CUTE!  I’M NOT MADE OF STONE.  I HAVE TWO EYES, YOU KNOW.”

In an effort to match-make us at the skating rink, my sisters cornered BoyCrush near the restroom and told him that I liked him, and then he immediately ran into the boys’ restroom and hid.  Upon hearing that they ACTUALLY TOLD HIM that I liked him, I ran into the girls’ restroom and hid.

Unbeknownst to me, my sisters then went to the DJ and requested my favorite song, “Maniac”.  They came back to the girls’ restroom with a plan to coax me out.

My sister Julie knelt down beside me on the restroom floor, the feather roach-clip in her hair danging over me and said, “You know, BoyCrush just went to the DJ and asked him to play “Maniac” because it’s your favorite song and he wants to skate with you.”

My sister Bonnie chimed in, “It’s true.  I saw him go up to the DJ booth and ask.  He totally wants to skate with you.”

I said, “Really?  BoyCrush said he wants to skate with ME?”

They nodded their heads in unison, “Yep.”

I couldn’t believe it.  BoyCrush wanted to skate with me.  Of all the girls in the world, he picked me.  I’d never felt so special.  At least not since Chef Boyardi started selling Beef-a-roni in the family-size can.

I eventually came out from the girls’ restroom and passed by the boys’ restroom.  BoyCrush was sitting on the tile floor, up against the wall, looking extremely distressed while a couple of my sisters’ guy friends (including his own older brother) appeared to be trying to talk him into something.  He had a desperate look on his face, like he was being interrogated by the police.

Just then, “Maniac” came on over the sound system.  I guess my sisters weren’t lying after all!  I waited for BoyCrush, but he was still in the boys’ room, so I skated out on the rink alone.  About halfway through the song, I saw BoyCrush emerge from the boys’ room and come out onto the rink.  I slowed down so he could catch up with me, then he took off like a rocket and zoomed right past me.

When Monday morning rolled around at school, he and I pretended like the whole thing had never happened.

I ran into BoyCrush at a bar many years later, when he had returned home from college for winter break.  We had a couple drinks together and reminisced about our old school days.  After my second drink, I worked up some nerve and said, “What was the deal that day at the skating rink when we were in first grade?  My sisters said you requested “Maniac” so you could skate with me, and then you just blew me off!”

I playfully knocked him in the shoulder and laughed, “How could you break my little 7 year old heart?!”

He laughed, and laughed and laughed and laughed, and then said, “Oh, my sweet.  Your sisters were soooo fucking with you.  I never asked the DJ to play that song.  Did you seriously not know I was gay?  For god’s sake – I used to play Chinese jump-rope with you and Tricia – in public!”

(I imagine you probably came to that conclusion yourself when I mentioned Chinese jump-rope a few paragraphs ago.)

I said, “How the hell was I supposed to know?  I was 7!”

BoyCrush said, “Fine.  How about when we were in middle school and I went to the New Kids on The Block concert with a pack of 13 year old girls?”

I said, “Plenty of people liked New Kids on The Block besides teenage girls!”

BoyCrush gave me his best “Bitch, please” look and said, “Name ONE boy or man.”

I started to answer and he put up his index finger and said, “One that’s NOT gay. And before you continue, may I also remind you about the time in high school when I did a spot-on lip-synch performance of Madonna’s “Hanky Panky” in front of everyone outside the art room?”

He probably had me on that one.

He clinked his glass against mine and said, “And I NAILED IT, chica.”

The Six Hundred Dollar Orange

As a young lass, I was thoroughly under the impression that men had very, very high dating standards when it came to women.  You often hear men describe the kind of woman they’re looking for as “5’ 10”, 105 pounds, model-type, no baggage, no high maintenance”.

Women hear that description and laugh so hard it makes their heads hurt, and then, unfortunately, on a deeper level, they immediately feel inadequate, like there’s something wrong with them for not meeting those requirements, even though they know they’re ridiculous.

For starters, if you see a thin woman who is 5’ 10”?  She probably weighs at least 160 pounds.  Women can’t tell you that, because men hear “160 pounds” and immediately close their eyes and picture the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.  I once heard a guy describe a woman as “pretty freaking chunky”, and when his friend asked how much he thought she weighed, he said, “Oh man, she probably weighed like 120.”

Sorry, I just guffawed so hard that I choked on this Weight Watchers ice cream bar, not to mention a bucket of hopes and dreams.

Also, when I was 13 years old, I was 5’ 1” and weighed 105 pounds, and people accused me of being anorexic or having some kind of terminal disease.  My head looked like a lollipop with my body as the stick.  You could play xylophones on my ribcage, front and back, and I couldn’t lie flat on my back because my spine dug into the mattress so hard that it would leave a bruise on me.  So, no, barring some weird supermodel whose bones are made of paper, nobody is 5’ 10” and weighs 105 pounds.

And “Model-type”?  Really?  Unless you, yourself, are the equivalent of a male model, then no.  Juuuuuuuust no.

“No baggage” means you should have no problems of any kind.  You know, like all those scores of people in the world who have no problems?  I’m sure the person who’s requiring you to have no baggage certainly has no baggage himself!

That sound you just heard, was me rolling my eyes until they fell out of my head and onto the floor.  I know you may live 5,000 miles from here, but I’m sure you still heard it.

Related, anyone who tells you that they are “drama-free” will always, without fail, every time, be the most dramatic motherfucker you’ve ever met in your entire life.  Count on it.

“No high maintenance” means you should wake up in the morning and look flawless.  Fuck you.  I’m not even going to dignify that one with a response.

It’s funny, because you would think that since men’s standards are so very high, that only one out of like every 100,000 women would have a boyfriend or husband and the rest of us would be toiling the nights away alone, crying in a house full of cats and collecting cobwebs in our hoo-hahs.  Look around and, obviously, you’ll see that’s not the case.  Not even close.

As I have become a dusty old hag, I have realized that these men are not highly discerning at all.  They’re just attempting to be shrewd negotiators. These types of men, the ones who state this ridiculous laundry list of standards, are usually the same ones who will turn around and stick it in anything that moves.  They’re just starting off the negotiation from what they think is the highest asking price, which is for some reason, a supermodel with the body of a praying mantis who also has no problems and wakes up looking flawless.  They know that woman’s not showing up.  They figure there’s no harm in throwing that asking price out there.  It’s a first offer.

So what do you do?  You do what you do with any first offer.  Reject it and counter.

If he says, “5′ 10″, 105 pounds”, you counter with “5′ 3″, 220 pounds”.

If he says, “Model-type”, you counter with “I am good at my accounts receivables job.”

If he says, “No baggage”, you counter with, “You first, asshole.”

If he says, “No high maintenance”, you counter with, “I don’t often leave skidmarks.”

Then tell them to take it or leave it.

It reminds me of this episode of Designing Women where MaryJo is complaining about how when she lived in Mexico, there was no such thing as a price tag, and when she would ask a shopkeeper, “How much is this orange?” they would size her up and say, “Six hundred dollars”.  Then she would put the orange down and walk away, and the shopkeeper would chase after her and yell “Thirty cents!”

All this fretting over whether some guy doesn’t want to date you because your eyebrows aren’t perfectly waxed, or because you have cellulite or weigh more than 105 pounds.  And OMG what if he finds out you have problems?!!  All the emotional strife because you’re not the kind of woman who can roll out of bed looking perfect.  I’m here to tell you it’s all for naught.  I’ve never encountered any man whose standards are actually that high.  And if they are?  They can go jump into a dick-shaped volcano.  You don’t want to be with someone like that anyway.  Those are the guys who will never, ever stop looking for the bigger, better deal.

Slow your roll, women.  Take a deep breath.  You don’t need to meet somebody’s ludicrous requirements, because their requirements are exactly that:  Ludicrous.  They are as ludicrous as asking someone to pay $600 for an orange.