By Nancy Rue
Okay, I know you hate it when some sixty-year-old woman says, “When I was your age . . . “ because it’s apparent she was never “your age” and even if she was, she wasn’t your age in this age, the twenty-first century. Yeah, if you’re polite, your eyes glaze over and you just nod a lot. If you’re not so much with the manners you outright say, “Are you serious? Really?”
So I know I’m taking a big risk here by saying: At age 13, I was the biggest geek with boys who ever lived. And I am NOT exaggerating.
Just hear me out, because if nothing else you’re going to get a smirk out of this (and maybe feel a whole lot better about your own level of geek-ness!)
I was taller than all the guys. None of the boys had hit their growth spurt yet and I was five foot seven.
I was really skinny. Not slender, mind you. “Slender” is reserved for girls who can walk all the way across an unfurnished room without tripping over something. Like their own feet.
The largest thing on me was my nose. No exaggeration there, either. I had the Naylor (my maiden name) proboscis and while rather handsome on my father was less than attractive on my small, pimple-dotted face. Most of those annoying zits sprouted from the nose in question. When I got one right on the end it was like a motorcycle headlight.
Somehow I got somebody else’s share of the oil that comes with puberty and what wasn’t on my skin was in my hair. My ultra-short ‘do (my mother said I looked cute with short hair and I was going to keep it short; what my mother said was right up there with the penal code) looked fluffy and shiny for all of about fifteen seconds after I washed it. And the fact that I lived in Florida where the humidity is 98% all the time made the situation even worse.
Not to mention the fact that I wore the most uncool clothes that ever took up a closet. Those were the days of Villager brand dresses and Lady Bug blouses with tiny prints and round collars that had little lady bug pins attached to them – which you could only get if you actually bought the Lady Bug brand. Weejun loafers and gold cup socks completed the outfit – that is, if your parents had bucks and could afford all of the above. Villager and Lady Bug were as expensive in that economy as Abercrombie and Fitch is in today’s. Do I even need to say that my folks didn’t have the money for that wardrobe? Mind you, my mother was a wonderful seamstress and she could have made replicas and, except for the pin, nobody would have known the difference. But what came out of her sewing machine? Puffed sleeves. Pink gingham. Sashes that tied in a bow. I looked like I was playing Alice in Wonderland after she ate the mushroom that made her huge.
I myself have told you that appearance isn’t everything, but it’s definitely something when it makes you feel like you are too completely out of it to even be breathing. Somehow I managed to get along fine with most of the girls, even the ones who got to shave their legs until they shone under those adorable wrap-around skirts. There were enough other girls in my category that I didn’t feel completely alone.
The boys, however, were another story entirely. I couldn’t just be my awkward, silly, mega-sensitive self around them and be okay with it. Somehow it was different. All I could do was –
- Giggle uncontrollably
- Say things that made no sense
- Say things they didn’t give a rip about
- Say things I thought they’d be interested in and make an idiot out of myself
- Or not say anything at all and revert to the afore-mentioned giggling
I didn’t know what to do with my arms so they felt longer and more ape-like with every moment I was in some cutie’s presence. I didn’t know where to look so my gaze darted all over the place and, I knew, made me look like I was having a panic attack (which I guess I was!) Most of the time I found some excuse to get the Sam Hill out of there so I wouldn’t have to see that look enter his eyes, the one that said, “Are you for real?”
I could have just avoided boys. Except that I was starting to like them. They were fascinating, and I wanted to be the kind of girl they liked. I wanted to be comfortable being around them so I could feel like I was normal. But as the orangutan-limbed, pizza-faced, hyena-laughing freak I thought I was, I figured I was far from normal. I was a geek.
So, why am I telling you all this?
Because I get emails and comments on my blog ALL the time from girls who give me descriptions of themselves so similar to mine I start getting the old sweaty palm thing going. They bewail the same state of mind: I want to at least have some friends who are boys but I turn into Elmer Fudd when one gets within five feet of me. It still happens. It’s still painful. And I think I can help maybe a little.
First of all, when I started to grow into myself physically, very slowly, starting about halfway through ninth grade, that helped a lot. I talked my mother into letting me wear my hair about three inches longer than it was and took impeccable care of it so she wouldn’t make me have it all cut off again. My sister taught me now to shave my legs. The neighbor across the street was going away to college and didn’t want her Lady Bugs and Villagers any more so she gave them all to me. My skin didn’t clear up until I was 17 but I figured out ways to at least keep the headlight beams from shining off my nose. Feeling more comfortable with the way I looked was important. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
I also began to look at the way the girls who were so at ease with guys acted. They didn’t behave like boys were aliens from another planet. They weren’t afraid of them. They acted as if they actually liked Kip and Doug and Ted (yes, those were their real names!) for who they were rather than how they made them feel. Okay, yeah, there were a lot of games going on. Big-time flirting, which I never have gotten the hang of. Drama. Getting-together-breaking-up-getting-back-at-whoever-hurt-whom. That seemed way too complicated to me. But the boy-girl friendships that were forming – that I wanted to be part of. And as I watched and listened and stopped thinking about it in terms of I-would-like-to-have-a-boyfriend, the following things naturally happened over the next couple of years:
- I didn’t giggle hysterically, except on occasion with my girlfriends
- I didn’t try to act cool because I clearly was not
- I got involved in activities I loved
- I became a leader in my youth group
- I was the one other people came to when they needed somebody to talk to
Many of my friends in high school were boys. In fact, that’s been the case ever since. I almost always had a boyfriend – nothing serious until college – just a fun guy to do stuff with and learn how males think and find out that someday I really did want a romantic relationship. I still reverted back to geekdom occasionally. Probably still do. But the more I got to know me and focused on just plain good relationships and figured out where God was in all of it, I felt less like the walking nose who squawked like a heron at the sight of the male of the species.
I guess I’m sharing this story with you because I can’t really tell you how not to feel like a geek around boys. I can only say, this is what worked for me. And even though it was, wow, a lot of years ago, it might still work for you.