For better or worse, I will always remember Vicky.
I met Vicky…well, I met her in the most literal sense of the word the first time she came to a science fiction club meeting early in my sophomore year of high school. But that doesn’t really count, you see, because even though she was at quite a few science fiction club meetings, and even though she even stayed around to play a couple sessions of the RPG I was playing in at the time, I was too anxious to actually talk to this new girl who clearly wanted nothing to do with me. So, we fast forward about a year.
I was hanging around after school was out for some reason or another, early in my junior year. Vicky and her boyfriend were cuddling together in an alcove off the main hall of the industrial arts building. I was probably headed to the radio station, as I knew at least a few people who hung around there. She called out to me, by my first name. This may be a trifling detail, but all through high school everyone who knew me seemed to call me by my full name, despite the fact that I was the only Aaron in the entire. Damn. School. I don’t know why it happened, but I wasn’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of letting them know it infuriated me. This is exactly why I have only committed this fact to writing after I was able to go to my tenth high school anniversary and confirm nobody who mocked me in this way remembers who the hell I am.
I hung out with her and her boyfriend that afternoon, and immediately felt…well, wanted. It was a surprising feeling at that time. Over the next year she and her friends became a backbone of my social group. We were on the same bus route going to school, we both were in the science fiction club, and we both hung out with the same essential pool of nerds. And I was completely, hopelessly infatuated with her. To an extent, she reciprocated my advances, which made it even worse. The summer after junior year, Vicky became the first girl I kissed.
And this is roughly the point in the story where things start going downhill. It didn’t happen immediately, mind you. She was still dating the same guy when we got back to school, but that kind of flamed out for multiple reasons. After that, I kind of made my intentions known. We hooked up, once, a few months into school. And then she confided in me that she was interested in someone else. I, um, didn’t take it well. In fact, the extent to which I didn’t take it well is one of at least the top three reasons I’m glad I deleted my livejournal in high school. She was angry at me for what I said. She was justified in being angry at me. I did not see that at the time. I then proceeded to stop talking to her for about five months until my senior prom, which I went to with someone else. We kind of made amends, though I do not recall if I apologized.
And this gets to the crux of the story, and the title. I, angry 17 year old that I was, did not see that nothing about our history entitled me to go out with this girl if that’s not what she was interested in. I believe the terms I used in that horrendous blog post were about deception, but whose fault was it that I was deceived? Well, my own. I chose to keep the wool over my eyes because it made me feel like I had a chance.
I had a discussion today with one of my good high school friends about male entitlement, which centered around this article. Beyond the immediate and provocative irony that we both belonged to a Kevin Smith-watching, Weezer-listening friend group together in our early teens, the article immediately struck a chord with me because it was describing someone I knew intimately.
This was the nature of my nerddom in high school. I felt like I was more socially put together than my other gamer geek friends, while being more intellectually put together than my goth/stoner friends. It was a perfect storm of quiet arrogance, and it led directly into this entitlement trap. Combine that with severe misunderstandings about the nature of monogamy and promiscuity, and you had the makings of someone who was going to be at least an asshole and quite possibly a “nice guy” for some time in the future.
It is remarkably difficult to pin down single events as influential in the person you become. But I know who I was in high school. I know that I was the nerd who was resentful of the asshole jocks, resentful of the confidence I did not have and the seeming pointlessness of the good traits which I did. I know I could have easily become a creepy hanger-on type for a much longer period of my life. And I know that when Vicky stood right in my face, formidable even though she was six inches shorter than me, looked me in the eye, and told me that I had absolutely no right to judge her or her choices, she formed the first real crack in my conceited persona. Even if I was stubborn enough to not apologize to her face, I knew in my head and my heart that she was completely right.
As I mentioned we did make amends, I even spent some time with her the summer before I left for college. But since then, we went our separate ways, each going through our own set of struggles that aligned with the lives we lived. By now, both of us have settled into our own parallel versions of normal adulthood, working at office jobs with significant others and new social circles. From Facebook I gather that both of us still see a couple high school friends, but there’s no overlap anymore. Life goes on.
I have to give her credit though. I honestly believe she provided at least some of the impetus for me to break out of the cycle of male nerd entitlement and think a little more critically about how people relate. She was the one who told me to my face I was being an asshole. And I needed that from someone I trusted. Part of me thinks we would have maintained a closer friendship if that event never happened, if I had been more prudent about what I said on the internet. At the same time, it was a shock to my system I sorely needed. I know what I was like in high school before that incident happened. But that’s a story for another time.
In the meanwhile, I owe her an apology and thanks. She had to deal with the 17-year old alpha nerd version of me, which I don’t relish thinking about. She also helped kill it. And for that I’m grateful.