Saturday, September 29, 2007

What I didn't know then...

It's pretty simple:

Boys tease you if they like you.

I know! It's true! Sure, people told me that and I poo-pooed it (because I thought they were just trying to make me feel better), but it's honest-to-God the truth. It's something in the male DNA or the testosterone or something, but they love to tease girls. The more they like you, the more they'll tease you. Especially if you react to the teasing. Why? It keeps you thinking about the guy. If he teases you, you're aware of him. If you think he's being mean, then you hash about it and dissect it and wonder what's up. Well, mission accomplished for him because he is now on your radar.

I wish I'd known this. I mean really known it was true.

It started in kindergarten when J.C. wiped his finger paint on me. I told him to stop, but he kept doing it. Little did I know he liked me. All I could focus on was my new red jumper that my grandma from New York sent me now looked like a used smock and I was gonna get in troooooooouble! Stupid J.C. Then, at lunch, he sat next to me and poured his milk on my sandwich. What an idiot! Of course, I cried and Mrs. Eagan got me a fresh sandwich from her kitchen and told me, "J.C.'s teasing you because he likes you." Yeah, right. He was teasing me because I had just moved to the south from Boston. Well, that's WHY I thought it. But you know, looking back at the memories...I'll be dog-gonned, he did like me 'cause he tried to hold my hand on the playground. Paint me surprised.

Then, in second grade, J.D. came all the way across the playground and pushed me off the seesaw. I fell in the dirt and tore my tights. (Again, with me destroying my outfit and getting in trouble.) But Mrs. Strother told me he liked me and was just playing with me. The strong-willed little animal within me, sought him out and pushed him back. Then, my cousin stepped in to defend my honor and challenged J.D. to a "duel." The next day at recess, they made paper/cardboard swords and had a duel over my honor. (Are you laughing? I am, just remembering this!) My cousin was triumphant and J.D. was defeated swiftly by the Reynolds Wrap over the cardboard sword. Of course, in the end, J.D. bought me a cookie at recess, asked me to a dance and then kissed me on the cheek. So, wait...he really did like me?

In sixth grade, the guys in my class all decided that they would declare "war" on the girls. Suddenly, they were shooting rubberbands and paperclips at us and popping our bras. Whenever Mrs. Gilchrist left us alone, the room turned into downtown Baghdad. The boys would chase us around and snap our bra straps and then whap us with the flying office supplies. Some girls would cower at their desk and beg for mercy. Others would fight back, being almost as aggressive as the guys. Not me. I wanted to cry. (What? I was 11 years old!) Why? 'Cause those paperclips rolled up inside paper launched by rubberbands hurt like blue-blazing Hades! This one guy in particular, C.S., seemed to enjoy using me for target practice. I was convinced that he hated me with the passion of a thousand suns. A point proven when he maimed me so badly that my bra strap broke and I had a red whelp on my arm. (Imagine this'd be on Larry King or something with the 11 year old being arrested for assault! LOL!) So, what did brainiac me do? I told on him. Yeah. Not a smart move. That ended the teasing...and his apparent "like" of me.

In tenth grade, I might have caught on a little more to the inner workings of the male mind, but I still wasn't convinced about this whole "I tease you because I like you" thing. On the basketball bus one night returning from a game (I was a cheerleader), I somehow got into an arm-wrestling match with L.O. that resulted in him literally holding on to my wrists, arms and hands all the way on the hour plus trip. Now, I had a massive crush on him, so any contact was heaven for me. But I thought he literally was staving me off. Holding me away. Then, why not push me away instead of holding onto me over the seat of the bus. Hmmm...if I'd known then what I know now, I'd know that he liked me because he was teasing me. Duh!!

And, it happened at work yesterday! Not in a romantic-like kind of way, but a good friend kind of way. A co-worker was giving me crap about something that was close to my heart and I got really offended by it. Being the consumate professional that I am, I told him that he had really offended me and hurt my feelings. Then, I get an e-mail from him that said:

I was only teasing you because you and I are such good friends. I didn’t mean to offend you in any way. You are too nice and sweet! You know I would never intentionally hurt you in any way. You are a mega sweety!!!

So wait...he was teasing me because we're good friends? DOH!!! Why didn't I see that? 'Cause I was being a silly girl. We're still silly, even when we're "grown up." Go figure!

Any of you have any experiences like this? Do you think we'll ever learn?

Marley = )

writing as Kate Harmon
May 2008, Puffin Books

Currently carrying around Simone's Leaving Paradise in my bag, but haven't had time to read lately. I will, though!


TinaFerraro said...

Oh, Marley, such sage advice! And I agree completely that it was only in hindsight that I saw teasing and attention like that as a compliment.

In fact, some years ago, a middle school guy was complaing that some girls in his math class kept writing on his hands and arms. I asked him if maybe they were flirting. He said no, it was just to be annoying. So I asked him if he would go out of his way to get close to or touch a girl didn't find attractive. He said of course not...and then I saw the wheels in his head start to turn. Eventually he realized he was far more popular than he'd known. :)

stephhale said...

OMG, Marley, this post hit home so hard. When I was a freshman, this guy who was a year older than me picked on me SO bad. I had a little bit of a crush on him so I kept coming around and he kept getting meaner and meaner, especially if other people were around. I moved on and started dating someone else. I would still see him around the halls and he would always smart off and ask how my boyfriend was. I usually just flipped him off. A few years after high school he was killed in a car accident. I was surprised at how incredibly upset I was. I went to the visitation and introduced myself to his parents. His mom said something about how in love with me John had been all through high school. I was floored. Then I realized that all the times he was mean to me it was his way of getting my attention or just prolonging our time together. Anyway, great post and so true.

Jessica said...

Couldn't help but giggle when I read this post. For better or worse, I don't think this is something that we ever truly outgrow! Thanks for posting it - it brought back many memories and, as Steph so poignantly stated, made others hit home.
Jessica (from over at the Purple Hearts!)

TinaFerraro said...

OMG, Steph, your story here really choked me up. Thanks for sharing that!

Marley Gibson said...

Thanks so much for sharing, everyone. Steph...your post is really awesome. Made my eyes water. Thanks for stopping by, Jessica! Great to see you here. Tina, I love the story of the middle school guy. I hope he's enjoying his popularity.

Me said...

Steph! What a tragically beautiful story.

Marley, so true. But oh don't we wish it weren't?

Tina, I looove your anecdote. It's just like a middle schooler to be so oblivious. =)