If you read my last “Stupid %&$t I Did When I was Young” entry, you may have surmised that someone was really looking out for me. It’s great, now that I look back, I can stop judging myself and just realize, I sure did have someone looking out for me. Don’t all 17 year-olds need that? How many times did I get myself in harm’s way, being careless and not looking out for myself, or simply reacting to situations in the wrong way? It is so good, today, to look back and see how blessed I was. Today’s story takes place 2-3 months after last week’s story of the white rabbit and cursed donuts. Yes, I was 17, a year that shall go down in infamy for me! This post is not for the faint of heart. I’m being very open and frank, and I don’t mind sharing the stories of how dorky I was at times. Hence, why I have titled this series ‘Stupid #%&$ I Did When I Was Young.’ I just shake my head at my young self, sometimes.
Through many of these experiences, I have learned a lesson, such as, it’s never too late to change your mind; those split second decisions to “turn around the car” and “get back on the right track” are really important, even if they come at a late point. Some of these experiences only served to show me I really needed to take care of and honor myself better, ironically, the topic of yesterday’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt show on Netflix, in which Tina Fey was truly in top form, but I digress….
Aimee Mann and Madonna were my idols. To put it in other words, I wanted to live Madonna’s life, and have Aimee Mann’s looks. It was a pipe dream, okay? Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were played on my radio quite often, as well, to sort of round out my musical taste. It was my goal to be pale, light blonde, and very thin, with lots of eyeliner. I struggled a lot at age 17 with a negative self image, negative body image, depression, and as I see from looking back at this particular experience, a little bit of anxiety, whether social or otherwise. My mom and I were not too close at this point, as she was a working mom so I kept secrets from her a lot, and she had put her foot down after I let my first car literally get destroyed by false friends. So I was feeling a little rebellious against that. However, I was ecstatic when I got my first mall job, because I could ditch the fast-food uniform, but it meant I had to deal with the public more closely. I did just fine at putting on nice clothes and styling my hair just right. However, people had to remind me to smile, so I did. It was my job. Maybe that was good for me….
This particular mall I worked at was quite booming back in 1985, especially on this bright summer day. It was my lunch break. I headed to the hot dog stand where I quite often ate, since it was pretty cheap and I seemed to have just a little money. Maybe my mom was out of town that week. I recall one of her uncles had passed away that summer, and I stayed in town because of my new job. Fending for myself meant eating out for every meal, on the cheap. Man, it was crowded on that day, maybe it was a Saturday. I seem to recall the whole mall being packed. A school friend was working behind the counter. I only had $1 and change.
“Do you want cheese?” She asked.
“No,” I lied. I was really hungry.
“No charge,” she whispered. Cool! How lucky I was!
They had no tables in the hot dog “stand,” so I sat at a bench. Either I felt guilty about the cheese, or I couldn’t stand the crowds; for some reason I was nervous and started wolfing down that hot dog. Soon, it became obvious that a large portion of the hot dog was stuck in my throat. I kid you not. There were people all around and I just couldn’t allow myself to cause a scene. I stood up, I couldn’t swallow, could just barely breathe, and I walked very cautiously to the store where I worked, where I knew there was a bathroom with many stalls so I wouldn’t have to wait in line with this deathly shocked look on my face. Yes, I was obviously in distress. I ran into someone on the way there, and they said, “Are you alright?” I just shook my head yes, because man, I didn’t want to cause a scene in the store!
I made it to the bathroom and got into a stall. I’m sorry if it’s gross, but my only recourse was to stick a finger down my throat, which, of course, caused the gag reaction. Up came the hot dog bit, into the commode. So I flushed it away. I’ll admit I had a very unhealthy body image, but I was not one to waste food like that to stay thin. I would just not eat, or I’d eat very little. But, seriously, I was hungry that day and I’d lost half my lunch! There was no more money either. I went up to the break-room to find someone to bum money from, and there was the guy who obviously had a crush on me. “Can I borrow a few bucks?” I asked. I felt bad, being helpless and knowing I’d never return his feelings. Yet I knew he’d say yes. He gave me a few bucks and his break was over, so the awkwardness didn’t linger. I sat and ate a pitiful sandwich from the machine, blocking the hot dog from my mind and at least filling the empty, shocked feeling in the pit of my stomach.
So, I’m quite grateful that the young man was there, because I may not have had the nerve to ask anyone else. I simply felt sure he wouldn’t spread the gossip. And I am so thankful that I didn’t choke to death on my walk from the bench all the way to the store bathroom. I suppose someone was looking out for me. We all need that when we are young and, well, ‘stupid.’ Prone to action before thought. However, I did learn a lesson. Eat slowly. Now I do. It’s never good to express nervous anxiety through your eating habits. It causes digestive issues, which I have to this day, and they help to remind me to slow down. I do not tolerate chaos around me when I eat, speaking up if people bang on the table, holler, or jump around telling a crazy story. I also eat very few hot dogs to this day. 🙂
It’s been fun and enlightening looking back at my life and digging up the most shocking and surprising stories. I hope I have inspired or surprised someone with my frankness. Maybe I’ve got you thinking about your stories of youthful infamy? This may be my last regular”Stupid %&#$ I Did When I was Young” post for a while. My life is about to get really busy again. My summer break is almost over, and I’m working on other writing projects. But I enjoyed this exercise in remembering, reflecting, and writing. Perhaps I’ll post a random entry occasionally, and return to it regularly next summer.
So many times in these events, I felt like a loser, sitting on the side of the road in a car that did donuts when roads were slick (see last week’s post), or almost choking on a hot dog. But I wasn’t a loser. I survived all that, and I can look back on it and laugh. Definitely NOT a loser. Thank God those days developed into better days, and developed me into a stronger woman. Youth is not wasted on the young.. . I believe I learned what I needed to learn, even if it was the hard way.