​Thank You P-Bar

            I went to a bar the other night, just to grab some food, and a beer or two.  Usually I go there with someone, but decided to go by myself as the place has a nice vibe to it, and I can count on a good time.  However, it was like that by going alone, I had upset the balance of the bar.  Same place, different vibe.

            Maybe it was the two new bartenders, or the fact I gave one of them a five for a $4.50 Corona and didn’t leave a tip.  Hey, I wasn’t sure if they would break a fifty for one beer.  Besides I was buying food.  Anyway, I ordered my food and finished my beer.  I walked across the room to the bar to get another, and it’s like I’m the invisible man.  The two girls just kept walking by me and my empty bottle. 

            I look across the room and my food had arrived.  What a dilemma, leave my food alone or wait for one of the girls to get me a beer?  Food won, I’m old and like it hot, plus I have a fear of some drunk guy munching on my fries, and I so rarely get it hot anymore.  I watched the bartenders scurry from table to table getting drinks for everyone.  Yet for poor little me there was only a cool breeze as they blew by.

            Thank God the cook took some sympathy on me as he watched me eat a hoagie and cheese fries with no beverage. He was kind enough to get yours truly a beer. My man continued to get me beers, until I settled up with him and decided to move to a different location in the bar.  I took my beer and placed a twenty on the table, the international symbol of someone who wants to continue drinking. No luck. 

            Then, if possible, it got worse.  The owner of the bar started re-arranging tables and cleared the entire area where I was sitting into a dancing area.  There I sat exposed, separated and yet somehow, invisible.  I thought I belonged, but I didn’t.  The whole incident took my back to my younger days and dealings with girls.

            Up until I was eleven, I would say that I had normal contact with girls. Once we moved to England, my formative years were fucked up.  I spent two years in an all boys’ boarding school.  I lived in an isolated, former church rectory; and I mean isolated, this was decades before facebook and twitter existed.  I had no friends in the area other than my younger brother and the spoiled little brat who would visit his grandfather, my parent’s landlord. 

            I would occasionally be with girls during that two year period; in fact I can give you the exact number, five, which, just happens to match the digits on my right hand. Of the five two were younger sisters, one was an older sister and the other two were what we called ‘tarts.’  Needless to say my boy-girl social skills were stunted.  The only clear memory I have is my buddy going into the woods with his ‘bird’ while I discussed soccer on the park bench with mine.

            Things took a turn for the better, I thought, when my father was transferred to an Air Force base with an American high school, and we would live in base housing.  Of course, as I would find out my entire life, transition would be a problem.  I was entering 8th grade; and wouldn’t you know it all the clicks and groups had been formed by this time.  There I was skinny, long hair, British accent, and the new guy.

            To make matters worse there were girls in the school, and some of them were wearing dresses. Dresses!!  That’s when my social dysfunction kicked in. I had never really seen a pair of girl’s legs up close. Sure I’d rubbed a female mannequin’s leg once or twice, and loved the feel of a pair of stockings against my face, I mean hand, but these were real flesh and blood girls. 

 One pretty blonde haired girl got up from her desk and spun around to talk to one of her friends.  Her dress lifted and slowly floated down causing a heating sensation to rise from my neck to face.  I only glanced quickly because I did not know what to do.  Spinning my upper body back to face the front of the class caused my elbow to hit my books and pencil holder sending them against the wall.  I think that was the first time my ass puckered as I panicked trying to decide whether to sit there or pick up my stuff.  Fortunately the laughter of the class drowned out my whimpers as I tried to sneak around the front of my desk to pick up my stuff. 

            I believe that between the ages of 11-12 guys begin to develop their ability to speak and act around girls.  They learn how to steal glances at bare legs and sweatered breasts.  Guys begin to know what they can and cannot get away with; some even begin some sort of “dating.”  Others don’t date, but have a comfort around girls just from being in close proximity to them.

            I spent much of my first year wearing a neck brace so my eyes couldn’t wander below the neckline. If I was to venture a peek at the forbidden areas my instant facial sunburn was a dead giveaway.  As the year began to wind down I actually had a few girl friends, not girlfriends, but girl friends.  I spent much time alone in my room or in a cold shower.  As much water as I used I probably still owe the government money.

            Isn’t it funny that once you start to get comfortable with something, the scene changes and fucks everything up? With ninth grade came dances.  I could hardly walk next to a girl without stumbling around like a drunk.  Eyes up, eyes down, don’t walk to close, move a little closer, should I say something or just walk in silence. Silence is always good.  You’re less likely to make an ass out of yourself, less likely.  I once was concentrating so hard on not making eye contact or speaking I ran into a light post, fell into the street rendering myself unconscious.  Slick; real slick

But I digress. Dances. Just for the record I’m white, so my dancing skills are not that great, and way back then as a tall, skinny, socially inept boy, I would say I often looked more like a convict being electrocuted than a dancer.  Many things in my life may have evolved, but dancing is not one.

I’m not sure much has changed in regards to the teen dance, maybe the music and the type of dancing, but the nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach as you walk across the dance floor to ask the girl of your dreams to dance is the same.  It would seem logical that the girls that talk to you in school would dance with you in public.  However, this is often not the case.

There seems to be some magical transition from the hallways to the dance hall.  For example one girl I knew was great, we laughed and carried on together in class, spoke at lunch and work on projects together.  Yet the first, and only, time I approached her to dance it was like we’d never met. I don’t know which was worse the way she looked down her nose at me or the giggles from her friends as I turned to run, I mean, walk away.

Perhaps this is when I started to develop my multiple personalities.  Girls were one way in school and another way at a dance.  I could take the rejection of a girl friend personally and end the school portion of the relationship, but to do that would close my small female social circle.  So I had to create two worlds, the school world and the dance world, eventually I would create other worlds to keep the balance and social structure of the universe intact.

I had many dance lowlights while in England.  Looking back some of my favorites were; walking across the dance floor to ask a girl to dance who had earlier in the day thank me profusely for buying her a flower, it was the only one she received, yet when I asked her for a dance she responded, “Why would I dance with you?” There is nothing like the laughter of girls at your expense.  I did begin to develop my one liner skills at this point, in my mind, I wasn’t quite brave enough to vocalize, but in my mind I was deadly.

Another great one was the time one of my girl friends waved and smiled at me across the dance floor, but disappeared as I took my first step towards her.  Her friends were like a secret service detail, surrounding her and moving her to the safety of the snack bar.  I believe I singlehandedly made the girls track team better. 

Now my dance related disasters were not limited to the dance floor. Oh, no, I have three that scar me to this day.  While I will not name names today, if I ever become famous, then I will name names.  Which one first? It is so tough to choose. But let’s start with the biology test fiasco.

It was time to ask a girl to the Winter Formal.  My biology partner was cute, friendly and we got along well.  She didn’t have a date for the dance, so naturally we were a perfect match, right?  However, I had never asked a girl to a dance before, we were never alone and every time I was going to ask this huge lump appeared in my throat making it difficult to talk, and quite possibly to look at me.

Finally I decided that I would ask after we completed our biology test.  I sucked at biology so it didn’t matter if she finished quickly or took her time, I could pace myself. It was a great test because we could move around the room to where the various displays and questions were posted.  I followed her around at a distance judging how close she was to being finished.  Looking back I may have been the first stalker, but who knew?

After what seemed a lifetime she had finished the test and headed to the front to turn it in.  I quick walked to the front as well to turn in my test. We walked out of the class together, alone at last.  I cleared my throat and made some squeaky remarks about the test and the weather.  As we turned down the hallway I asked her to go to the dance with me; she looked at me and walked into the girls’ bathroom. 

I just kept walking, figuring that was a no.  The worse part of the whole affair was, as I exited the building all my friends were sitting on a wall waiting.  It was like they knew what I was up too and what the answer was going to be.  The only concern they showed was when I walked out alone, like maybe I had been mean to her.  Me mean to her?  Guys, some advice; check out your surroundings before you decide to ask a girl an important question.  After that incident, I never asked women anything near a window, door, or train tracks.

The Prom, what a great event: well so I heard.  There was an attractive girl with a great personality in my English class. None of the other guys really were interested in her because she was handicapped.  Her left hand resembled a crab pincher and she had a slight limp due to a muscular problem with her leg.  Now to me this was no big deal as she was a very nice person and had a very nice body, with a couple of noted exceptions.

I took every opportunity to lend her a hand, so to speak, carrying her books, helping her at lunch with her tray, and being her partner, when needed in class.  She was appreciative and seemed to like the attention.  We had spent time at each other’s homes working on projects and a couple of homework assignments.  Some people don’t like to admit when someone knows more than them, it doesn’t bother me.  I thought we were a great team.

When we were alone at our houses we would sit close, our legs occasionally touching.  There were times when we would hang out with our group of friends and she would squeeze my leg between hers under the table. Once in a while our arms would brush against one another.  We even held hands under a table at school.

I felt a tension building between us of a teen sexual nature.  Could a kiss be just around the corner, maybe more? Or perhaps it was this thinking that began to cloud my judgment and I began reading more into our “relationship” than there was.  When the semester ended and classes changed so did our “relationship.” 

Gone were the heady days of hanging out at lunch time, or afterschool visits at our houses.  We still talked, albeit briefly, but we did talk.  Now I was not an expert on women then and, believe me, over time things have gotten worse, so you can only guess how poorly I was reading the blow off signs.  Sure she had a new guy helping her, he was in her class; so she sat a couple tables over from me now, and someone else was helping her carry her lunch, made sense as they were in class together.  You get the picture, needless to say I didn’t.

Undaunted, I prepared to ask my friend to go to the prom.  It was almost like God was on my side; somehow we ended up alone as we were walking to our houses after school.  The sun was just clipping the tops of the Anglo housing complex; a soft breeze gently brushed her short dirty blond hair.  Soft clouds littered the skies and the air was punctured by the sound of a single swallow singing.

I knew this was the moment to ask.  Surely God had prepared this scene, just for this moment? Wrong. You might say the devil is in the details. The words came stumbling and stammering out, quite possibly sounding like a foreign language. However, as I had said, she was very smart, and knew what I had asked.

“Greg, really? Can you imagine me being seen with you? What would Roger think? Roger and I are science partners. I mean, I enjoyed helping you last semester, and all; but honestly, a dance? With you?” and just like that, she was gone.  I don’t remember the clouds rolling in, but the rain was cold, and the gray skies served as a backdrop to the blues music running through my head.

Then there was lovely Linda; cheerleader, student council member, National Honor Society President, and animal lover. I know, you’re thinking, why would you ask someone so far above your social standing out? Yeah, I hear you. Where were you guys when I needed you?

Linda and I hung out in the library every day during fourth period. We laughed, we talked, we laughed, and got along great. So, the Winter Formal was approaching, and I was looking for a date. Where better than the safety of the library to ask a young lady out? The door was across the room, the windows we shut, and we were sitting at a table, just the two of us.

I thought this was the perfect opportunity, and asked. There is something to be said about being funny, people like you, you can lighten the mood, and you’re often the go to guy at a party. However, with women, it can be troublesome. After the words had left my mouth, Linda burst out laughing, which in the quiet of a library can be a distraction to the other twenty people in the room.

I remember distinctly feeling very small; it seemed that my legs no longer reached the floor, and the wooden chair suddenly seemed very huge. As hot and embarrassed as I felt, I’m surprised the chair didn’t catch fire. Then to add to my misery, Linda apologized saying she thought I was joking. She then proceeded to pull out a year book, that God must have put there, and began showing me all the other girls that I should ask to the dance. And you wonder why I have issues . . .

Life can be funny, and it can be painful, but either way, you have to keep moving forward. At every turn, you learn something new about yourself, others, or just life in general. The tough skin developed during my pubescent years, helped me in many different situations, and in doing stand-up comedy in various clubs. If you happen to see perform one night, don’t worry, I haven’t locked the doors, windows or bathrooms to prevent you from walking out; or have I?