Suddenly I Was That Awkward 14 Year-Old Again

I’m a people person. Years of conducting wrestling interviews with people ranging from magazine models to governors taught me how to get conversation out of everyone. We’d get along. You – reading this. Me and you, we’d have private jokes and shared experiences. It would be great.

Plus, I like talking in front of groups of people. In my short college stint, I was president of my fraternity and voted their “Man of The Year” for 1998, which isn’t that long ago – shut up. In my junior and senior year of high school, I cleaned up in debate and returned to the school a year after graduation to act as team moderator. I can talk to people. Don’t you worry about that.

I’m skipping some time in my bio here.

That’s because before all that, I wasn’t as slick as I later learned to be. I was an awkward kid. I may have been boisterous but was far from the coolest nut in the freezer. I worried that classmates didn’t like me – which was half right and half wrong. Without any siblings close to my age and a block without a bustling street hockey scene, I didn’t have much experience with others in my demographic.

For me, females were the hardest to figure out. They were shinier and quieter than the boys, mostly. They watched different cartoons and played different games at recess. They carried pocketbooks, for crying out loud. What was that all about?


Now, of course, I’ve long since mastered how to interact with women –  divorce and obvious sarcasm notwithstanding. Yet, I had to start somewhere. We all did. The first real girlfriend I ever had for more than a few days was at 14. Ah. It was just as many of remember when we think of when we think of our first early relationships.

It was Terrible with a capital T. I mean like quirky tween dramedy terrible. Screech City.

Chrissie, as she’ll be named here, was a friend and my cringe-worthy attempt to be more than just friends was painfully awkward. Her response time upon being “asked out” was agonizingly longer than it should have been. The time we “dated” wasn’t the best, but it looked like a fairy tale compared to the soul-crushing finale and its aftermath.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because about three years ago, I went to Michaels. Michaels The Craft Store? Yes. Michaels The Craft Store.

Trips to Michaels are few and far between for me and usually indicate that I’m bored. Rarely do I need to pick up pipe cleaners or picture frames. It’s usually a last-minute stop-in before hitting the supermarket. This was one of those days.

While I hadn’t just rolled out of bed, I looked like I did. I was wearing a Nirvana tee that was normally a home-only-shirt. It was a real Dirtbag Jones morning, but there I was – in the yarn section.

And there she was – across the aisleway.

I hadn’t seen Chrissie in at least 20 years. We never crossed paths on social media or at a random function. Nothing. Now, here she was, looking pretty similar to how she did in high school. It took me out of the moment and I needed a second to readjust my brain to the whole thing. It didn’t feel real.

So, of course, being the prominent socialite I am today, I walked over and greeted her. We exchanged laughs and stories before going our separate ways.

Ha ha, no. I didn’t do any of that.

Instead, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach and I immediately turned the other way in my row. From there, I speed walked up and down random aisles to get away from where she was. After a few minutes of ducking behind an endcap of unpainted birdhouses like I was a Call of Duty camper, I left the store without buying anything.

Now, keep in mind, I wasn’t thinking, “Oh wow. I love that girl.” Times change, tastes change, and things like that. This wasn’t about attraction. I’m not sure what it was. It was as if she was an icon of my past whose mere image transported me to someone I was in a previous life. Before I knew it, I was that kid again. It shocked me with how quickly it happened. I was in a Michaels, but I might as well been at my Lindy High locker.

When I got in my car, I sat for a second and pondered what the hell had happened. I gave myself the ol’ “What is wrong with you” conversation in the rear view, gathered my thoughts, and pulled the car out of the spot.

The saving grace, I told myself, was that she hadn’t seen me. If she did, she didn’t acknowledge it. That would have been awful. I counted my blessings.

As I thought this, I pulled to the end of the long row in the parking lot and found myself at a four way stop sign. There was only one car waiting to go on my right. I looked up and locked eyes with the driver.

Chrissie peered back at me from her driver’s seat. I dropped my head, raised my hand, and waved for her to go ahead. She did. I never looked back up.

So much for saving graces. We all have Chrissies in our lives. In some ways, it’s good. It keeps you humble.

And it keeps you out of Michaels.




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