Adolescence and Romance (or Lack Thereof)

Adolescence is typically rocky for boys, but mine started out with promise. When I was in eighth grade, they let Mother out of the pokey and I left Randy's house with great relief. I was even more grateful to be gone when he was arrested the following week for possession with intent to sell. Freed of the burden of incarceration, however, Mother went downhill in short order. A month out, she went on a bender and solicited a police officer at a convenience store. Mother went back to jail and I fostered with a kind couple named Smithers. Mr. Smithers worked at the pork packing plant and Mrs. Smithers kept house. She had never had children of her own and was thrilled to have me with them. She burned my ratty Members Only jacket and Levis and commenced to make all my clothes from her quilting scraps.

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I was plagued with acne, courtesy of my father whose face my mother had once described, in a fit of poetic whimsy, as "like the surface of the moon, only not as glowy." Mrs. Smithers tried a home remedy she swore would work like a charm: garlic paste, applied nightly. Though Mrs. Smithers gently likened my smell to "a fine Italian restaurant" it was really more "Pizza Hut dumpster." It did, however, clear up the acne and after a few months the smell finally faded. The scarring was only noticeable in harsh fluorescent lighting.

Inspired by my lifelong love of all things Hollywood, I auditioned for every musical in high school and landed roles like "Third Sharecropper," "Man on Street" and "Boy in Crowd." When, in a desperate bid for inclusion, I petitioned the choral director to let me play an orphan girl in "Annie," Mr. Smithers decided my passion had become an unhealthy obsession and further auditions were forbidden.

When Randy (out on parole) announced he had "knocked up" Cheree Bowman, I realized I was lagging behind my peers in the area of inter-gender relations. I decided the senior prom was my chance to breach the mysterious world of dating. I consulted my yearbook and made a list of prospects. Penny Williams seemed most likely to say yes. She was sort of pretty and rather smart, but possibly within reach. She had smiled at me once at the pencil sharpener and almost made eye contact several times. Sadly, I had greatly underestimated the difficulty of getting a date while wearing quilt scrap overalls.

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