There are no two ways around it: I was a strange kid.
I very much lived inside my own head when I was younger. I was obsessed with TV shows my parents watched when they were kids. I created characters for myself on those shows, like being best friends with the Fonz or the 7th Brady kid. I would act out scenes for those characters during my playtime. This may or may not have been cute until I went to school. Then it got weird.
My hatred for small talk goes all the way back to my pre-school days. Only at this time, I hadn’t yet learned how to respond with inconspicuous answers to appear as though I were engaged. When I was 4, I responded with silence and blank stares. However, as mentioned earlier, I enjoyed acting out scenes I had made up in my head, so during recess, kids would try to play with me, and I would break off without really giving much thought to the social contract that comes with recess, and start (what could only appear to be) talking to myself. Sometimes, the teachers would admonish me against talking to myself, but being a four-year-old, I wasn’t entirely familiar with the concept of talking to oneself, and would carry on with my Emmy-worthy work.
Also, did I mention I loved musicals? I fancied myself a singer and would occasionally decide life was a musical and it was perfectly okay to break out into song in the middle of the kickball field. I assure you it was not, and a lot of kickballs were thrown at my head.
I was also obsessed with the idea of falling in love. Always have been. Perhaps it is my sweetest downfall. But I can say at the ripe old age of four, it happened for the first time. His name was Timothy. He was short, but solid, with a dapper blond buzz cut and a teal sweatshirt that immediately caught your eye. He was also beautifully cultured, filled with expertise on a vast array of subjects such as sand architecture and Barbie medicine.
I never quite understood why he noticed me. There were two other girls in the pre-school class: Shannon, a strong and independent woman with beautiful almond eyes, and Irene, who had a glowing personality and curly hair I always envied. Then there was me: the chubby and gap-toothed girl who wore bonnets and long, white gloves to school (I thought I was Mary Poppins) and whose only talent to speak of was singing at inconvenient times. Still, Timothy was there. He was the firm paternal role model my dollies needed so badly. He would push me on the swing.
Then, one day, the unthinkable happened. Timothy had asked me to meet him under the slide, which obviously meant it was of the utmost importance. I shook with anticipation as I approached our meeting place. What could it be? A fatal illness? Did he need a kidney? What if our blood types were different? My heart raced as I pictured the worst. Then, before I could even sit down, he pulled out a red sparkly ring: the kind you admired as it glowed in the 25 cent machine at the supermarket. My eyes lit up as he slid it on my finger. I had found the one.
The wedding plans naturally began immediately. I had already decided on a chocolate cake and a DJ and was about to draw a stick-figure design for my dress when I noticed something…
Irene’s finger had a bright blue ring on it: the most beautiful blue ring I’d ever seen; blue to match her eyes, blue to match the heavens.
“Irene, where did you get that ring?” I casually asked as I slipped my bejeweled hand behind my back.
“Oh, Timothy gave it to me,” she said as she bat her eyes and giggled.
It was a lesson in trust. I learned then as I gazed down at my inferior red ring that monogamy was going to be no easy task. I learned that the road to successful, loving relationships was a rough one. I learned that boys are stupid. I quickly canceled all the wedding plans and pushed Timothy’s face into the sandbox.
This encounter set the framework for the long journey ahead of me: that of a woman with a song in her heart and a bonnet on her head, unlucky in love, commitment, and otherwise.