In junior high, most of the kids made Top 10 lists ranking the girls or boys they liked in our class.
We’d write them during study hall. We’d write them during lunch. We’d write them on recess if the weather kept us inside. We’d write them during class.
It was always nice to find out you ranked No. 4 on the hot girls’ lists.
“Well Matt, if she strikes out with Jason, Chad and Andy, you totally have a shot with her.”
Relationships in junior high tended to be measured in weeks, not months. If a couple was “going together” for three months, they were well on their way toward marriage, comparatively speaking.
So, you could go from being someone’s Plan D to Plan B or A virtually overnight.
My memory is total shit sometimes. But let’s see if I can reconstruct a viable 8th grade Top 10 list.
The Top 10 List, circa. 1992
1. Erin – She was the token hot girl. And I don’t mean that as an insult to her. I can’t recall her mistreating me or anyone else even once. But it is still shallow and cliché to put the hot blonde up top.
2. Sarah – I usually kept her at No. 2, no matter what, even though she was secretly my No. 1 most of the time. We were good friends and had access to one another’s lists, so I had to play coy. I wrote a post called The Other One That Got Away in July. I have never written The One That Got Away, and probably never will. It’s reserved for this girl.
3. Kelly – There wasn’t a lot of sexy (I’m using that as a noun) prancing around the halls of our small-town Catholic school. But if anyone pulled it off, this girl did. I almost feel dirty even thinking about this. I’m trying to channel 13-year-old me here, okay? We have a lot in common. Neither of us get any!
4. Jill – We had a pretty good platonic friendship back then. Meaningful relationships go a long way with me. That was true in junior high as well. We were in band together. Yeah, that’s right, dicks. I played in concert band in 7th and 8th grade. The trumpet. I was, like, the third-best one. One time, we had a concert band show out at the high school. I was wearing a short sleeve button-up with a clip-on tie. And I dripped ketchup on my shirt before the concert. Somewhere in this world there’s a photo of me wearing that terrible, stained outfit. Clip-on tie. Hahahahahaha. That’s probably my mom’s fault.
5. Lisa – Kind. Pretty. Smart. Athletic. She was a Top 10 staple on every guy’s list. I ran for vice president of my 7th grade class and lost to her.
6. Abby – This is the first girl I ever had a legit crush on. Third grade. Sparks flew. She didn’t feel them, though. She got in some legal trouble as an adult with my cousin. They took things that didn’t belong to them, or tried to. My cousin is now married with children and doing well. He’s a very good guy. I hope she’s well, too. Always a sweetheart.
7. Chris – She might have been the tallest girl in our class. Definitely taller than me. And I’m a little sensitive about being short. But—and this is an important point—I WASN’T short in 8th grade. In fact, I was in the upper tier of height back then. Basically, as tall as I am now. I broke my ankle in 8th grade during a pick-up basketball game. Because of that injury, I had a podiatrist take a lot of X-rays of the bone break. That podiatrist—I swear to God—told me and my mother that I could expect to be about 6’0” or 6’1” tall based on the remaining space between my growth plates. I was so excited. But everyone kept growing. And I kept not growing. Maybe smoking and drinking coffee really does stunt your growth. The Old Wives need to get their freaking stories straight so I know what to believe and what to ignore.
8. Kendra – For about three years in a row, my friends and I would toilet paper this girl’s house on Halloween. I have absolutely no idea why we thought this was a good idea. It must have really pissed off her mom and dad and neighbors. Until you’re a homeowner, you just can’t appreciate how annoying it would be to spend hours picking up bits of toilet paper from your yard. I’m quite pleased that I don’t have any trees in my front yard. Some anonymous cock did shoot an orange paintball at my house once. I’m still angry about it.
9. Stephanie – If we’re getting super-technical, she was my first-ever girlfriend. In 5th grade. We were “together” for about a month. Maybe. Our magical romance consisted of a few phone conversations and no kissing.
10. Rachael – I wasn’t particularly attracted to this girl, and to be honest, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have included her on my Top 10 lists in 8th grade. However, Rachael was the only known non-virgin in 8th grade. In our entire class. That’s the kind of information that can elevate one’s Q rating in the eyes of young, hormonal teenage boys. Just. Saying.
Author’s Note: In the off-chance anyone from my past is reading this, I pray this doesn’t offend you. Because of my excessive drinking and pot smoking from about ages 17-28, I don’t remember when certain girls came and went from our school. But I can promise that Adult Me thinks you’re wonderful and wouldn’t dream of including you in any rankings today. Probably.
A Whole New World
Everything’s different now.
I’ve said it before. And it’s true.
Every girl I like is married. Every. One.
I don’t have any single female friends. Perhaps in time, I will.
Meanwhile, it’s hard not to long for the past.
Every girl was single. The girl in the most-serious relationship had been “dating” her boyfriend for two months or so and maybe they’d kissed. Maybe.
I’ve been working on this new strategy where I try not to think too much about this. I’m trying to trust that this is the sort of thing that’s going to work itself out naturally. The old “Ehhh. I don’t care about finding a girlfriend, so maybe I’ll finally find one” double-reverse Jedi mind trick.
But how? When? Where?
If I just keep doing all the stuff I normally do? Going to work. Hanging out with friends here and there. Playing a little golf. Playing a little poker. Watching a little football. And focusing on my son the rest of the time?
I don’t know. I just don’t know. The odds aren’t exactly in my favor on this thing.
Here’s the sequence of events that will have to happen for me to date someone locally:
1. I actually have to meet someone. In five months, I have met TWO girls. One lives in North Carolina and was visiting her family for a wedding the weekend I met her. The other was 10 years younger than me and is best friends with my neighbor Ryan’s fiancée. I’m thinking, no.
2. She has to live nearby and be available. I haven’t met even one person who meets that description.
3. I have to like her and she has to like me, gray hair, five-year-old son, and all. Uh-oh.
4. For it to be anything more than a fling, she has to have stepmom potential. She has to be capable of loving my son. She has to be on a relatively similar wavelength as me as far as God and politics and life philosophies and all of that.
Do you have any idea how far-fetched that sounds to me?
Do you have any idea how tired I am of sitting around by myself half the time?
Do you have any idea how concerned I am about turning into THAT guy—that older single dude you’ve known for so long who shows up alone to parties and family functions that eventually everyone just assumes is a closet homosexual because he never has a girlfriend?
I’m sure I’m over-thinking this. I do that a lot.
But I can’t lie. I wish I could make a Top 10 list right now. I wish I could write on a piece of paper the names of 10 girls that interest me and are available.
Not because I’m dying to date someone. I’m not.
But it would be comforting to know the option was available.
You play the hands you are dealt, I guess. You fold, fold, and fold some more.
Then once in a while, you get dealt a couple aces. You win a huge pot.
Then everything starts to change.
And maybe—just maybe—today’s that day.