Tag Archives: Eighth grade

The Top 10 List


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.”

So, you’re telling me there’s a chance!

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.

Oh well.

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.

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Confessions from my Past: The Dump Kid

It was supposed to be private. A safe haven. But then I had to be a dick.

It was supposed to be private. A safe haven. But then I had to be a dick.

When I was in eighth grade, I gave a kid a horrible nickname that people still remember today.

I called him The Dump Kid.

Let me explain why.

The small Catholic school I attended added a new wing just before I started junior high. So the seventh and eighth grade kids were mostly segregated from the rest of the school.

We had our own lockers. Our own classrooms. Our own bathrooms.

And that’s how I noticed him.

This little, awkward kid with high-water pants and an awful cowlick.

We would mill about in the morning out in the halls until the bell rang for homeroom to start. Every day.

And I don’t recall exactly when I noticed the pattern. But I did.

Every morning before class started, this out-of-place fifth grader would shuffle his way down to the bathroom outside the junior high classrooms. And no one takes THAT long to pee.

I had sufficient evidence to conclude that Joe—that’s his name, Joe—was pooping in the junior high bathroom every single day.

It was his poop schedule. I get it now. I’m an adult. Some people have poop schedules. Twenty years later, most people are mature enough not to call attention to it. It’s one of those things we just don’t talk about.

And believe me. I understand. If you’ve been reading for any length of time, you know how neurotic I am. In first and second grade, my school bathroom didn’t have doors on the stalls. I wouldn’t even go unless it was a Come-to-Jesus situation.

When I was a little older—maybe in fifth grade—I was at a friend’s house who had a little half bathroom located on a small landing that you passed when you walked down to the basement. Totally exposed. One time I was pooping in there when my friend’s gorgeous older sister walked in from the side door that came in from the outside.

I wanted to die. But I never had a chance with her anyway.

Even today, at age 34, I won’t exit a bathroom stall at work if others are in there. It’s too embarrassing.

Oh, look! There’s Matt coming out of the stall! He pooped! What a smelly, disgusting person he is!, they must all be thinking.

This is one of the few areas of life where I believe women have it better than men.

So, back to The Dump Kid.

His biological schedule dictated that he have a bowel movement every morning before school started. And he chose to do it in the junior high wing. Under the watchful and judgmental eye of one particular asshole: Me.

I started telling friends about it.

“Hey, check this out. There’s The Dump Kid,” I said.

“The Dump Kid?” they said.

“Yes. The Dump Kid. He comes down every single day and takes a dump. Just watch,” I said.

And we did.

He’d go in the bathroom. And come out after several minutes. We knew he pooped. We laughed and judged.

Word spread of The Dump Kid’s morning poop adventures.

It wasn’t long before dozens of kids were monitoring The Dump Kid’s excrement-dropping activities.

The Dump King

Some years later, in college, I bumped into someone I’d gone to school with who was a few years younger than me.

And for reasons beyond my understanding, he mentioned The Dump King.

“Who the hell is The Dump King?” I asked.

He said Joe’s full name.

“Holy shit. People are STILL calling him that?” I asked. “That was a hundred years ago!”

“What do you mean, still?” he said.

“One, I’m the guy who nicknamed him. And I’m not particularly proud of it. And two, let’s get something straight: He’s The Dump KID. Not the Dump KING,” I said.

He was blown away by my confession and of learning the genesis of Joe’s nickname.

He nonetheless shrugged off my trademarked nickname as dated and meaningless.

The Dump Kid® was now The Dump King™. Evolution, I guess.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this guy over the years. At least as much as one can think about a guy you’ve never talked to.

Do his parents know his nickname?

Does he know I coined it?

Does he think about it every time he has to poop?

Did it impair his ability to meet girls?

To have self-confidence?

To succeed in life?

I pray he never thinks about it. I pray he’s had an amazing adulthood. That he’s adored by women. Surrounded by incredible friends and family.

I stalked him on the Internet today. I wanted to read that he’d won the Pulitzer Prize, or was a young CEO at a Silicon Valley startup, or that he invented something important.

I only found one thing.

A little church newsletter from my hometown dated October 2012. He and another kid I remember from my youth organized a golf tournament fundraiser for a local soup kitchen.

They raised $4,300. To help feed hungry people.

And I smiled.

Because no matter what his life looks like now, in whatever ways you choose to evaluate success and failure, I learned something important about Joe.

He has a kind and giving heart. He puts energy into things that serve others. He cares about things greater than himself.

And that’s something that probably helps him sleep at night.

That’s something that probably makes his parents proud.

That’s something that probably helps him succeed in his human relationships.

And now I can sleep just a little bit better, too.

Because I didn’t ruin a kid by participating in what might be labeled a cruel joke through the prism of adulthood—through the prism of a parent whose son is about to go to grade school for the first time.

What if the other kids aren’t nice to him?

What if he’s not nice to other kids?

What if he develops a pooping complex?

What if he won’t exit the stall when others are in the room 30 years from now?

Because we all have to shit.

But we don’t have to shit on each other.

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