Finding this picture a few days ago sure brought back some shit, lemme tell ya:
You know why? Because I came close to MARRYING this guy.
My senior year of high school was a bizarre period of time for me. On one hand I was utterly miserable. My (straight) life sucked. On the other hand I had an after-hours thing going that John Waters would have envied. Plus, I was experiencing by then a kind of strange cult popularity at school that I had no idea how to cope with-puzzling when you consider that I wasn't particularly social and had no idea who most of these people WERE.
That notwithstanding, according to my parents I was nothing but DAMAGED GOODS.
That is a quote.
My misadventures began officially at 15. Shortly thereafter, my mother found my birth control pills (the less said about which episode the better.) At that time I was informed by both of my parents, point blank, in precisely the terms put forth below, that now
Bear those words in mind. They're important to the rest of the story.
Marriage wasn't even on my agenda, of course. That's something that I gave no thought to even in passing...after eighteen years with a front row seat to my parents wedded bliss I wanted no part of that shit whatsofuckingever, thanks.
Now, in the late 70's, in my town, girls still married right out of high school. At least the 'nice' ones did. It was common practice to include a proposal of marriage in ones graduation commencement speech, in fact, which made graduation both overlong and extremely tiresome.
BILL: in his mortarboard, clutching his diploma "Oh, and....Mandy? Will you marry me?"
MANDY: and her syncophants, as one 'SQUEEEEEEEAL! OMIGODYESYESYES! (etc. hopping up and down and crying and hugging for ten fricken' minutes )
Meanwhile, my secret after school life continued CENSORED FOR THE SAKE OF THE STAINLESS STEEL AMAZON and an unemployed amputee. Other persons of momentary interest drifted in and on. Ganja and I became close acquaintances, along with speed, lsd, valium, cocaine and a vile screwtop concoction put out by Ernest and Julio Gallo called 'Ruby Chablis'. But once the sun rose I was Suzy Suburbia again, and never the twain did meet until the last time I walked out of those 'prison' doors in 1978. I figured post-high school life would simply mean 'more time to devote to CENSORED FOR THE SAKE OF THE STAINLESS STEEL AMAZON a bowl full of raw eggs. '
My parents, of course, had a completely different plan in mind for me. Some might say that it was an unbelievably insulting, stupid, outdated plan, a plan reminiscent of, say, Sharia law, or Chinese family values as they were practiced during the time of the Mandarins. Of course, I had not the vaguest whiff of a clue about any 'plan' at all until they sprung it on me. Even then it took me a couple of weeks to figure out what was going on.
My dad had a buddy named Phil. Nice guy. Nice house. Nice wife. Phil and his wife had mentioned in passing that they had a kid in Milwaukie High too, and did I know Ritchie?
I never gave it another thought.
Come the Sadie Hawkins dance my senior year, suddenly my parents are terribly interested in who I'm going to ask.
Huh? Same person I always ask; nobody.
Well.....why didn't I ask Ritchie?
Because I didn't know the guy.
Subject closed and forgotten.
Until the next football game. Was I thinking about going to the football game? It was a home game.
First of all, when have you ever known me to attend a fricken' football game?
Well....Ritchie was going.
.......well, good. Good for Ritchie.
Subject forgotten until...
You get the picture. Me, I didn't get the picture. Not the whole picture. No, the only thing I thought at this point was, if my parents were pushing him this hard, Ritchie was obviously someone I was not going to get along with AT ALL.
And I was right.
I did not know how right, though.
No, I did not.
In high school, four times a year every year we all did a pointless do-si-do from class to class for no good reason. My senior year, 1978, was the first class year that them there newfangled computin' machines were being used. As a consequence of this, and because everybody down in Administration was reduced to gibbering terror when confronted with DOS, I was mis-scheduled into Science I*.
Only, having never met the guy, I had no idea it was Ritchie at first.
What I registered primarily was the worst skin condition I'd seen up until that point in my young life-and I'd seen some doozies. He glistened. He oozed foul sebaceous oils. His blackheads were legion; he perpetually looked as though he needed a shave. He was studded with boils. Not zits, my friends. BOILS. And his boils had boils. Huge, angry, seeping boils; boils of an indescribable and horrifying purulence which swarmed across his face, neck and arms.
The guy had boils on his ARMS.
Prior to this I'd had no idea one could develop arm-boils. But here it was.
And here he was, gangling, insectoid, overactive glands producing an ice arena of horror where feculent bacteria went curling with Satan, sniggering, hunch-shouldered, hands the size of hubcaps and feet like landing craft, sitting in the back of the class where his constant picking wouldn't distract anyone. He was a hee-hawer. He perched with his bony knees poking up on either side of the desk and his bony shoulders and elbows at random angles. Clearly, Mom cut his hair - and she used a mixing bowl. Mom also bought his clothes. Problem was, mom had failed to realize that her son was not 40 years old, or a size 'small'.
Now you'd think a guy like that would make up for it all by being Brainerd McBrainiac, right? Those are the guys who graduate high school and go on to make their first million three years later developing military software, right?
You would be wrong, in Ritchies case.
One evening my father happened to remark that his buddy said that Ritchie and I had a class together. Which one?
I had no earthly idea. I'd never met the guy, remember?
Lo and behold, a couple of evenings later, Ritchie came to our house after church. With mom and dad.
How mom and dad had produced Ritchie is still a mystery to me. You could detect a resemblance, and you could even see who probably contributed what to the pot....it was just...that....they weren't from the same....species.
There they were on our doorstep....nice mom, GIANT CARPENTER ANT**, nice dad.
My first and only thought was "Oh Lordy."
They all trooped in and a sad and obviously rehearsed little charade commenced.
Oh, what a surprise!
Well, we were just in the neiborhood!
Well come on in!
How ya doin?
You've met my wife, haven't you?
And heres my son, Rich.....
...and here's my son, Rich....
...Rich, step up here, son; shake the mans hand.
....Look up. Up, son.
My son Rich....
I'd already wandered off by this point and gone to my bedroom.
But this time I got in HUGE ENORMOUS TROUBLE. You would have thought I'd set the joint on fire or something. They had a COW. Why couldn't I be nice? Why was I so rude? Why did I have to hide in my room all the time? Same shit, true; but this shit went on for DAYS.
What the fuck?
After that, whenever I went past Ritchie in the hall at school he'd turn crimson. He'd look at the ground and grin and snigger. Once I said 'Hi!' and he took off running. I wrote that up to embarrassment and nerdliness and didn't waste another second on it. I had other things on my mind, and they have been censored, for the sake of the Stainless Steel Amazon.
Another thing that happened after that episode was that suddenly my future became an increasingly common topic around home. Out of nowhere one of my parents would suddenly come out with 'You know, I figured you'd be engaged by now, like your cousins were...." or "Don't count on living here because we'll kick you out on your fanny as soon as you graduate." Which was reassuring.
Finally one night my parents called me into the front room and made me sit down.
Oh GREAT. What NOW.
Your mom and I think that you should......go out.
Well I couldn't agree more; I think I should go out too. Give me 20 bucks and I'll be on my way.
And we know....your dad knows...you remember...you know...you know Phil's son? Sure you do. You have him in class.
Yeah, I know him. I said 'hi' to him once and he ran down the hall.
Oh well, you know, well, he's, hes just shy, is all, you know, a young guy, he's shy. He just has a little trouble, you know.
Actually no, I think there's something wrong with him.
No no no no no now thats not nice. There's nothing wrong with him! Him? Ho, boy, if his dad could hear you say that! There's nothing wrong with him, boy, you, you're the one who's probably scaring him half to death! There's nothing wrong with him!
I said 'hi' and he ran down the hall, dad."
No no no no no, now, that's not right, that's not true, boy, you're making that up, you gotta be! Hes, uh, a smart kid! He's a real smart kid, he is! No, boy, you're off the beam there, boy...
and so on.
The upshot was, a blind date had been arranged.
My parents threatened me.
I continued to freak.
My parents told me that if I didn't go out with this guy that I'd never set one foot outside their house again unless it was to go to school and come straight back, period.
I'd just spent my sophomore year that way. I knew I didn't want to go there. So, I figured, what the fuck, right? Fine. I'd go out with the guy. It would be horrifically painful and awkward and then it would be over.
Problem was, Ritchie didn't have a car.
Problem solved: they'd drop me off at his parents house and we'd walk from there to the football game a few blocks away.
As my date shambled along down the sidewalk beside me, leading each step with his head like a chicken, giant hands banging off his knees, I considered my position. The guy would not speak to me. The guy would not look at me. The guy would not respond to me even if I asked him a question. That covered the first block.
Conversation was out.
I drifted toward the center of the sidewalk. He started walking on people's lawns. Then he dropped back. I slowed down. He dropped back further. I stopped and waited for him. He caught up to me and stopped. I started to walk again. Three paces later, so did he. From this I gathered that whether or not we appeared together was obviously not an issue for him. Me either.
We were making progress.
We found a seat in the grandstand-rather, I found us a seat in the grandstand, as close to the exit as I could get and right at the very end of one of the bleacher seats. Ritchie folded himself into a sitting position, knees up around his ears, elbows stuck out on either side like rocket fins, big ol' canal boat feet flapped over at the end like a Don Martin cartoon. Actually not really but just pretend they were for the sake of the image.
And slowly, slowly, he began to slide away from me. Slooooowly. Sliiiiip. Scooooot.
The marching band had just come onto the field. The game hadn't even started yet. I looked over at Ritchie.
Ritchie was staring straight ahead at the field, mouth gaping wide, eyes vacant.
And Ritchie was drooling.
Ritchie was DROOLING.
Ritchie had a long silver strand of drool hanging from the bottom of his lower lip. Because he was DROOLING.
I got up and walked home.
My parents, of course, launched into a major enormous earth-shattering mega-cow when they saw me there. But something must have been different about me.
Yes, when I explained "Why did I leave? Because I looked over AND MY DATE WAS DROOLING, DAD," well, something seemed to register. They cut the dramatics short, and let me return to my room.
A few years later my mom was musing about how nice it would have been if I'd gotten married to that nice boy Ritchie they introduced me to. After all, he was Catholic, they knew his family and they were nice people, it had been discussed and they were all for it, and I wouldn't have had to look for work after I graduated. (Yes. Really.)
"He was slow, you know" I said.
She snorted. "There wasn't nuttin' wrong with him, Miss Picky," she replied.
I gave up.
Back in high school I'd had friends in Computer Lab. Remember, this was 1978, back when the students programmed the computers for the school district because the adults had no clue, good partying buddies who filled me in on the rest of the story.
Ritchie had been in Science I his senior year, not because of a scheduling mistake, as I had been. No, Ritchie had been in Science I because he NEEDED TO BE in Science I. And he failed that.
Ritchie was what they used to term 'educable'.
* science at about a 7-8th grade level. no caustic chemicals, nothing sharp, nothing that could catch on fire. the teacher spoke very clearly and distinctly.
**"where does this come from?" you might ask. too bad, I say; go ask your mom.
one day a buddy of mine was standing with me when he saw Ritchie coming down the hall. "See that guy?" he said. "One time I was sitting in class ripped on acid and he turned into a giant carpenter ant. He just sat there looking at me, chewing on his desk. I've been kind of scared of him ever since."
It was true, sadly enough. the guy really did look like a carpenter ant. he had a long round head, no chin, spindly little shoulders and a huge butt. and he was shiny. i never saw him eat a desk. i wish i had. it would have been cool.
john waters? no....maybe his sister, though.
unemployed amputee? no...lots of amputees had jobs in the 70s.
where feculent bacteria went curling with Satan? pure speculation. might have been hockey.