I Once Was Blind, But Now I Like What I See
High school matters. I know they tell you it doesn’t. I know we tell ourselves it doesn’t. It may be the most wanted to be believed lie out there. Even now, as they read these words, people are gasping. They’re averting their eyes. They’re cussing at me. They’re making sure their impressionable teenagers aren’t reading… because high school stinks in a lot of ways, and there’s only one sentence that will get people through it. “High School doesn’t matter.” I understand the kind lie we tell ourselves. There are few ways to escape high school, so the only solace is in the possibility that it doesn’t matter.
Here’s the truth: High School doesn’t matter, as long as you can leave it behind. It’s all up to you, but it isn’t easy. It takes self-discovery, maturity, real confidence, forgiveness and trust. Probably a lot of other near impossible things too.
So instead we tell ourselves that in the future, when everyone goes to college, we are all equal. That it doesn’t matter who you were or what people thought of you. That the playing field is evened out and everyone starts over again. We all want it to be true. Even the most popular kids in school want it to be true because as they grow older, they have to live with the way they treated people. They have to live with the inner doubt, whispering to them that they really aren’t everything that people believed them to be. The ones who weren’t popular, they take that with them too. They hear the echoes of people taunting them or they hear the silence of people ignoring them. We all fight the high school voices as they tell us repeatedly who we are; we all continually try to figure out whether they’re right or not. We all bring it with us.
The High School stars wish they could get back the glory days, the kids that weren’t stars go out with a fervor and try to prove to the world that there’s more to them than people saw in high school, and the girl that got her heart broken… no matter how the boy seems to change, or tries to take it back, well, she can’t quite trust him anymore.
Tonight I have a blind date. Never been on a blind date before. His sister set it up. She’s pretty new in town, so there’s mystery. She’s my friend, but I’m intimidated by her because she is so stand out beautiful and skinny and confident. She’s the kind of girl who definitely has an amazing brother that you’d kill to be set up with.
I’m going to be so confident though, because I’m not that nervous, self-conscious, crying silently in the dark of the audience in the school auditorium because Ryan is singing to another girl on stage at a high school assembly girl anymore. I’m a pageant queen, a college student, an experienced dater, a really good writer of missionaries, a janitor… okay, well the other stuff is really cool. Besides, high school doesn’t matter.
So I’m all glammed up and I’m waiting to be all picked up, but the minutes are ticking by. Five minutes after six o’clock. Ten minutes after 6 o’clock. Eleven minutes. Twelve minutes. How long am I supposed to sit here pretending I’m not nervous for this?!?!? Eighteen minutes. Nineteen minutes. I’ve stopped primping. Stopped pretending that- so what if he’s late, because I was going to be late anyway. I fully intended on it.
Twenty-one minutes. Twenty-two minutes. Should I call his sister? We’re doubling with them. Meeting them somewhere. Meeting each other first. Alone. Driving somewhere, getting a chance to talk. IF he shows up, that is. Twenty-three minutes… and a knock at the door.
I let my self-righteous indignation push the butterflies out of my throat, down deep into my stomach, smooshed way down there where I can barely feel them fluttering around. My parents aren’t the type to have the official meeting of the boy on the first date. My mom is the type to peek out of unseen window corners, while whispering a little prayer. My Dad is the type that, if a boy has so much as caught a glimpse of him or even heard anything about him, it’s more effective than him cleaning his gun in the living room. What a good man he is, but if anyone hurt me, they really would need to be afraid.
So, with no introductions to perform, I am free to glance at my watch and greet him with an, “I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it,” before I raise my chin and move past him out of the front door, and bounce my hair, alluring, and now, untouchable, as I stomp down the front steps.
He’s smiling as he climbs behind the steering wheel, playing it off as though my anger is cute as a button. He’s good looking. Blond hair, a fresh t-shirt, frayed jeans that fit right and don’t try too hard, but no amount of good lookingness can forgive this extreme lateness, because I am so done with cocky boys who think they can make me wait around.
As he reverses out of my driveway, he asks, “So… how has your day been?”
“Pretty good, until the last twenty-three minutes or so,” I say.
“Why is that?” he asks, making nothing easy.
“Uh… because that’s how late you are.”
He’s still wearing that amused smile when he says, “I’m sorry, I lost track of time because I was vacuuming out my truck. I wanted to impress you.”
My head snaps toward him. This bit of flattering honesty is unexpected. I look at the floor, begrudgingly checking the vacuuming job. “Oh. Well, the truck… does… look… good,” I say. Then, because his honesty disarmed me, I disarm him right back with some of my own. “And… you smell good,” I say. Boy am I a sucker for men’s cologne. I’d almost grab a stranger who walked past in the grocery store to tell him he smells good.
After I shamelessly tell him, in so few words, that the scent he gives off is pretty much delectable, the conversation warms up considerably. He asks me if it would be okay if he turns the radio off because he’d rather hear me talk. I’m thrilled, as I have secretly wished for less radio chatter and more human chatter on many previous dates. The conversation turns out to be so much better than the radio ever could be. We drive toward the nearest city, the conversation clicking instantly, the sparks flying. Rain starts pouring down, large amounts being swooshed out of our view by the windshield wipers, copious drops making their impact as they pelt and splatter new puddles of their friends on the road below us.
I tell him about how my first kiss happened in the rain, and this opens the conversation up to clever flirting.
Did you know that blind dates have a reputation for being bad? Whoa. I’m here to stand up in defense of the honor of blind dates everywhere, because this is some of the best chemistry of all time regardless of blindness, blurriness, or perfect 20/20 vision.
We meet up with his sister and her date. We hardly know they are there, except to politely add to the conversation on occasion. I can see them looking at us in wonder, so mesmerizing is the way in which this blind date has removed it’s sleep mask to a surprise better than Christmas morning.
By the time we say goodbye on my front porch that night, I- the guardian of all sacred kisses, am puckering up wholeheartedly. He hugs me and tells me, with a gravelly voice, that he sure wishes he believed in kissing on the first date, but he wouldn’t want to disrespect me.
I walk in the door, close it behind me and fall to the floor instantly, staring up at the ceiling as though it’s covered in twinkling stars and fluffy pink clouds made of cotton candy, and rainbows… beautiful, beautiful rainbows.
The face of my brother, Justin, looks down on me with concerned confusion because he’s a boy and doesn’t understand the dreamy sighs and the conscious, simulated fainting.
“I take it the date went… well?” he says.
I think I respond with something like, “Mmmm… rainbows are pretty.”
He’s truly shocked at my over-the-top happiness and asks the question that maybe you’re all asking, “Do you think you could like him more than you like Ryan?”
I frown and the clouds and rainbows swirl together in a psychedelic pinwheel. “I don’t know,” I say.
That’s the big question when you’re writing to a missionary, and it’s hard to know when you’re obligated to answer it. Do you have to decide who you like best on the first date? Within a week? Within a month? Within six months? If you have to decide in the first 23 minutes, I’m afraid the guy I went out with tonight is completely out of luck.
The very concept of having to choose is falsely flattering to me. I don’t really have a choice. It’s not like two boys are on their knees in front of me right this second. It’s not like I can make a T-Chart! This one’s good qualities versus that one’s. Bar graphs. Math formulas. Amie + X= Happily Ever After. It doesn’t work that way. It’s much more complicated. Amie+X(thepast)+fear about being hurt in the future+ letters that don’t even say "I love you" (greater than or less than Amie+Y(the present)- we don’t know anything yet.
Math and my brain don’t mix well. When I was in tenth grade my Dad jokingly said, “Take your final required math credit and if it doesn’t start clicking, then your senior year you can just take basket weaving.” I swallowed my pride and re-took a simpler math class and it finally did start to click. Eventually we figure things out. Sometimes we have to take the pressure off of ourselves by saying, “Hey! If we never get it, there’s always basket weaving.” Oh yeah, and “High School doesn’t matter.”
So my advice to myself as I traverse dating back home while writing to a missionary is this: “Try to experience life. Try to be honest with others and with yourself, and try to remember that if you’re living right you’ll figure everything out eventually. I can think of no metaphor for the basket weaving… I just really love my Dad.