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Long Story: Nerdy Guys and Unattainable Girls

August 2, 2020

In real life, the unattainable girl might have talked to the nerdy guy, but she wouldn’t have gotten that close to him.

Tenth grade was probably when I hit peak nerdiness.  My glasses were thick.  Jeans my length cost too much, so my pants always looked like floods.  No shirt size seemed to fit right either.  I had noticeable acne, and the medication back in the early 1980s wasn’t effective (at least not for me).

Years later, I became better at hiding my nerdiness.  I eventually swapped out my glasses for contact lenses.  I cut my hair in a non-nerd style.  I upgraded my wardrobe and found clothes that fit.  My acne went away.  But all of that took time, and none of that happened in tenth grade.

Despite being a nerdy guy, I didn’t get picked on in high school.  I was always expecting it because of a few things that had happened in junior high that I hadn’t handled properly (those are stories for another time).  In high school, there were a couple times where some guy said something to me and I said something back and the other guy didn’t do anything about it, so it all ended.

Because I was a nerd, though, I knew I had no chance with most of the girls in my high school.  I could still talk around them.  I didn’t freeze up too much or become anti-social, but I knew I had no chance.

Unfortunately, the 1980s had way too many movies where the nerdy guy got the previously unattainable girl.  I knew those movies were wish fulfillment fantasies of nerdy writers (though I probably wasn’t aware of the term “wish fulfillment).  I knew none of the nerds in my school had any chance with any of the unattainable girls.  Understanding that relationship made things easier for me.  I felt bad for guys who thought they had a chance.

My favorite unattainable girl was a cheerleader who sat next to me in Mr. Fay-gun’s English class.  It was tough to concentrate in there because that cheerleader had really nice legs.  The cheerleader’s name was Denise, and almost every day she either wore her cheer outfit or some shorts.  Either way, her legs were right there.

I really wasn’t thinking anything that weird for a tenth grader.  I simply admired her legs.  They were nice.

The cheerleader stereotype in movies and TV is that they’re evil and manipulating, but the cheerleaders at our school were pleasant to everybody and maybe too sensitive.  It really bugged them if we didn’t cheer loudly enough, but since most of us actually liked our cheerleaders, we’d fake enthusiasm at the pep rallies just so that they wouldn’t get upset.  Maybe they were manipulating us after all.

Denise didn’t fit the cheerleader stereotype either.  She was smart.  Her boyfriend wasn’t an athlete (but he was a senior).  She was nice most of the time.  And she didn’t say ditzy stupid stuff.  I was more likely to say stupid stuff than she was.

Every guy in school had a crush on Denise at some point in high school.  I was lucky because I got mine over with.  My delusional stage (where I thought I had a shot at her so I’d freeze whenever I had the chance to talk to her) lasted only a few days.  When I realized she was unattainable, I calmed down around her and could speak freely.  But I never got tired at looking at her legs.

Denise was the only person at school who called me James instead of Jimmy.  She didn’t ask if I wanted be called James, and I never told her to stop or asked her why she did it.  It was either really arrogant or incredibly cool of her.

She also stole material from me.  Not pencils or papers or homework (or my heart).  She stole my lines.  Every once in a while, I would whisper something funny to her during class, and then she would repeat it more loudly to her friends who sat on the other side of her.  Her friends would laugh which made me feel pretty good, but I don’t think I ever got credit for my work.  Copyright infringement wasn’t an issue for me in tenth grade because at least I knew my material was pretty good.  And maybe Denise’s delivery was better than mine.

The reason I mention Denise (other than that she had great legs) is because one day I wrote something in English class that was so awesome that even she couldn’t steal it from me.

And I promise that I’m getting to it.


To be continued in Long Story: The Sick Teacher .

Or you can start at the beginning at Long Story: Teachers With Unfortunate Last Names .

The original version of this story appeared in Dysfunctional Literacy on November 25, 2012.

From → Long Story

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