I was at an 8th grade party. It was around the time feelings for girls transform from “she’s nice” to “she’s nice and I want to kiss her”. And at this party I was told the girl who was hosting the party liked me. For no reason or excuse, I decided to abuse that perceived power I thought I had. I approached the girl and said “would like you to be my girlfriend?”. She turned red and said “yes”. Without waiting for more than 2 seconds I said “But I don’t want to”. The look on her face was something I didn’t expect, and wasn’t sure how to process. Another girl was watching this interaction between us, and she promptly approached me and said “Would you like to be my boyfriend?”, and i said “Yes”. Because I liked her. Very much so. One second later the virtual (and much deserved) slap to my face arrived in the form of “But I don’t want to!” And then my love interest put a hand on the shoulder of her friend and they both left me standing there. I was hurt, embarrassed, but most of all ashamed. Ashamed of my behavior, ashamed that it took for my own actions to be thrown in my face for me to realize what I have done, ashamed in who I was.
Years have gone by. I lost touch with most of my elementary school friends, including these two girls. Years later, though the magic of social media, I reconnected with the girl that I had hurt over email and began a transatlantic correspondence in which I apologized for something without naming it, and she brushed it off as ‘no big deal’. It took us a few emails before I realized that she’s forgiving me for something else that happened in that party. Some kid peed in a vase in that house and she, along with her parents, thought it was me. When I told her I wasn’t the kid who peed in the vase, and told her what I’m trying to apologize for, she responded with “Really? That happened? I don’t remember at all”. It made me feel better to know that I wasn’t that important, that I didn’t hurt someone as deeply as I thought i did. But the lesson; 20 years of guilt guiding me to try my best and not be a jerk – I am thankful for that lesson.
So thank you my 8th grade classmates who shall remain nameless. Both of you.