After the awkward years, comes high school. From battling between weird moments passing between the two sexes, menstrual week mishaps, identity crises, homework from some crazy teacher who lifted weights in the corner while the students sat in class doing math problems, I’m not sure which phase actually comes across more awkward or troubling. Both periods definitely helped shape the person that I became. Some of my better experiences and memories were those during the early years when life was carefree and I didn’t sit each night wondering as a struggling actress how my phone bill was going to get paid. Instead, it was a time of trial and error – at least as a child.
My male experiences, on the other hand, were always very cautious. I nearly treated them like the new wild tiger exhibit at the zoo that was known to go berserk if someone tapped on the glass even lightly. Beautiful and mysterious, yet you’re smart enough to know not to go inside. Otherwise, you’re a dead woman that at least would give a decent show to everyone watching.
Nonetheless, I was always scared of boys. Remembering what my mother taught me, I always felt as if they did want one thing. Otherwise, they were disgusting, childish, stupid, and I never understood at the age of 15 why some 25 year-old guy would try to hit on me. It never made sense why a man 10 years older would be interested in me telling him how much I looked forward to going to prom one day. It IS disgusting and showed me the type of men who lived in my neighborhood. Lurking predators. That’s all that they were. Lurking because clearly their mentalities would not allow for them to go far.
With this in mind, I was always hesitant about neighborhood men. I grew up in an urban neighborhood in Cincinnati. It was an old Jewish neighborhood that was probably really nice back before the 1970s. Then, white flight took effect, and the area became much more diverse. The neighborhood was full of beautiful German-styled homes, like old-tale gingerbread houses. Most people took pride in their homes and lawns; each house had its own character. The area was a little more affordable to live in, so we had more “colorful” neighbors. However, we still lived “in the city”, which meant that we were not as catered to as the nicer suburban areas. Besides the mental health asylum behind my house (that my mother and I mistook as a church that we were going to visit one Sunday morning), the highway’s fumes rising over kids as they played kickball in the streets, the brewery stretching its distinct aroma every morning, all within a mile, it was a pretty eventful place. Shoes tied by the laces hanging over the telephone poles near my old neighborhood school (and where I got bullied), section 8 projects lingered on a few blocks, and there were always talks about “an ex child molester” living in one of the really nice homes. So many times I was nearly followed home by men, men getting off the city bus with me or outside their homes. Whatever the case may’ve been, I didn’t trust any of them. I was privileged to have my first pepper spray can at 14 and was smart enough to misdirect a guy if I felt that he was off.
A lot of my friends were a little different. They appreciated the attention that some of the neighborhood men gave them and were a bunch of fast asses. I’m not sure if it was because they didn’t have a father figure or older brother in the house, but I became the butt of jokes being “scared of boys”. I didn’t dress for boys, wasn’t girly for boys, wasn’t flirty for boys, didn’t explore the neighborhood for boys; overall to them, I was a pretty lame 15 year-old whose mom wouldn’t let her leave the street after a certain time. I was still somewhat tomboyish and would rather spend my summer days reading a book rather than trying to find a “slim at the gas station”.
However, at some point, I did succumb to peer pressure.
All of my friends rode the city bus home from school. It was the procedure of things going to a Cincinnati public school. This meant that we had the chance to meet new people on the bus, see the same freaks and weirdos both in the mornings and evenings, and, occasionally, we got hollered at. I typically didn’t pay any attention to the thugs on the bus, until one unattractive, pudgy guy asked me for my number. I really didn’t know what to do. No boy had asked me before and I really didn’t know how to handle the situation apart from giving him my REAL house number as he jotted it down in his Nokia phone. I was the uncool kid who wasn’t on the prepaid phones yet. That night, he called, and my mother picked up the phone. I learned – THAT NIGHT – never again give my number to someone I didn’t know. Not to mention my mom worked for the phone company and gave me the ins and outs about how he could find our house and all of our information based off of just that one simple number.
I was never dumb enough again to give someone I didn’t know my house number. Well, eventually I got a cell phone and that helped alleviate some of the issues, but from that, I never took a guy seriously who I didn’t know.
Maybe that is a current flaw that I still have. I am still the type of girl who doesn’t trust a man who has no background. A friend, colleague, or someone I know must be able to vouch for him. Otherwise, he could be some crazy bum on the street. Then again, he could also be Prince Charming who was never introduced to my world of inconsistent insanity. I find comfort in the known. To be such an outgoing person that I am, I still find it difficult to step into that sense of a vulnerability, and I’ll admit it as dating flaw. Every guy I’ve ever dated has been a friend of a friend of a friend, and they all end up tying together in one big messy circle that could potentially become awkward for my social scene.
Growing up in the city, I find it so ironic that I can have such a “country” mentality of meeting and dating people. However, you do have to be safe. Of course, safe choices don’t always lead to happiness but more so towards mediocrity. I vow to grow up from my city/country mentality. Time to start new with a blank slate. Also, I shouldn’t date thugs. Thugs were definitely in my comfort zone back in Cincinnati. Thank God for maturity.
2 Replies to “Entering Hell: Growing up Urban”
Awesome!! I am your mom and I always look forward to the next adventure in writing.
There is nothing wrong with being cautious.