The 6th Grade Adventure!

Welcome to all new and past followers, likers, and readers of this blog! It feels good to know I am officially not typing into dead space. Hopefully these forays into the past, present, and future adventures of Dateless-Man prove enlightening or at least entertaining. I know I can’t compete with that viral video of a house cat surfing while filing out a basic tax return in shades, but I try my best.

In order to continue along my on hall of shame in terms of relations with the opposite sex, the rule of fairness requires a pause into 6th grade. It was the first grade of junior high, and was a completely new experience for me. For the first time in my young life, I was “the new kid” to a school’s campus and social system. It was roughly a mile distance between my home and this new public school, and a somewhat different neighborhood to boot. I started out taking the bus until I learned I could just walk and pocket the transportation money for my own uses. I was a poor kid and allowance was hardly consistent; if Mom happened to have $5-$20 to give me, she’d give me (if I was good). Aside for that, if I needed money I had to save what I got from birthdays and holidays, sell stuff I didn’t need to a local comic store, recycle bottles & cans, or get creative. Poverty hasn’t changed but I can say it was easier being a poor kid in the 80’s and 90’s than it would be now, with more technology being considered “common” than it was then.

I digress. Simply getting me enrolled into the public school was a pain in a half for mom, and I missed most of my first day of class. As this school was JUST a junior high, as in the building only held grades six through eight, many of the students were in the same boat as I in theory. In practice, many knew each other from the local area, and nobody knew me. I quickly realized that sheer proximity to the same class of people for six years had negated my shyness, and I’d made friends at the private school just by sheer proximity. It wasn’t so easy in the new school, and I spent weeks barely talking to anyone beyond answering a teacher’s question.

Although a public school, it was intended for “gifted” students, even if in practice that just meant everyone was at grade level in reading and math. The private school had been far more strict in terms of homework assignments and the rate of tests, as well as a longer school day. Even as I neared my “tweens” as this period was, I’d realized that I wasn’t terribly tall, athletic, strong, or handsome. The only skills I seemed to have were intelligence and a sense of humor; I was once a class clown after all. Thus I was coming into a new school and I was too shy to be funny, yet I usually always answered my questions right and did well on tests. To boot, for a time I was wearing prescription glasses. I’d become the nerd, almost overnight. And this was long before nerds had any cred in terms of tech skills – which I didn’t have, either. At the very least, uniforms were  a thing of the past, even if the school had a dress code.

The class didn’t have students seated in rows, but in odd circles and islands of tables to encourage…something. Creativity? At any rate, these seating arrangements were assigned and I found myself at a table alongside some other students. One of them was a blond girl, who I’ll call Jane. She immediately struck my fancy in terms of looks and became my second crush, even though her personality was nothing like my original puppy love. She was blunt, liked the larger, tougher boys in the class and usually seemed to look at me with disdain – a look I’d later dub, “The Look of Ick” as I’d eventually get it all the time from girls and women. I tried to be nice to her, make small talk, but most times she never responded or when she did she’d give me curt, blunt answers.

Yet at some point through the semester, this briefly changed. I can’t recall the exact circumstance, but eventually she cottoned on that a lovesick nerd could be a useful thing in a pinch. So she started asking me for the answers on pop quizzes or tests now and again; in exchange she’d treat me like a human being for a short period of time. Looking back now it seems so obvious, but as a 6th grade kid I guess I was just gullible. Did I really think I’d worn her down? Someone won her over with my lame glasses and striped shirts? At any rate, the more I helped Jane with tests and quizzes, the nicer she’d get towards me. Of course, she never let me sit near her or her friends at lunch, and never would agree to walk home from school with me.

About midway into the semester I’d finally made a friend, a foreign student I’ll dub Russo. He actually had to tag along with me and annoy me into becoming friends, but once I accepted him we were best buds for the entire time at junior high. The later grades would get rough and if not for him, I’d have become even worse than I did. We soon began walking home from school together and it was Russo who brought up Jane and the fact that she was using me. By then I’d begun to suspect the obvious but my new friend, who often looked to me to help him assimilate better with America and the neighborhood, had the fresh perspective.

Once I stopped giving Jane test answers, she reverted to her old self. By the end of 6th grade she’d barely look at me. Simple and to the point.

It would be the next grade that would prove the most defining for me, and not in a good way. In fact a post about that may end up being a rant or moan about bullying more than a flashback into my dating life. But it’d have been inaccurate to skip this segment, and so here it is. Everyone may love nerds on superhero teams, but in 90’s junior high it was quite different.

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