6. Lessons Learned

My opinion: Healthy relationships with the opposite sex at a young age leads to more pleasant relationships at a mature age. This generation seems to have fewer healthy young relationships. This leads them to sacrifice their opportunity to have a happy relationship later in favor of having any kind of relationship now, even a toxic one. Click here to go to my page with a handy list of ways to be a good ‘friend girl’ & not set fire to your healthy relationships with boys.

This self discovery exercise is motivated by the somewhat frequent request I get to speak to young girls who are at-risk for developing poor coping mechanisms such as promiscuity. This topic is going to be an evolving topic as I peel back my layers to figure out what WAS my saving grace. What lessons were learned that made me different than the average motherless child? My coping strategy was… interesting. And it did not include being any boy’s leftover chicken leg. I need to separate what I did wrong & what I did right & come up with a practical approach to advice for young women, without using humor, because humor may entice them to duplicate my tomfoolery. I want to be able to say yes the next time I am asked to speak to young women, but to talk about my youth without humor is very, very hard. I had some ridiculous moments! They led to the best lessons of my life. First lesson:

I. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

A thing that commonly leads to a girls virtuous undoing is the fear that if she doesn’t give it up, he won’t want to be around. She finds herself doing things she really didn’t want to do & it’s hard to come back from that at a young age. My goal isn’t to convince the girls that they need to wait until marriage to have sex, or to tell them that they are dirty if they don’t wait until marriage. My goal is to prevent them from being pressured into doing it before they are damn good & ready & at least old enough to emotionally process a breakup that had gone to that level of intimacy. My message is that there is more than one way to bond with the boys & doing so is healthy. I briefly considered it too that the boys wouldn’t want to be around me. Then I decided that I was going to be the boss of that. I wasn’t a dumb blonde, I was an expressive redhead & there had to be some other way to be where the boys are. I strongly felt that my challenge was going to come down to a battle of wills. It was me against the girls bleaching their heads trying desperately to make themselves more pleasing to the eye (as if the boys needed that). What worked for them wouldn’t work for me so I needed a better plan for helping the gentlemen see girls (at least us redheads) as intelligent, platonic beings, because it was clear that they preferred the blondes & I need to try harder.

II. Boys ‘Round Here

Good friend-boys are hard to find, but we need them. Perhaps the MOST important characteristic of my foundation is that I was not promiscuous. There were enough other girls being indiscriminate that I didn’t need to join them. Once I had decided where my boundaries were & committed to them, I was locked at the knees. Yet I created healthy relationships with boys. Of course girls want the boys’ attention, and of course boys want the girls’ attention. This is what nature intended. It’s a natural thing. But how one goes about getting that attention can become a tangled mess. I had some of the best platonic relationships with guys & that was a huge part of my life & I would not be who I am without them. I like who I am.

So, I was only a kid, I didn’t have this all consciously figured out, but looking back, I can see clearly what I knew without knowing it… And it’s funny! I worked this strategy that many adults can’t even figure out. Somewhat like a capitalist, I had a supply/demand advantage. I had a limited amount of affection to give, a budget (?) & I needed to make sure the demand remained for what I was willing to supply. How was I going to remain a priority to the boy-friends/friend-boys (which was ideal to me) without removing the boundaries (which would be ideal to them). A conflict of interests existed. I had no parents to warn me about this upcoming conflict, so I had to figure it out by my 13 year old self & if I got it wrong I would get tossed aside as soon as they got girlfriends.

Because of my boundaries, my childhood nickname, Ts, ultimately fulfilled prophecy. I was teasy. I admit that now. I was couch-cuddly & offered the best massages (because I read a book, which increased demand for my platonic presence). I went out of my way to get into the minds of these boys rather than into their pants (though there were plenty of times I thought about that too). But, my end goal, what I needed, was to always be wanted, rather than only wanted for a little while. I needed shelf life. And residuals. My competition went the “get rich quick” route & I was going the “investment route”. I was pretty darn clever for a girl who had no idea what I was about to pull off.

I was very comfortable in my skin at a young age. It was fun, being with the boys, I liked making them laugh. I liked muscle cars, lifted trucks & loud music so if a guy had either one his chances were better that I would be hopping into his car with a list of places to go. I always knew exactly where I wanted to go, what I wanted to eat. There was no, “what are we gonna do.” That said, if a guy’s intent was to go watch submarine races, he knew not to trust me with that ticket to paradise because he would be going home with blue balls as I had no mercy. When boys were not in the mood for the drama queens, I was committed to being the breath of fresh air. I liked that I had their respect & I didn’t want to lose that. They agreed that they better NEVER hear trashy stories about me.

Applying today’s grown up logic, you could say I recognized the power of the product my girl-friends were advertising: forbidden fruit! There had to be more than one kind of fun, a hybrid fruit, even if I had to invent it. So I did. I focused on my great qualities & ignored my bad ones. I was funny, I made them laugh easily. I played video games. I cooked, on occasion. I read them jokes while they did irritating chores like clean the garage. I sparred with them (I took aikido for years). The result was that the guys wanted to be around me, anytime. Movie night, I could be a great couch potato & I didn’t like chick flicks, so I watched wrestling & Commando. Maybe they secretly, or some not so secretly, invited me hoping this would be the day I changed my mind about boundaries. Fine, that was part of the fun, I guess. Hell, sometimes I wondered if this was going to be the day I was going to change my mind about boundaries! On many occasions I nearly threw in the towel. I was flirty with my boy friends. Shamelessly. The funnest part about being young is the flirting. According to what I observed, the thing that most often lead to my girl friends undoing was the fear that after she flirted, if she doesn’t give it up, they’d be angry, displeased. I briefly became familiar with that concern too.

Therein lies our undoing! This is a dangerous assumption & its archaic. This is the modern world vs human nature & it’s a hell of a spar. Sub-story incoming…

III. True Colors

Women were wired by nature to want to please men, & we are conflicted by this. 1000 years ago we HAD to if we wanted to survive, there was no teasing him & waiting until we were ready. If he left us for another woman we were ill-fated unless we already had another man lined up (which is also in our nature to have, we are wired that way for that reason). Women are always advertising, looking our best, just to see what we’re attracting. It’s a way of bringing comfort to ourselves, that we’d be ok if we lost the man, we could attract a new one. The conflict: It is in the man’s nature to want to spread his seed everywhere he can, he has a strong desire to do so, while we were busy trying to make sure we were pleasing him so he wouldn’t stray. He was capable of creating many offspring if he had enough women, but allowing him to do so meant less resources for however many families as they’d have to be shared. He needed children & we’d kill ourselves trying to give them to him. Sons, in particular, would be very helpful to him. He needed lots of those. A man wanted to plant seeds often. To boot, the men got wise to our game of keeping ourselves attractive & being innocently pleasant for other men to talk to in case we needed him to bring the food home someday. They didn’t appreciate their women eyeballing a suitable replacement & knowing which one she wanted if he met his demise. This is still a problem in modern society. It was necessary, even genius, to create us that way at first. But now, it’s just cruel. Modern society doesn’t like that nature. So, whaddya gonna do? Glad you asked… (end sub-story)

IV. Have Patience

When I was 14, one of my slightly older honest to a fault boy friends told me why I was not invited to a camp-out & why I should not invite myself. He was the same guy who translated all the naughty terms for me & explained them clearly until I wanted to puke. I appreciated his unfiltered honesty & he told me that I simply did not belong where they were headed, to be mixed in with the kind of girls they had invited. For about 2 minutes I considered finding something else to do. Then I said, “Bullshit. Pick me up, I am going. I am not going to be a party favor but I am going & we are all going to have fun.” And so began our camp outs & bonfires at a friend’s mostly empty property out in the sticks. Unsupervised. Worst idea ever, but we made it work for years.

Lord have mercy, did they ever round up some interesting girls. The stories that erupted from that first camping trip beat all I had ever seen or expected of girls my age. We eventually got better about controlling the behaviors but I remember that first weekend like it was yesterday, my bestie couldn’t go because she had a mom, & she was like, “What the hell happened out there!” One thing was sure, whatever it was is never happening to us. There were about 15 or 20 of us there, none of us old enough to drink but did we care? No. And while most of us were behaving ourselves, others were not. At that age I had no interest in the booze so I noticed all the dumb things happening. I needed a distraction so I decided that choosing the music was my job & a way that I could contribute to the festivities, at first. Most of the people I knew well but there were some guys I didn’t know there who must’ve thought I was fair game and made a very bold advance, he sat me on his lap! That’s when Joey choked on whatever he was drinking & he threatened to set the bold guy’s balls on fire if he didn’t “stop flirting with Ts”. I had never seen him so disgusted.

Joey to dude: She’s not here to sit on your lap, that’s like my little sister, so no, no way.

If I didn’t want to see him beat up I better go busy my flattered self elsewhere. So I did. I soon found myself holding girls’ hair while they puked, jumping between guys wanting to fight, & playing DJ. Hell, I could do that all day. After a couple trips out there somebody brought a mic & I got hold of it & talked plenty of trash over it, sometimes I’d sing & people would join me. At that age I pulled off decent a capella, perfect at a bonfire. I was in heaven (later I got a boyfriend who played guitar for me but I never got better than decent at singing). I couldn’t have cared any less what those girls were doing but I was happy the boys were enjoying it, out of my sight. Once longer term relationships formed we had less of the irresponsible behavior & when a break up happened, it was a night of drowning sorrows & nursing broken hearts & figuring out what went wrong.

You just have to be patient with yourself & trust yourself to find other ways to be part of the fun rather than ALL of the fun. There’s enough fun to go around. Do what you’re good at. If it’s hula hooping, grab your hoop. Or something.

The thing I was fascinated with at the time, was that there were always the girls who were genuinely happy to be the boys’ entertainment. How could this be when they knew they’d be in tears on Monday when the guys acted like nothing ever happened? Yet these few girls kept going to the bonfires & making out with a different boy each time. I decided I wanted to understand those girls a little better, so I got to know them. I learned that when they weren’t with the boys or at school, life was not that good for them. I may not have had family at all, but some of them had bad family. I came to realize that the weekends with the guys were what they needed right then, I understood why. But it was a double edged sword because what happened at the bonfire didn’t always stay at the bonfire. They just accepted that as part of the deal, apparently. I had a great group of male friends but, those were the best of the bunch & usually hanging out right by me. There were guys that sometimes came that were pretty cold hearted. The girls were often slut shamed (by each other, because one would fool around with the one the other did last time) but the guys were gaining skills & brags. There was a girl that got knocked up, she had a baby (whose birth I was there for). Another one said F*ck that & had an abortion. It wasn’t just one kind of people that came to the bonfires either. Whoever could get out of their houses headed for the fire. Cheerleaders, jocks, cowboys. drama club, band club, all kinds & different ages. Some would arrive with dignity & leave in shame. I often invited my own friends, but they’d fall prey as well, hook line & sinker, it seemed no one was immune unless you had a body guard. My bestie couldn’t always go with us because she had parents but I told her the stories when she missed. She was very much like me. The crack jokes & talk crap fun. That disposition did cost me, dearly, eventually. Good thing I was able to stand my ground. The other girls tried to beat me up for supposedly thinking I was better than them. Not kidding. Story is somewhere on this page…

III. Have Friends In Low Places

An important part about having healthy relationships with guys is choosing the right guys to be close to. I chose a great group of friends that I trusted with my body & my life. That trust developed during Jr High & held up through high school. When I eventually did drink, of course I did dumb things & I counted on them to make sure I didn’t accidentally do what I might regret, rather than take advantage of my intoxication & pretend they didn’t know it was a bad idea. This is going to sound like it was a horrible incident, but I fared much better than I would have if I did not have great friends, even in our low places. A dumb thing I did while intoxicated was pee behind a bush & I either forgot to pull my pants up at all, or just forgot to zip, button & belt them, so they began to fall down. Really down. Stories were told of this incident & it is said that a couple of my girlfriends we’re trailing beside & behind me & were trying to pull up my pants for me. One guy had a flashlight he turned on & Lord almighty, he never lived that down (neither did I). My brother-like buddies not only got onto him but they made up songs about him calling him Peeper Piper or something. He really was genuinely trying to help. He took the song as well as he could have. No good deed goes unpunished. Point of that story, I surrounded myself with trustworthy friends. Of course if I didn’t even know my pants were down, they totally could have talked me into fun & frolic or left me unattended but they didn’t. They held my hair when I puked & even changed my clothes if I needed (that is beyond the call of duty, perhaps they enjoyed that). I just knew they would always be that way. If I was out of sight for 5 minutes, I was found quickly. I spent so many of our weekends not drinking that when I occasionally did, it felt like they were scared to turn their backs for a moment, they were babysitting! On my Knavery page I talk about how hard I tried to pull a fast one & get away from a party one night.

I did return the loyalty. When they had girlfriends I made it clear that if they wanted the boy, they had to get through me. If I thought they were going to be good to him & not break his heart, I was supportive. But if I didn’t like them… I was hell. I would make sure he didn’t miss a single transgression, “you are not going out with her, she’s a liar.” Or whatever I thought about them. I was happy to threaten their well being if they pulled any crap, I did physically attack one because she cheated. Finally, it got back to me that a girl said, “don’t even bother with him unless you wanna deal with her. She’s gonna be looking for a reason to have your ass & he’ll take her side.” Her meaning me. And it was a good girl he actually liked. I realized I was gonna have to get my nose out of it, so I began to mind my own business & had a couple incidental boyfriends & then a really good one (he’s mentioned on Knavery). But we were still there for each other in a hot second if needed. We all just wanted to not have to deal with a broken hearted “each other”. We didn’t want to see each other made bitter, publicly disgraced or damaged. And it’s still that way to this day. They’ve saved my marriage a few times.

IV. Not the Doctor

I guess another important piece of my survival is that I did not abuse substances. I was fearless but not dumb. I experienced a couple recreational things because I felt that not understanding them put me at a disadvantage, and I could not have that. I hated every substance. The one thing I became quite familiar with, though, was Boone’s Strawberry Hill. Not because I wanted lots of it, but because during the time a jerk boyfriend was wooing my best friend, the Strawberry Hill kept our friendship together. I tried to smoke cigarettes, so that I would be thirsty so we could drink enough to be happy with each other, but I hated cigarettes. Anything that smoked, I came to hate. I even hated most alcohol, I can’t stand beer. I tried to just get used to it. It got to where just smelling beer would make me puke a little. Or a lot.

By the time I was old enough to drink, I had already quit, even though I didn’t do it very often anyway. I was over it before I was 18. I just decided one day that I was over it. I know how lucky I am that I could do that. Substance abuse, self medicating had been the undoing of so many that I knew. They couldn’t walk away from it the way I did. It is best to just avoid it & always have full control of yourself.

I learned that there were some friends I could influence positively, but some I couldn’t. I stepped down to help one up, but in doing so I risked getting stuck down there too. I saw some ugly, bad stuff trying to not let go of her. I just checked google for her, she’s in jail right now. At least still alive. She was a great person, a loyal friend. She would have walked through the same fire for me that I did for her but I think she would have gone down with me if she had to. That’s hard to think about & I haven’t until just now. Maybe I should find out who has her kid & go get him. He’s probably in the system somewhere. I may not have thought about it soon enough, but I will find out where he is now.

The things I learned along my way to growing up were better taken than if I had just been told what rules to follow. When you are facing a problem, and someone has told you what you must do, you lose the ability to come to that conclusion yourself & accept it as hands down the best option you had. When I had a problem, I only had the option to thoroughly process it & choose my own method. In doing so, I knew exactly at what point I opened the door to the problem, I owned it, I decided what should happen next, I knew why, & chose a solution, knowing how many ways it COULD go sideways. Of all the things I learned about life, I certainly learned that there are 2 primary ways to lose control of it: Sex & Drugs. Some people throw Rock ‘n Roll in there too, but I see nothing wrong with my Rock music.


Edit: A reader asked what I sang around the bonfire, said my descendants would want to know too & I guess she’s right. We had no electricity out there most of the time (generator on occasion), so I sang anything I knew the lyrics to that sounded alright without music. Unless it was sappy. I only offered TWO sappy songs. Sinead Oconnor’s Nothing Compares To You & Alanis Morissette’s Forgive Me Love. Mostly because those are the only 2 I could hold the tune for 😀 I was not a trained singer, not by any stretch. There were people there better suited for it than me, I only sang when no one else would or could. Then I let them laugh at me. I sang Billy Joel’s You May Be Right once I had the really cool boyfriend who played guitar, only because he wanted to hear me say that I was crazy so he could laugh. The lyrics are funny & I guess that was fitting because he did think I was nuts. Nothing Else Matters came out ok. Danzig’s Blood & Tears was great. Boys 2 Men was popular at the time, I did In The Still of The Night. Anything on the radio in the 90s I probably sang at some point.

When I was feeling particularly rowdy or wanted to mock somebody, I sang select verses of Too Short songs. Don’t look those up. The boyfriend didn’t let me sing those verses anymore once he became a thing. He was ok with my dark rebel phase mostly, but he just couldn’t stand to hear me sing Too Short. He’d throw me up over his shoulder & take me out of there threatening to woop me unless I could return to the group & behave myself. I would say, “Please let me sing half of it, just the funny parts! I won’t say the ___ word” Now, years later, I am so embarrassed that I even sang that to make people laugh. It was so out of character because I didn’t use profanity unless I had the opportunity to mock disgusting acts with Too Short verses.

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