A Quarter Century of Misery

SO MUCH has changed since I left the city of my youth-the one I called home for 38 years. After reading the aforementioned email, I began to reflect on those 38 years. I must say that, despite the absence of a father figure for most of my formative years, my childhood was a rich one in many ways. (It wasn’t until my 20s that I came to realize how that absence handicapped me.) My mother did her best to be two genders at once after a nasty divorce when I was yet a wee tot of three.
Fast forward to 1980, the year I began high school. Granted high school is a tumultuous time for all (except for the now menially employed, prematurely-balding members of high school football teams). But I do believe that this is where my 25 years of pain, disappointment, and disillusionment began. On a related note, who in their right mind attends a high school reunion? Please enlighten me as to why anyone would want to exhume the dead every ten years (except of course for the aforementioned pigskin boys wanting to relive their glory days).
(To said pigskin boys: I have aged well, unlike you fat baldies. Suckas!)
For better or for worse (i.e. being labelled a loser), I travelled in limited, and dare I say socially stunted circles in my high school years. This was a double-edged sword: I missed out on duelling drunk stories on Monday mornings (“I was so drunk, I puked on my dad and went to bed.”), but was spared most of the posing and acting that goes on in the in-crowd. The REAL negative effects weren’t apparent until later in college and beyond where I STILL occasionally commit the errant social faux pas. When you combine my socially-stunted circle with the absence of siblings and father, well, you get the picture.
High school life was punctuated by long spells on the bench of the soccer team (in retrospect, mostly rightfully so), mediocre grades (Look at Paul Weller’s report cards!), and scant interaction with the opposite sex. I attended an all-boys private school, by the way. It wasn’t until late junior year that I began to indulge my penchant for wallowing in self-pity. This came about as a result of an extended groin injury which kept me out of the beautiful game for about six months. (Though I rode the pine for school, knock abouts & pickups with the neighborhood kids were sometimes THRICE daily.) Enter Macs, a latecomer high school friend who introduced me to “new music”, aka New Wave. (Macs and I went on to perform in a local punk/new wave band together called the Jugheads. You should have caught yours truly, a baritone, trying to belt out U2’s “I Will Follow”…)
So on a Friday or Saturday night, you’d find me alone in my room, black lights a blazing, listening to the goth flavor of the week, pondering the source of a general uneasiness in my core. These pity parties continued well into my college years, exacerbated by the rejection of one woman or the “Fatal Attraction”-esque clinging of another. Granted, in daylight hours, I found OMD, Yazoo, and others uplifting. But at night, it was often veg out time to early Cure, Bauhaus, the Sisters of Mercy, Cocteau Twins, etc. Ah, those were the days. At least I avoided the “I’m-over-my-anger-and-want-to-be-a-Deadhead now” jinx…
Fast forward again to the year 1986, with 2 years of college under my belt and not a clue what my major would be, the unhappiness meter was at an all-time high. It took bathroom reading at my summertime room rental in Syracuse (“Russia and The West” by George Kennan) to drop me a clue: political science. It would be a good complement to my affinity for foreign languages. I convinced myself that I could make it in foreign service-the diplomatic corps! Otherwise, I had zero interest in politics or law-the usual post-graduate targets for that major. Okay, so now I had a LITTLE more purpose-basically to get that piece of paper. (“My ambition in life is to look good on paper”-from Terminal Preppie by The Dead Kennedys. That’s right Macs, they can’t remove “Dead” from MY blog…)
In 1988, Holland won their first major football title and I received my first credit card, courtesy of one of the overload of flyers hanging in the halls of every university. (My first purchase would be a Dutch replica jersey from a UK vendor.) Sadly, this was accompanied by a brief time off from my “pursuit of the paper” to enjoy my newfound “wealth”. By 1996, I had built up such a mountain of debt, people were scratching their heads, wondering how it was at all possible-that creditors had given me THAT much rope to hang myself with. (I ended up graduating in 1991, three years behind schedule.) From 1988 until 1996, consumer debt proved to be my personal 800 pound gorilla. I was sad, so I spent. The bill arrived, making me sadder, so I spent more, and so on. The debt became an abstraction after a while…

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