Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Love You, Man

Many of the folks living on Salem's Branch in the late 1970s, when I was a kid living there, shared a party telephone line. When I ask my kids to put down their cell phones and text devices long enough to tell them stories about the olden days, they scoff when I mention a "party line." But it's true; and using the party line to talk to friends, and the girls I hoped would become more than friends, was tough.

Me: "Well, how about we meet at Groves Theater on Saturday? I hear they are holding Rocky over for another week!"

Potential Girlfriend: "Sure, even though I saw it last week, I'd..."

[Interrupted by Mrs. Nichols, who lived up the street. She picks up the phone, and clicks the hang-up buttons a couple of times]

Mrs. Nichols: "Kenny? Is that you, Kenny?"

Me: "This isn't Kennie, Mrs. Nichols. It's Marc, from down the road. I'll be finished with the phone in a minute."

Mrs. Nichols: "Do you know Kenny?"

Me: "Yes, ma'am..."

Mrs. Nichols: "Have you seen Kenny?"

Potential Girlfriend: "Uh...I'm gonna go now."

It happened way too often.

For lots of reasons--like the telephone party line, and the fact that there were no kids my age living within a mile of me--I spent a lot of time alone.

Eating cereal, riding ponies, horses and motorcycles, hoeing gardens and feeding chickens. But rarely hanging out with other boys.

In fact, I can recall only once that another kid slept over at my house.


As a result, I grew up a bit of a social misfit. Unsure of myself in social situations, and unclear how to behave. Especially around other men.

The stereotypical, testosterone-filled stuff came naturally. I could play sports with other guys, talk about girls with other guys and even fight guys once in a while. But put me in a room with a dude and expect me to carry on some small talk?

I just couldn't do it. Still can't very well, even today.

Like Peter Klaven, the lead in I Love You, Man, I was mostly a girlfriend guy, more comfortable with women than men. Unlike Klaven, I didn't go on a series of man-dates in order to improve my skills. In fact, I did the opposite: I mostly avoided other guys who wanted to hang out, at least until they stopped wanting to hang out.

I wish there had been a Sydney Fife in my life at that time to hang with, jam with and exchange nicknames with. As it was, my only nickname came from Kenny.

And "Shit-Licker" ain't that cool a nickname...


Anonymous said...

it is interesting to see how you viewed yourself as a kid/teen, and how I remember you. I remember you as one of the "cool kids".


The Film Geek said...

Truth be told, I was probably somewhere between where I envisioned myself, and where others saw me. But I was filled with the uncertainty I described, and just figured out how to act as though I wasn't.

Hell, maybe that's what most teens do, anyway.

MountainLaurel said...

That brings back memories. Our party line had my aunt as the other party. Good times.

I also grew up in the boonies and had limited contact with other kids my age. As I recall I was a bit of a social misfit too. That all changed when I went to college, and it's part of the reason that I never left. :-)

The Film Geek said...

Hmmmm...that sounds sort of familiar.

primalscreamx said...

We're all a lost generation, man.