My current WIP has the main character doing a lot of self-reflection. Okay, it has a few characters doing a lot of self-reflection. And since I try to connect part of me to each of my important characters it means I am doing a lot of self-reflection lately. Which isn’t always easy. So I decided to start with simple things and try to remember times I had done things in childhood that ending up in embarrassment for me and how I coped with them. There are four that stand out in my mind.
#1 In the 5th grade we were having a talent show. At the time I was totally hooked on the song Do You Know the Way to San Jose? made popular back then by singer Dionne Warwick. I do not have a Dionne Warwick voice. I do not have a voice at all. One ex used to beg me to not sing in the car with him. Another, a musician, told me if I worked at it really hard I could have a voice like Melissa Etheridge, well at least like the part when she mostly screams. So me, a singer? Not.
But I wanted to be. So I went to the audition and and turned on the background tape and proceeded to sing my little heart out. You know those contestants on idol where you cringe and wonder what in the world made them even think they could win such a thing? That was me. It was horrible. Before I even got finished the kids waiting for their turn were booing me and yelling at me to shut up. Finally some boy ran up on the stage and stood in front of me and told me to just SHUT UP. I went home in tears and never tried out for another talent show again.
#2 The summer between 6th and 7th grade I went camping with a friend to Crazy Horse Campgrounds. It was my first exposure to square dancing and I loved it. It was so much fun and everyone helped everyone else learn the steps and just have a good time. Later that summer but before school started I saw a flyer for square dancing class. It was a ways from home, too far to walk, so I had to beg my mom to drop me off. She did and I walked into the auditorium of the school and everyone was all dressed up in matching square dancing outfits. I had no idea that this was a long-established club that had been meeting for years and years. I was a kid. I had just had a good time square dancing and wanted to do more of it. They asked if I had ever done square-dancing before and I said yes. The caller gave me a funny look and pointed me to a square with a missing person. Then they started up without a single word to me. He switched out, faster and faster and faster and of course I had no idea what to do. He kept changing things and speeding up and I finally realized he was trying to get me to quit. It worked. I left in tears (again) and waited outside for 2 hours until my mom came to pick me up.
#3 In my sophomore year I moved from Mt. Diablo High School to Ygnacio Valley. I didn’t have any friends there, except for Kevin, and so I decided to join a club to try and meet people. I saw sign-ups for a play and decided to try out for drama. I don’t remember the play at all but I do remember that when I tried out people laughed (and it was supposed to be serious) and the adviser told me that I would be better off if I went and found something else to do with my spare time because there was no way I could be an actress.
#4 Also in my sophomore year… I started off the year with one boyfriend, Kevin, that I went to my first prom with but by the end of the year when there was another formal dance I was dating someone else named Matt. Matt asked me to the end of the year dance and I remember this time getting a dress that was blue dotted swiss with a bit of a petticoat underneath. I remember my mom posing us for lots of pictures in our tiny apt and how Matt had to sit down for most of them because he was way over 6′ tall and I was barely 5′ tall. My mom couldn’t get us both in the picture. I remember the dance was at some golf course and we drove a long way up a hill to get to it. I remember walking in the door and then Matt saying, "see ya!." And walked away. We had only gone out a few times and it turned out that he never wanted to take me to the dance after all. It was more of a dare to get me there and dump me, which he did. I walked all the way down that hill myself, in my fancy dress and white heels, and waited for my mom to pick me up. Not quite a Stephen King/Carrie moment but close. I never did figure out what I had done to him to make him do that to me.
I guess in addition to embarrassing moments these are also be moments of intense disappointment. Mostly what I remember, as a kid, is that I just wasn’t good enough. Never mind that I hadn’t had lessons or practiced or experience, the message I got was that I wasn’t good enough. Now to figure out how to attach some of the emotions this drudged up to my characters.
Your turn. What moments of embarrassment and/or disappointment do you remember from childhood?