Okay, mom. Here you go. It ain't what you think.
Spin the Ketchup, or Geek Story #57
I was a cute kid and an awkward teen. I was slow to catch on to trends, a little pudgy, and relatively unpopular at my middle school. But one of my two best friends went to a different school in a different town, and they didn't know that I was a total dork.
When she invited me to her first boy-girl party, I was excited and hopeful. At 13, I had never been kissed, although I had come pretty close to smoochin' on top of a houseboat once with a boy we met on vacation. Because there's nothing sexier than a houseboat. Alas, something intervened at the last moment, and to this day, I can't remember if it was someone else climbing up the ladder or me getting skittish and asking him if he liked Chips Ahoy Cookies.
What can I say? I was shy. And I liked cookies.
The party was to happen on Halloween in her basement, and her mom had promised to stay upstairs and keep her younger siblings from intruding. It was just four girls and three boys, and my friend had told them all that I was really pretty and popular at my school. I'm sure my K-Mart flowered pants, side ponytail, and fluorescent yellow mock-turtleneck clued them in that my finger was not on the pulse of fashion and coolness, but I was too naive and interpersonally oblivious to understand.
In preparation, we had hung up spooky decorations, including ghosts made of sheets, bats made of paper plates, and those smelly, stretchy spiderwebs. But it wasn't enough for my creative spirit. I convinced her to put down her curling iron and help me make a scarecrow/dead body out of her dad's old clothes and balled-up newspapers. While she did her makeup and tried on different cute outfits, I was in the basement, drawing a scary face on the pumpkin head and artfully spackling the body with ketchup blood.
Surely, that's what popular 13-year-old boys like in a girl?
Artsy spunk and dead body crafting?
When the other guests arrived, I had nervously downed half the cookies and was covered in ketchup, which didn't merge well with the Drakkar Noir wafting from their Hypercolor t-shirts. We snacked and made awkward small talk to the delightful sounds of Vanilla Ice. There was some dancing, but I sat that out, because I was scared and had never learned the Electric Slide. Then there was some slow dancing, but I sat that out, because I was the 7th person and smelled of ketchup.
And then there was spin-the-bottle.
I'm not sure how it happened. But the bottle didn't land on me a single time. I thought it did, a couple of times, but the boys quickly leaned past me to the cuter girls on either side, saying, "I think it was more towards Jennifer."
About the 4th time Jennifer had gotten kissed when I was sure it was my turn, it started to sink in: even among people who didn't know me, I was a total pariah.
I think I faked a stomachache and ran upstairs to cry before they started playing Five Minutes in the Closet, Which is Actually My Dad's Chevy, Because Our Basement Closet Is Full Of Spiders.
My friend got to 2nd base for the first time that night.
I won Ducktales on Nintendo while eating lemon-flavored sugar cookies in her room.
Things didn't really start to turn around for me until I hit 16.
But that's another story altogether.