Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Camp Poopy

Like a lot of humiliating road-trip stories, this one is poop-related. 

It's hard to say what's more humiliating: pooping one's pants, being taught pants pooping avoidance by one's 6th grade teacher, or have said pant pooping incident recalled by a school bully 20 years after the original incident. This pooping incident would sadly become a defining moment of my middle school and high school years.

When I was halfway through my fifth grade year my parents decided to move us from Littleton to Castle Rock Colorado. They hoped that there would be less of a bullying problem, but not only did the kids bully me for being a chubby, awkward kid, but since Castle rock was a more upper class community, they also bullied me for being poor.

One of the advantages of attending Rock Ridge Elementary was that the 6th grade class got to go to Camp Cheley. I knew about this because the teachers and students wouldn't fucking stop talking about it.

"You're very lucky you go here, because in 6th grade you get to go to Camp Cheley!"

"6th grade, Camp Cheley! If you can afford it...nice Payless shoes. Hey everyone, look at her Payless shoes!"

Camp Cheley, for the uninformed, is a camp in the Colorado mountains. It's in Estes Park, 8,000 feet above sea level, and positioned near the continental divide. The cabins were luxurious, the food tasty, the accommodations cozy; not at all like the YMCA camps that the poor kids would attend (which I would later attend six times through my teen years).

I wasn't terribly excited about going to Camp Cheley for two reasons: 

1) I would be trapped in the mountains with my tormentors for a week straight, with nowhere to escape except for the woods overrun with bears and mountain lions (which honestly in comparison was a step above my peers). 

2) Like the 5th grade camping trip (which is a nightmare I will save for another story), I was going to have to apply for a scholarship because my family couldn't afford the $400 fee. When I would be awarded the scholarship it would be announced to the class, and it would be following by endless bullying and teasing about how my family couldn't afford to send me to camp because I ate all of the family's money. Because I was fat, you see? What I'm trying to say is children are horrible people.

Well I was awarded a scholarship and I did have to go to Camp Cheley because it wasn't just camp; it was class. Every morning started at 6:00 am with breakfast, packing lunches and then piling on to buses for our day classes. We would drive for hours to our hiking points, hike through 5 feet of snow into the mountains in snow shoes while learning various things about wilderness, science and Colorado history.

On the very first expedition we went to a cabin that belonged to Zebulon Pike or Robert Estes, or someone important who I can't recall. We hiked and picnicked in the snow, and at one point after two juice boxes, I needed to pee. I wandered into the woods like all the other kids to pee behind a tree, but what I didn't realize is that I was being followed by a group of boys. When I squatted down to pee, they started to make farting noises. After that, I resolved to never pee in the woods for the remainder of the trip, which would be very much to my detriment.

The following day we hiked up to a frozen lake to identify different types of pine trees, because reasons? The hike went for several hours and I purposely left behind my water bottle so I wouldn't have to pee, however my teacher insisted that I drink the extra juice boxes she brought with her, so I would stay hydrated. What a horrible woman. I tried to hold it, but couldn't so I decided to hike far, far into the woods while carefully watching my back. Sadly I didn't make it and ended up peeing my pants trying to find a private place to go to the bathroom. I did, though, come up with a brilliant plan. I threw myself into the snow to get the rest of my jeans wet so when I would get back to the class I could play it off as if I fell into a snow drift and got wet struggling to get out. I was frozen numb but I was spared the humiliation of having to admit I peed my pants. Sadly the humiliation I was able to spare myself would only be paid back to me twofold the following day.

The next morning we took a longer trip to Saint Mary's Glacier. The drive was over two and a half hours there and back again. We would spend the day hiking up to the glacier, learning how to age ice layers (because reasons), This time I would fake drinking juice boxes so I could avoid peeing, but there was nothing I could do to avoid the dreaded #2.

It hit me as we hiked back down hill to the bus. I don't know about you, but when I walk or exercise, the pooping process is expedited greatly. I took tiny steps clenching as hard as I could, with my teachers  constantly haranguing me for taking up the rear (so to speak). I told him I wasn't feeling well as I carefully inched my way down the mountainside. By the time we reached the bus I couldn't hold it any longer. 

I did it. 

I pooped my pants.

I got on to the bus knowing there was a large load in my jeans. There was literally nothing that could be done. I went all the way to the very last row on the bus so I could sit alone. The teacher was talking to us, recapping what we learned, but my primary focus was positioning myself on my seat so I didn't have to sit flat on my butt. I pressed my knees into the seat in front of me so I could suspend my butt over the chair, but I couldn't hold that position for the two and a half hour bumpy road trip back to the Camp. In the last hour stretch when my thighs were burning from holding myself up we hit a massive pothole and I landed hard on my bottom. It felt like a final "fuck you" from the universe before the worst of it was to come.

We got back to camp and I slowly waddled my way off the bus and uphill towards our cabin. I grabbed a change of pants and went directly into the communal bathroom. I won't bore you with the details of clean up, but I will tell you it was bad. I must have spent a half hour in the stall wiping and flushing, wiping and flushing. I determined that I needed to shower, which thankfully was in the same bathroom, but I was stuck with one problem: my underwear.

I don't know if you ever had to deal with cloth diapers, but my mother used them on my younger brother. Having a piece of fabric filled with poop presents a significant problem, especially when you're locked in a bathroom filled with your peers, who are wondering why you are taking so long in the bathroom. I recalled what my mother would do when she would clean out my brother's diapers: she would shake off what she could in the toilet and then flush, and as the toilet would flush she would dip the soiled part of the diaper in the flushing water to clean it off before she would put it in the washing machine. It's gross, but it's a good system.

I resolved to follow my mother's method, shaking off what I could and then I flushed the toilet. Delicately pinching  my underwear between my fingers I dipped my underwear into the rapidly flushing water and almost instantly the water swept my underwear out of my tender grasp. With horror I watched my underwear flush down the toilet. I prayed that they would make it; that by some miracle they would make it through the pipes and the toilet wouldn't clog, but the toilet did clog. Then, as if I was possessed by some kind of idiotic demon, I flushed again, hoping the water would coax the underwear through the pipes.

That is not what happened. The water immediately began overflowing all over the floor, into the other stalls. I heard other girls scream as the water touched their feet. I jerked open the door and the cabin counselor was already standing there. All I could do was mutter, "There's something wrong with the toilet..." She pushed me out of the way and heroically grabbed a plunger and started plunging away as the rest of the girls in the cabin gathered around, asking, "What happened? What did you DO??" I kept saying, I don't know, I don't know, as I backed towards the exit slowly. 

Before I could make my escape I saw the counselor lift the plunger, with my yellow underpants tragically dangling from the end of it. I'll never wipe the look on her and my peers faces, the look that very plainly read as, "What the actual fuck?"

That was my queue to leave. I turned around and walked promptly out of the cabin, down to the infirmary. I told the nurse that I was sick to my stomach and had diarrhea. I stayed with her in the infirmary until bedtime. My cabin counselor and my teacher both came by asking what happened. I couldn't lie my way out of it but I did finesse my story and tell them I had diarrhea, in order to increase their sympathy so they wouldn't think I was some kind of animal that pooped her pants and flushed her underwear down the toilet.

I sat in the infirmary all night, taking Pepto Bismol and sipping tea with the nurse. We listened to NPR and talked about our families and where we were from. She was unbelievably kind to me when I needed someone to be kind. It was probably the best part of my trip. When it was bedtime she walked me up to my cabin, where thankfully everyone had already gone to sleep, and I was able to slip quietly into my bunk and cry myself to sleep.

The rest of the week went surprisingly conflict free. I practically starved and dehydrated myself for the remainder of the trip, but it was worth sparing myself the humiliation. When I returned home I didn't tell my parents what happened, and I don't believe my teacher told them either because we never talked about it. What did happen, however, was the day we returned to class after the trip my teacher kept me after school. She gave me a lesson on how to hold my poop in by clenching my butt cheeks. She sat in her chair across from me, demonstrating how she clenches, insisting I try it too. I complied, never looking her in the eye, and walked home feeling absolutely defeated. My butt clenching lessons were the Charlie Brown soundtrack to my sad walk home.

I survived the sixth grade, assuming that it was behind me (so to speak). Sadly I did not live the incident down. A middle school bully would constantly bring it up when I would pass him in the hall. 

"Hey tubbo, aren't you the kid who pooped her pants and flushed her underwear down the toilet?" 

His name was Matt. He was a rat-faced skater boy. All through Middle School and High School, he was the one who would never let it die. What made it worse is that he didn't even go to Camp Cheley, which meant he heard it second hand from the boys in his class, which meant the boys heard it from the girls. Everyone knew. I would of course lie and say it didn't happen or it wasn't me, but that's not something you can live down.

Years later, after I started a Facebook account and the inevitable slew of friend requests would come from old high school acquaintances, I received a friend request from Matt. I was of course in shock, because he very clearly was not a friend of mine. I decided to accept his friend request and so I could ask him why on earth he would want to friend me. 

He asked, "Weren't we friends in high school? I remember you from the theatre department." 

I told him I remember him in a very different light, and that he bullied me all through middle school and high school. I didn't hear from him for a few weeks, and then he finally responded with: 

"Wait, I remember you now! You were the kid who shit her pants and flushed her underwear down the toilet at camp!"

Before I blocked him, I responded with this: "I may be the kid who when she was 11 years old shit her pants at camp and accidentally flushed her underwear down the toilet, but I'd rather be that than a 30 year old man who won't stop talking about it."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The first three times

WARNING: This story contains sex. Not sexy sex, but sex. Family discretion is highly advised. (Translation: if you're my parents, aunt, or uncle, maybe skip this one)

Growing up Catholic and eventually Baptist, the loss of one's virginity is a very big deal. I lost my virginity twice. Well technically, three times.

The first time I lost my virginity was when I was 15, but it was a work of fiction. You see, when I was a teenager, like most chubby, geeky, creative types, I had zero game. I didn't know how to flirt, or to show and tell someone if I liked them. I was also evangelical baptist, and struggling with lesbionic thoughts; like impure thoughts about my poetry teacher, which sounds like how most 60's lesbian pulp novels start. I didn't know what I wanted. I did have crushes on boys my age, but after school they all came out if the closet, so that should have been a pretty big tell right there.

I was surrounded by friends who all had boyfriends. They made out in the back of the theatre, they would sneak out of their houses at night and steal away moments like I heard in popular songs by Dave Matthews and Better Than Ezra (I went to high school in the 90's, no judging). All I ever heard was, "I got another hickey!" or "We might do it next weekend!" I felt like some sort of sexless treasure box where they would bury their secrets, not a girl their age who was also coursing with hormones and wanted to be touched and wanted they same way they did. So I did what most sex starved nerds might do when they felt desperate enough to want to be seen as more than an asexual set of ears: I lied. I told the biggest lie I ever told in my life, and this is my confession. 

I told my friends that I was hanging out with my brother and his friend, who went to another high school, because they always go to another high school...or they live in Canada. I lied that we snuck away while my brother played Nintendo and that he talked me into having sex with him. I didn't want to sound too easy! I lied that it hurt at first, and that it was mostly uncomfortable and it went quickly. 

To be honest, at the time I knew nothing about sex. We didn't have the internet yet and I literally missed sex education. I'm 34 years old and I still don't know what's going on down there. A few years ago a kid I tutored explained to me how menstruation works, that's how out of touch I am with what goes on with reproductive organs. It turns out it's not because God is punishing me because of Eve's original sin.

Thankfully my friends didn't ask me too many questions about the specifics, and anything I did tell them was what I heard from other girls or what I learned from Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. I went from asexual to sexual oracle. I loved the attention. The story would get bigger and bigger every time I told it. I even threw in a pregnancy scare for dramatic effect. I confessed to the girls in my church youth group, and they told me that I can ask God's forgiveness and declare second virginity. As if praying to God to forgive me for having fake sex will make my hymen grow back. Well joke's on them, because I lost it when I was eleven riding a bike.

I craved any kind of attention that changed the way people saw me, or the way I saw myself: chubby, awkward, and undesirable. 

High school came and went, along with my peer's virginity. Their stories became more fascinating than mine, so I eventually became the confessional to them again, with whom they would share their many encounters and secrets. 

I stayed that way going into my early twenties. I was always the cheerleader or the wingman for my friends. I still didn't know how to flirt, and I had no sexual confidence, at least not in real life. You see, I had the prowess of a porn star on the internet. I loved chat rooms, because there was no risk of rejection.

I talked to dozens of different people on there. I talked to one man who wanted to be my sugar daddy and take me traveling with him as a kept woman. Another was a couple, looking for a woman to have a threesome with. Then there was Bill. At least I think that's what his name was, I never got to know. 

We talked for months, messaging back and forth; not just about sex, but about our interests and hobbies, what we did for a living. I looked forward to getting an instant message from him every day at work. I had no idea what he looked like, and he hadn't seen me either. I didn't have a digital camera and neither did he. That, however, didn't stop us from wanting to meet and have sex. 

I set it up: I reserved a hotel room at a Holiday Inn Express in my small home town of Castle Rock. He would drive all the way down from Boulder to meet me there. Before we both left work that day he asked me the question I had been dreading: What do you look like? I became alarmingly aware of my body and my very low self esteem. I told him, "I have to warn you, I'm big." He said, "I don't care, as long as you're sexy, which I think you are." 

That shocked me because the one thing I definitely never saw myself as, was sexy. When he said that though, I felt it, and I was ready to have real sex. I was going to, at 22 years old, lose my virginity to a stranger I met on the internet that I told literally nobody about. When I say that out loud to myself now, that was some pretty risky behavior. 

I got to the hotel first and got ready. I wore a silly silk nighty that I got from a sex shop in Denver, that was slit up to my thigh. I played a sexy R&B album by Joe. I bought beer and tequila, because...reasons? I presume to make us feel more amorous? That's what grown ups do when they have sex?

When he got there my first observation was that he reminded me a lot of my older brother. He wasn't actually my older brother, this isn't that kind of story.

He didn't say anything. He just put down his things, grabbed me roughly, and kissed me. It was my first kiss. For a brief shining moment it felt magical, like on the cover of the romance novels I guiltily read in high school: two lovers embracing, heaving bosoms, cascading hair, a strap dangling off my shoulder. The moment was brief and so was the sex. 

Despite the fact he stood an alarming 6'5", he had a remarkably tiny penis. When it came to foreplay and actual sex, it was entirely a night of firsts. He barely touched me, and when it was all over, I barely felt anything. He got up to shower and I opened a beer, not really knowing why, since I didn't want it. It felt like a grown up thing to do. 

He came out, fully dressed and checked his pager, which some people still used in 2002. He said he had a work emergency and had to go. I asked if he'd come back and he said maybe. He told me to drink some water, kissed my forehead, left $90 on the dresser to cover the hotel room and left. That was it. I never heard from him again. 

That night I sat in the hotel room and watched TV by myself, trying to make sense of what just happened. I didn't have feelings for him, I didn't care about him. I didn't even know his real name. So why was I crying? It's a question I still struggle to answer. I will say: sitting in a hotel room bed, condom wrappers on the floor, and $90 cash sitting on the dresser, it was hard not to feel like a prostitute. 

That was the second time I lost my virginity. 

The third time was with the woman I would eventually marry (and divorce, but that's another story night; let's remember her in a warm light for the moment). After that night in the hotel room I tried my hand at dating men, but after adding it all up, I didn't want men because I was fucking gay. My best friend called it my lady virginity, and I declared I wouldn't have sex with a woman until I was in love.

I met her online, of course. We went to dinner. Then we went to coffee and we talked until they closed, at midnight. My heart sunk when I thought I would have to say good night to her, but she asked me if I wanted to come over and watch a movie, and of course I said yes. We watched Mulholland Drive (duh). 

When she held my hand and my heart literally skipped a beat. 

The first time a woman held my hand. 

She looked at me and said I was beautiful. 

The first time anyone ever told me I was beautiful. 

Anyone other than my mom. 

We kissed. 

My first kiss. 

We had sex. 

I'd like to say we made love, but it's hard for me to say "make love" without wanting to puke, but we did have sex. On the first date. 

A week later, on the 4th of July, we said "I love you". 

My first I love you. 

That was the third time I lost my virginity, and that was the best time. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Turning Stones

I'm a big fan of quotes. In high school my best friend even kept a running quote book of things we would hear other people say, or fascinating quotes we would read. When I was thinking of topics to write about I started leafing through quotes on ThinkExist, and I found the following Andre Maurois quote: The first recipe to happiness is the following: avoid too lengthy mediation on the past.

Standing on a stage sharing meditations of my past is what I love to do. I love searching through my garden of memories, turning over stones and finding a story worthy of sharing. It comes naturally to me because it's what I love to do in my everyday life. In this particular case, I should have left the past exactly where it is. 

When I was 6 years old my parents lost our house. We lived in a  little up and coming neighborhood in Colorado Springs and my folks bought their very first new house. With two children they could manage it, financially speaking. Then they had a very unexpected third. Then they couldn't manage it. They went through a very long foreclosure process, and we eventually moved out of our house to a townhome and apartment complex in Littleton. 

It was a charming little complex, despite the rotten neighborhood that surrounded it. I would borrow my older brother's scooter and roll around the complex (I was too scared to ride a bike at the time). I would scoot around and look for places to hide, too shy to introduce myself to the neighborhood children. 

One day as I was scooting through the courtyard I saw a girl who looked about my age playing catch with a small group of boys. This was very odd to me, because girls my age didn't play catch with boys. They didn't play catch at all! They played Barbie, and dress-up and house. I thought she was the coolest girl I had ever seen. I scooted onto the grass and sat by a tree and watched her as she out-threw the boys. I took her in: a gangly girl with dirty blonde, frizzy, shoulder length hair. Her eyes were huge; huge and blue, and her mouth was also huge, with gaps in her teeth from the ones she'd lost. 

She finally approached me, after minutes of my sending psychic messages to her, silently begging her to. She invited me to come play catch with her and her cousins. I told her I didn't really know how to throw that far, and she spent the rest of the afternoon teaching me how to throw, even after her cousins left. It was fast, but I had very quickly found my very first best friend. 

I won't call her by her real name, because it's an extremely unique name, so I'll call her Starla. Starla and I, much like Forrest and Jenny, became like peas and carrots. We spent nearly every waking moment we could together. 

We would walk together to and from school, until her mother pulled her out the the public school we attended and started sending her to a private Christian academy. We would play dress-up using old sheets. We wore pantyhose on our heads and pretended that we had really long pigtails. We made up bad dances to Amy Grant songs. We walked to the nearby Albertson's and would buy $.25 candy, and that was subsequently the same Alberston's where she and I would commit our first and last act of theft (Lipsmackers lip-gloss). We watched Nick at Night with her blind Grandmother and would reenact scenes from the Patty Duke Show. She even helped me shake my fear of learning to ride a bicycle, and with the help of her cousins, taught me how. I hated the days I couldn't see her, especially when she got the chicken pox; so much so that I actually snuck over to her apartment so I could see her, subsequently contracting chicken pox myself. 

Of all our adventures, what I loved the most was our overnights. We spent nearly every weekend spending the night at one-another's place. That was when we would play husband and wife. She was always the husband, and I was always the wife. I don't want to get into the details, because we were little kids. I will say, that of all of the experimental things we did, what I loved the most was when she would hold her fingers up to my lips, and kiss them. If we kissed each other for real it would of course be a sin, but if she put her fingers between us, it was okay. After we "kissed", we would fall asleep holding each other, our legs intertwined. 

Back then I didn't know what to call our friendship beyond just "best friends". There was a deep shared kindred-ship that was completely unspoken. My adoration for her ran beyond just friends. I couldn't name it at the time but reflection in my later years would label it love. She was my first love. 

Our friendship carried on for four years, until quite unexpectedly, Starla's mother decided to move to Greeley. If I had to put it in Washington terms, I think that would be the equivalent of moving from Seattle to Olympia. Now on paper that doesn't sound very far, but in 1990, when a phone call from Littleton to Greeley is considered long-distance and my chief mode of transportation was roller skates, she may as well have moved to Greece. 

I only saw her one more time after that. It was nearly a year later, and I was coming home from church play practice. I walked in the door and my father was standing there waiting for me. He said there was someone in the bathroom who wanted to see me. The door flew open and it was Starla. All I remember was our screams of joy, our arms being thrown around one another, and the feel of her lips as she kissed me on the cheek, without fingers. I only got to see her for a few minutes. She was only in town visiting her cousins and she begged her mother to stop in and say hi to me. 

I never saw her again after that. I was 10 going on 11 at the time. I thought of her a lot throughout my formative years. When at 25 I finally came out, people would ask me, "When did you know you were gay?" I would say I knew when I was six, but I wouldn't dare tell them it was from the first moment I saw Starla. 

Years later my partner at the time and I were planning our wedding. I had told her all about Starla, and I asked her if I should try to find her through MySpace. I had thought about her for so many years, and I just want to know how she is, what she's up to. She had a troubled home life, and more than anything I wanted to know if she followed the same path as me and eventually came out. I searched for her and found her immediately; like I said, she had a very unique name. I wrote her and asked if this is the same Starla who used to live in Canyon Crest apartments. A day later I received a note back from her in all caps, "OH MY GOSH I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S YOU!!!!!!! CALL MEE!" She left her phone number and I wrote her back saying I would call her that night. 

When I got home I shared with my ex I was finally going to talk to Starla after 18 years, and I was surprised that I was actually scared. I wondered if this was a rock that needed to be turned over, or if I should just let it stay a precious memory. My ex told me to prepare myself, because she might not be out and proud. She might live in a trailer park with 8 kids and be a stringent right wing conservative. I countered that she grew up in a college town, so maybe she's smart and liberal, and has a girlfriend with a hip buzzcut.

When I called her I was shocked by how quickly I recognized her voice. Even though we were adults I could still hear her childlike lisp. The conversation didn't go as I'd hoped. She told me that she had six children. She was engaged to her fifth and sixth child's father. They lived in a trailer park, but they were fixin' to buy a home as soon as he found a job. She paused a lot to yell at the kids, at one point screaming, "If you don't stop bothering your sister you're gonna get a beating with the belt!" She then asked me what I had been up to. 

I told her I had moved to Seattle, and that I was getting married to my partner of three years. She countered with, "Partner? Your business partner?" "Oh no," I said, "My girlfriend...uh, I'm gay." I don't know why I put so much emphasis on gay. I think I needed her to hear it and emphasize to her that I can't believe she wasn't gay. She was my play husband. She initiated everything

There was a long pause after I said gay. All I could hear is the fighting among her children getting louder. She finally responded with, "Oh I see." I couldn't bear the tone in her voice. It was almost as if she had said, "Oh no, this is Summer's worst case scenario." I told her it sounded like she had her hands full, and why don't we talk when she had some spare time. She agreed and said she'd call me back.

The next day on MySpace she disappeared from my friends list and set her account to private. 

Maybe she thought of me over the years too. Maybe she hoped that I didn't end up gay and had lots of kids like her. I think were both equally disappointed in one another. I never reached out to her again, and I of course never heard from her. 

While it's kind of my job to turn over stones to share stories from my past, I have found that some stones are best left in the garden, undisturbed.