Tag Archives: teen drama

Should We Re-Think Our Expectations Of Teenagers?

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When I was a teenager and in a particularly bad mood, which happened more often than I care to admit, there was this one thing my parents often told me that really pissed me off.  It came out in many forms, but this was the underlying sentiment.

“If you EXPECT it to be a bad experience, then it’s GOING to be bad experience.”

I can’t recount how many times I heard something like this. I just remember it pissing me off even more every time I heard it. They usually said it to me whenever we were going out to do something that didn’t involve me sulking in my mood. Being the great parents they were, they didn’t let that happen. They got me off my ass and out of that mindset.

They probably didn’t know at the time, but that bit of good parenting reflects a real phenomenon within our collective psyche. It’s called expectancy theory and it’s kind of what it sounds like.

It’s based on the principle that if someone has certain expectations about something, it’ll affect how they approach it. If they have a positive, hopeful attitude, then they’ll be more likely to evoke positive, hopeful outcomes. If they’re negative about it, as I often was, then it’s not going to turn out well and confirmation bias will help make it worse.

With that in mind, I’d like to apply this to an experience that’s pretty much universal for everyone. Specifically, I want to focus on our expectations as and towards teenagers. Now, I know I’ve given teenagers a lot of crap on this blog, often highlighting how they tend to do dumb things and have misguided attitudes. In my defense, my own confirmation bias has somewhat affected that.

I did not have a good teenage experience. I had a terrible attitude for much of my teenage years and, despite having great parents and amazing social support, I found ways to make myself miserable. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus less on my own experience and more on the concept as a whole.

Take a moment, whether you’re a teenager or not, to ask a few important questions about the sentiment you have towards teenagers. Don’t just think about how you feel about it, personally. Think about how we collectively approach the teenage experience.

Are teenagers more deviant because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be deviant?

Are teenagers more immature because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be immature?

Are teenagers disrespectful because of their basic developmental biology or because we expect them to be disrespectful?

Are teenagers more prone to risky behavior because of basic developmental biology or because we expect them to do risky things?

See the pattern? There seems to be this underlying assumption about teenagers that rarely gets scrutinized. It’s this idea that all the biological changes that teenagers go through with puberty somehow transforms them from these sweet, innocent children into these reckless, irresponsible, proto-adults who aren’t capable of managing themselves.

It’s fairly likely that all those biological transformations that teenagers go through has some affect on their mentality. However, even the most up-to-date research on the issue concedes that our understanding of the mechanisms behind the process are extremely limited. What that means in a scientific context is we should not assume that our assumptions at the moment are wholly valid.

It may very well be the case that our expectations about teenagers have a significant impact on how we treat them. In turn, how we treat them ends up affecting how they act in response. Then, when they react, we use confirmation bias to justify our expectations. It comes off as one elaborate self-fulfilling prophecy to which we all contribute.

When you think about it, the signs are there. If you’re a teenager, just look at how the world treats you. If you’re an adult, think about how you were treated as a teenager and how you treat teenagers now.

We impose strict curfews about what they can do with their private time. We don’t trust them to consent to sexual activity until a certain age. We regularly send them to educational institutions where their lives and schedules are strictly controlled, not unlike that of prisoners. Whenever there’s a crime or an act of deviance, we tend to expect teenagers to be involved.

From my own experience, I can attest to this. When I was in high school, I noticed a distinct change in the way adults and teachers dealt with us, compared to middle and elementary school. Suddenly, everything we did was subject to greater scrutiny. It was as though everyone thought that we, a bunch of hormonal teenagers, were just one impulse away from becoming violent deviants.

I’m not going to lie. I found that kind of insulting. Teachers, adults, and even police officers would talk down to us whenever they discussed things like sex, crime, and even our personal lives. It wasn’t just that we were expected to screw up. It was almost as though we were supposed to screw up.

It never really crossed my mind that being a teenager could mean anything else. The idea that these attitudes were somehow flawed never entered my mind. I don’t think many people, including other teenagers, give it much thought now. That may very well be a problem that only makes itself worse the longer we have these expectations.

Part of what inspired me to write about this topic is an article from TheVerge that pitched the crazy, yet oddly logical idea that we should consider those under the age of 24 to still be teenagers. I admit I thought it was a joke at first, albeit not of The Onion variety. However, the author does make some interesting points.

Compared to earlier generations, youth today are staying in school longer, marrying and having kids later, and buying a house later, writes Susan Sawyer, the chair of adolescent health at the University of Melbourne, in an op-ed published today in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. The transition period from childhood to adulthood lasts far beyond age 19, when it is popularly thought to end. As a result, she writes, we should change our policies and services to better serve this population.

In a sense, the author of the article is doubling down on the expectations. Now, it’s not just people who don’t have a two in front of their age to which we should ascribe these assumptions. We need to apply that to people even older because somehow, they’re still not meeting the other expectations we have of functioning adults.

Personally, I think that’s taking things in the wrong direction. If we’re going to start expecting more deviance and immaturity from more people, then that’s what we’re going to see and not just from confirmation bias. Just as I did as a kid, my negative expectations led to negative manifestations. Now, they may follow young people beyond high school.

It’s not magical thinking to say that attitude matters when it comes to dealing with people. Human psychology is extremely complex and varies wildly from individual to individual, but humans are still a very social species. As such, treating others with respect and maturity will provide them with incentives to do the same.

I don’t deny that certain assumptions are difficult to escape, especially when some of them are incorporated into actual policies. Even if we woke up tomorrow and started treating everyone over the age of 13 as a responsible adult, it probably wouldn’t resolve the many issues we still have with youth in society. However, as I came to learn as an adult, having a good attitude goes a long way towards achieving a good outcome.

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What I WISH I’d Learned In School

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I’ve said it multiple times and in multiple ways on this blog. Expect me to say it again in many other ways there is and even a few some thought impossible. High school sucks. I hated it with a passion. When I look back on my life, I’ll always see high school as one of the bleakest, most miserable experiences I had.

There are so many reasons I hated this point in my life, too much to list in a single blog post. Hell, I’d need a whole series of novels to adequately convey the misery I felt every day I had to endure that rancid swamp of standardized tests, cafeteria food, and adolescent hormones. The most I ever learned from high school was never wanting to be that miserable again.

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I like to think I learned that lesson well. My entire outlook on life changed for the better the day I graduated high school. Everything I did after high school, from going to college to getting my first book published, feels like a step up from where I was. Sure, it helped that I got into shape and fixed my horrible acne problem, but that shift in outlook still shaped a significant part of my adult life.

Even though I feel like I’ve done fairly well with that life, there are times when I look back at high school in ways that don’t give me night terrors. Other than not wanting to be so miserable, a lot of what I learned in high school hasn’t really helped my adult life.

I’m not just talking about quadratic equations or knowing what the hell T.S. Elliot was talking about either. A lot of the meaningful lessons I’ve learned came from experience, family support, and internet access. These are all things I could’ve learned without gym class, exams, and stale pizza. High school never really prepared me for adult life. It only ever prepared me to pass a goddamn test.

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With that in mind, as well as the knowledge that many kids are eagerly awaiting the end of the school year, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on all the lessons I wish I’d learned in high school.

These are lessons that would’ve helped my adult life in so many ways. I worry that the kids preparing for summer won’t know just how important these lessons are until it’s too late. Some have to do with life skills. Some have to do with understanding how the world works. In any case, these are the lessons that I wish high school had taught me.


Lesson #1: How To Start A (Non-Awkward) Conversation With A Stranger

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This is something that should come naturally. Having a conversation is one of the most basic elements of non-sexual communication there is. Other than a handshake, it shouldn’t need to be taught, right?

Well, this is where high school, ironically enough, gives teenagers too much credit. It’s half-true that most people know how to start a conversation. The problem is that for most of our lives, to this point, all the conversations we’ve had are with family members, relatives, or childhood friends that we’ve known so long that we remember the brand of diapers we used.

Starting a conversation with a friend is easy. Starting one with a total stranger that isn’t awkward is much harder. It’s also an important skill when it comes to making new friends, working with others, and even finding a lover. The hardest part of any new connection is starting that conversation.

Some high schools do teach social skills, but still give a higher priority to reading Shakespeare and passing a math test. I’m not saying those things aren’t worth learning. I’m just saying that better social skills will help people make friends, improve teamwork, and get them laid. No math test can ever do that.


Lesson #2: How To Tell Someone That You’re Romantically Interested

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A big part of what makes high school suck is loneliness. Unless you’re an athlete or an exceedingly beautiful girl, you’re going to feel lonely. On top of that, puberty is rewiring your brain to make you want to kiss, hug, and hump others in ways you thought were gross as a kid.

Teenagers may be melodramatic and prone to emotional meltdowns over a lost shoe, but they still have genuine feelings. They still feel love for others. Having that love and not knowing how to express it makes for some pretty awkward situations, some of which can be downright traumatic.

I had more than my share of crushes in high school. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to actually talk to these girls to let them know. For this one girl, I actually wrote a note and put it in her locker. I never heard from her again. That’s a clear indication that there’s room for improvement.

Having someone to love and to share your emotions with is healthy, regardless of whether you’re a teenager or a grumpy old fart. Knowing how to explore and express that love with someone goes a long way towards tempering that loneliness. For those enduring the rigors high school, less loneliness can only help.


Lesson #3: How To Spot A Scam

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As teenagers, our understanding and assumptions of the real world is painfully limited. That’s unavoidable because teenagers haven’t been on this planet long enough to have any real idea of how it works. Most of what they know comes from media, their family, or ugly rumors circulating around the cafeteria. To say that’s an imperfect perspective is like saying Kanye West is slightly eccentric.

In the real world, there are a lot of liars and frauds that will exploit the hell out of anyone’s imperfect understanding. When I was in college, I noticed a lot of school email accounts got bombarded with those Nigerian Prince scams. Some actually fell for those scams and lost real money because of them.

Beyond the scams in spam email, there are other elaborate frauds like work-from-home gimmicks, fake lottery winnings, multi-level marketing, and online dating scams. Those with limited life experience are especially vulnerable to these schemes and falling victim to them could ruin your life. Just ask anyone who invested with Bernie Madoff.

It wouldn’t be too hard or take too much time for high school to teach us the basics of scams and how to spot them. Teenagers are already cynical, by nature. Learning how to spot cheats and hucksters won’t just help them save their money. It’ll help them avoid being conned out of their faith, their trust, and their panties.


Lesson #4: How To NOT Freak Out When You Watch The News

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This is something I’ve brought up before. It’s a lesson I learned in college, but one I really wish I’d learned sooner than that. In the age of the internet and smart phones, it’s easy to get bombarded by all sorts of weird news stories that scare people into thinking the CIA put fluoride in their water to control their minds. For hormonal teenagers with limited life experience, it’s even scarier.

The world the news presents us is not the same as the world around us. The news can only ever highlight tiny bits and pieces of a much bigger picture. Most people don’t realize that until they’re adults. If they’re unlucky, they learn the hard way and spend too much of their lives hiding in a bunker, hoping that the Illuminati doesn’t send assassins.

Perspective is an important thing and teenagers struggle with that. As I said before, their life experiences are limited. They just emerged from childhood and began making sense of the world. The least any public school can do is help them.

That means telling them that the news rarely tells a complete story. It also means reminding them that the reason why something is news in the first place. These horrible stories we see every night are news because they’re rare. The world and the people the news describes are only brief glimpses at best and click-bait at worst.


Lesson #5: How To Craft A Resume (And How To Pad It)

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A major part of learning, be it in high school or pre-school, involves acquiring skills that will help you find meaningful work later in life. It’s not just enough to know how to read, write, and do basic math. Most people can learn how to do that for free these days, thanks to online services like Khan Academy.

To give you a better chance at finding a job, it’s important to develop other skills. Unfortunately, the only skill high school ever really teaches you is how to pass a test. That may help you get a driver’s license, but it won’t help with much else.

Even if you have skills, putting them together in a resume is a skill most people have to wing. I’ve actually taken classes that help with crafting resumes and none of those classes were offered in high school. I had to find those in college and after I graduated.

It’s a simple fact of modern life. To find a job, you need skills and you need to sell your ability to make those skills useful to others. That’s what will help you get a job. That’s what will help you find a lover. That’s what will help you get laid. Some skills don’t require college. Others may require a master’s degree. Learning how to seek and market those skills is far more valuable than just filling out a test form.


Lesson #6: How To Invest In The Stock Market The Right Way

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This is a topic I don’t blame high schools for avoiding. When most people, including highly educated people, talk about the stock market or the economy, it usually flies over everyone’s head. I would go so far as to say only a small part of the population is even wired to understand investing and finance.

However, there are few skills in life more important than knowing how to manage and invest your money. Anyone can just go into a bank and open an again. Knowing how to actually manage that money so it grows over time and isn’t undercut by inflation is a skill that’s often overlooked.

A teenager’s limited perspective of the world makes the stock market too complicated to understand. However, most teenagers do understand the value of making money. Why else would they make such a big deal about getting an allowance or a part-time job? That understanding, though, will only take them so far.

Contrary to popular belief, investing in the stock market isn’t just fairly easy. It’s actually pretty effective at building future wealth. It doesn’t just beat inflation. It beats nearly every other investment out there.

I didn’t learn anything about stocks in high school or college. Everything I learned came from a small booklet that a relative gave me. That booklet only had one real tip. Unless you’re going into the financial services business, the only real investment you need to make is in index funds.

Despite what the Jim Cramers of the world may tell you, nobody can beat the stock market. Nobody knows what it’s going to do today, tomorrow, or a year from now. You can’t beat, but you can make it so you don’t lose to it either. In some parts of life, not losing is just as good as winning. With money, it’s one of those lessons you don’t want to learn the hard way.


Lesson #7: How To Find The Job That Best Fits You

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This might not be something that can fit into a typical high school class. While most high schools have guidance counselors and career counselors, a lot of what they do is just sell you on the idea of going to college. They’ll help you find an education path. They may even help you find a career path. Finding a job that fits you, however, is not exactly a priority.

It happens all the time. People will make it through high school, go to college, and get all the right degrees for a certain career path. Then, they find out that the job they thought they wanted didn’t fit them. They either end up miserable working a job they don’t like or overwhelmed at the prospect of starting over. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

That’s why I think it’s more important to help teenagers figure out the kind of work that fits them. Some like making things with their hands. Some are more creative. Some are analytical. Some have personality traits that make working in a cubical akin to a prison sentence at Alcatraz.

I’ve worked more than my share of jobs that I hated. A lot of people endure that, even famous celebrities. Finding a job that actually fits someone’s skills and makes them want to do that job is a lesson too valuable to overlook. High schools are in a perfect position to help teenagers do that. The fact they don’t only makes the situation more tragic.


I know it’s too late for me to salvage my high school experience. It was a long time ago and I’ve since learned a lot about life, namely how to not be miserable.

However, I still feel like I started way behind the curve and have only recently caught up. How far ahead would I be now if I’d learned these lessons in high school? It’s impossible to know. All I know now is that high school still sucks and it’ll always suck for me. I’m okay with that. Hopefully, future generations will not know such misery.

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An Ode To Hot Teachers

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Being a teenager sucks. Going to high school sucks. Going through puberty sucks. Unless you’re a star athlete or a cheerleader with the body of a young Carmen Electra, chances are your adolescence in general sucked.

Mine sure sucked. As I’ve said before, I was socially inept shut-in who did little to take care of himself. On top of that, I had a horrible acne problem that eventually required medication. I wasn’t just a pain to be around. I wasn’t much to look at either. That basically guaranteed that my teenage years were going to suck, despite having great parents, great siblings, and an environment that gave me every opportunity to be less miserable.

I get the impression that my experience is not typical. Teenagers are walking cocktails of hormones, emotions, and ignorance. Everyone, from the nerds to the jocks, finds a reason to be miserable at some point. The fact anyone survives it at all is nothing short of a miracle.

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I highlight this misery because I want to establish a certain context here. Life as a teenager, going to high school and enduring the monstrous transformation that is puberty, is fraught with misery. Anything that makes it just a little bit easier is akin to giving a starving child a lifetime supply of chocolate cake.

That leads me to hot teachers. No, I’m not talking about a porno sub-genre. I’m not talking about the scandals involving teachers sleeping with their students that make the front page of Fox News’ website at least three times a year either. I’m just talking about that one teacher during that one year in your teenage life that actually made going to school less miserable.

Don’t deny it. You had a teacher like that. I’m not saying he or she was a supermodel or an Olympian, but they definitely got your attention and not with their teaching skills. Something about them just sparked that chaotic cocktail of hormones in your body in just the right ways. It made you think thoughts you didn’t quite understand, even after you discovered internet porn.

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Hot teachers are a sliver of gold in the mountain of horse shit that is adolescence. In some ways, they’re a rite of passage. You only really feel like you’re growing up when your genitals start doing strange things around a teacher you find attractive. It can be awkward, as anyone who has ever had to hide a boner in the middle of algebra class can attest. Then again, awkwardness with teenagers is par for the course.

I believe that hot teachers are a gift to the world, if not an act of mercy to all those whose adolescence was more miserable than most. They remind miserable, emotional, melodramatic teenagers that there’s still beauty in the world. It’s not all just acne, homework, and standardized tests. For teenagers of every generation, their value cannot be overstated.

As a tribute to the hot teachers of the world, I’d like to share another personal story. Unlike some of my previous stories, though, this one doesn’t involve actual nudity. It does involve thoughts of nudity though. How can it not? It involves my teenage self.

It’s true though. I too once had a hot teacher, one I still remember fondly to this day. She was a rare beacon of light in the never-ending torment that was high school. She actually made me less miserable in high school. That’s something that therapy, anti-depressants, and Taco Tuesday can’t boast. She’s kind of a personal hero is what I’m saying.

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Out of respect for her privacy, I won’t reveal her name. For the sake of this story, let’s just call her Ms. Diana. I had Ms. Diana for a history class in my sophomore year. At the time, I was 16. My acne problem was just starting to become a crisis. My hormones were just starting to go into overdrive as well. I remember having to hide at least one awkward boner a day. Ms. Diana didn’t help in that effort, but with her, I didn’t mind.

Ms. Diana was one of those young, energetic teachers who loved to talk fast and fill the room with energy. She wasn’t the kind of teacher who would just give presentations, pass out worksheets, and lay out lists of facts. She actually tried to keep people engaged. She tried to get people excited. She might as well have been the high school equivalent of a lion tamer.

She was also hot. I hope that goes without saying. I don’t just mean hot, in terms of personality. I mean Ms. Diana was hot in that she would’ve looked awesome in a bikini and not because she had a beauty regiment on par with Gwenth Paltrow, complete with jade egg for a healthy vagina.

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No, Ms. Diana’s beauty was a natural beauty. She didn’t need makeup. She didn’t need designer clothes. She came into class wearing something she probably bought on sale and she still made it look sexy. That’s a special kind of beauty, even by teenage standards.

That beauty definitely resonated with my teenage self. I can’t remember a class where I paid more attention and felt more engaged. I can’t say that about a lot of the teachers or classes I’ve taken. I also can’t say those classes got me thinking and feeling things that I didn’t feel without an internet connection. It was a strange, but beautiful thing.

Now I never went out of my way to tell Ms. Diana that I found her very attractive. That’s not because I wanted to avoid a scandal that would end with one of us being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer though. I didn’t tell her because it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t necessary because I wasn’t the only hormonal teenage boy in that class and some of those boys did not have filters between their brains and their mouths.

It was very much an open secret in the school. The boys thought Ms. Diana was hot. Nobody really argued about it. Nobody denied it either. I get the sense she knew that. I don’t think she would’ve agreed to teach teenagers if she didn’t to some extent. Maybe she knew she could keep her students’ attention by being hot. I’m not saying it’s a little coy, but you can’t argue with results.

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This eventually culminated in an incident I still laugh about today. It happened one day after lunch. We were filing into class. I was there a few minutes early and so were a couple of my male classmates. Then, out of nowhere, this exchange happened:

Male Student: Hey, Ms. Diana! Is your dad a terrorist?

Ms. Diana: Um…no. Why do you ask?

Male Student: Because you’re the bomb!

I laughed. We all laughed. Even Ms. Diana laughed. This after September 11th, by the way. The fact that we laughed about it should hint at just how hot Ms. Diana was and how much me and my fellow male students appreciated her.

To this day, Ms. Diana holds a special place in my heart and my memory. At a time when so many memories from that era were bleak and forgettable, she was a shining star that came along at just the right time for an awkward teenage boy. I like to think that the feelings she inspired in me helped inspire my future aspirations as an erotica/romance writer.

I doubt that’s what Ms. Diana intended to teach me. I’m pretty sure she just wanted me to pass my tests and exams. Thankfully, I did. That other inspiration was just a bonus. Maybe one day when I become a famous erotica/romance writer, I’ll thank her. She deserves as such for helping me survive high school.

Until then, I remain forever grateful to Ms. Diana. On behalf of all those who had lurid thoughts about their teachers, I thank those wonderful teachers who look good naked who helped inspire both minds and genitals. You may not think it, but you helped us in ways that went beyond teaching us. You helped make our teenage years slightly less miserable. For that, you should be proud.

With that, I leave you with the ultimate ode to hot teachers, courtesy of Van Halen.

 

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A Personal Story The Day Before Valentine’s Day

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day. For spouses, lovers, mistresses, and fuck buddies, it’s almost time to begin a day of romance. There will be kissing, chocolate, love-making, and just plain fucking, although not necessarily in that order. It’s a beautiful thing. I don’t deny that. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I have a strong appreciation for all the things that Valentine’s Day represents.

That said, it’s also my least favorite holiday and has been for a while now. I know I’m not alone either. Some have gone so far as to create an entirely new holiday called “Singles Awareness Day” to balance out all the annoying reminders that Valentine’s Day gives. It’s basically a weaker version of Festivus, minus the famous Seinfeld connotations.

Now I don’t take my disdain of Valentine’s Day quite that far. I don’t believe that creating one bullshit holiday to counter another is that productive. It also doesn’t change the underlying reasons why many people hate Valentine’s Day.

For many, Valentine’s Day is a harsh reminder that finding love is hard for a lot of people. Let’s face it. If you’re a pretty, young woman with big tits or a handsome young man with a fat wallet, finding love is easy. You can walk down the street in a thong and you’ll probably find someone to celebrate a holiday with. It’s just that easy.

For the rest of us, though, we don’t have that luxury. We’re at the mercy of our circumstances and some of us don’t handle those circumstances very well. In fact, we find ways to make them worse, even when we don’t have to.

In that spirit, as well as the spirit of those who would rather spend this Hallmark Holiday drunk, I’d like to share a little anecdote that should help explain why Valentine’s Day is so difficult for me.

I’ve gotten personal on this blog before. I’ve confessed to sleeping naked and shared a story about my first trip to Las Vegas. Those stories have some inherent sexiness to them. Unfortunately, there’s nothing sexy about this one. It’s mostly just somber recollection of a very lonely part of my life, long before I ever had an outlet in erotica/romance.

It happened when I was a teenager in high school, also known as my extended stay in Hell. I’ll probably say this many times on this blog, but it’s worth emphasizing. I hated high school. I was absolutely miserable. I wasn’t just a whiny, self-loathing teenager. I basically went out of my way to be miserable. It’s even more pathetic than it sounds.

This particular story highlights just how bad it got for me. It happened right around January of my freshman year, which also happened to be the year I developed a horrible acne problem that plagued me for most of my teenage life. So I was already feeling pretty bad about myself to begin with. However, being the miserable little fuck I was, I just had to make it worse.

During this time, we had a major snowstorm, which happens pretty often in my part of the country. We get at least two a year and this one was probably the biggest of the year. The whole neighborhood was a winter wonderland. It would’ve been so pretty if I weren’t such a miserable little shit.

In addition to the snow, it was colder than a snowman’s nut-sack in the morning. Given how early class started, I had to be out at the bus stop at around 6:30 a.m. Remember, this is the middle of winter. It’s still dark out and most of my body is still asleep.

Why is this relevant? Well, it matters because the bus stop I stood at was just across the street from my house. The neighbors were nice and our families got along. So when it was so damn cold and dark out, they would let me and the other kids stay indoors where it was warm. It was a good deal. The kids in my neighborhood were all very nice and friendly. I had no reason at all deny such a generous offer.

Then, I remembered that I was a miserable, self-loathing teenager who had the social skills of a brain-dead fish. Even when the weather was nice, I never talked to anyone. I never tried to strike up a conversation. I would literally spend an entire morning not saying a goddamn word to anybody. The most I did was stare at my shoes and daydream about not being in high school.

As a result, I didn’t take my neighbors up on their generosity. I just remained out there by the curb in the freezing cold, shivering to myself and finding more reasons to be miserable. All the while, the other kids at my bus stop stayed indoors and stayed warm. They probably even chatted, supporting one another in any way they could, knowing that high school always found new ways to make teenagers miserable.

I really could’ve used that support. I really could’ve used friends like that. I believe that if I had chosen to hang out with them while we waited for the bus, I probably would’ve been less miserable in addition to being warmer. They probably wouldn’t have said a word about my acne problem. They were teenagers, but most of them weren’t assholes.

Sadly, I just decided to stay miserable. I decided to keep to myself. For an entire week during the coldest time of the year, I stayed out at that bus stop, alone and miserable. I never said anything. I just stood there, endured the cold solitude, and waited for the bus. It’s as sad and pathetic as it sounds.

Why am I sharing this the day before Valentine’s Day? Well, I want to tell this story to help illustrate how bad I was at connecting with people. I had horrible social skills. I had no charisma whatsoever. It certainly didn’t help that I was exceedingly self-conscious, mostly due to my acne. It is a sad, pathetic feeling that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Now don’t get the wrong impression. This pathetic loneliness was my fault and mine alone. My family did damn near everything to support me in every possible way. They went out of their way to make me less miserable. I basically rejected them. I made the decision to be miserable. I wish I could unmake it because it still affects me to this day.

Looking back on those cold, lonely mornings, I feel as though I set myself back. I eventually did improve my social skills, but I was very behind the curve and still am to this day. It shows when I talk to new people and especially when I try to talk to women. I can handle myself a bit better, but I really did handicap myself for reasons that have never been justified.

So on the day before Valentine’s Day, I find myself remembering those cold mornings in high school again. I remember the loneliness and isolation that I imposed on myself during that time. I don’t doubt for a second that there are many others like me who share that feeling. Not all of them are in high school, but I imagine there’s never a shortage of miserable teenagers.

To those out there who do feel lonely, especially during this time of year, I would urge you to fight the urge to stay miserable. Fight the inner demons saying you deserve to be lonely. You’re better than that. You deserve to connect with others because guess what? They’re human, just like you. They seek connection as well. Look for it and you’ll find that you don’t have to be alone.

For this year, at least, I’ll probably be spending Valentine’s Day alone. The only companion I’ll have is named Jack Daniels. However, I refuse to remain in that cold, lonely place I put myself in all those years ago. I want to find love. I want to connect with people. Hopefully, my work as an erotica/romance writer will help me achieve this.

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