See? Wordplay. I think my mood's starting to improve.
When all the pics from the junior prom went up, I got a million or so notifications on Lauren's Facebook and other social media, so I couldn't help but browse through them. It's weird how even though I know what I look like - I've seen my reflection plenty of times, run my fingers through this hair, dressed this body - I'm not used to identifying it as myself in pictures. I see a group of girls, and I think "I'm in here somewhere... which one is me?" Thank god for tagging, I guess... although I stick out like a sore thumb, looking miserable and comparatively unkempt, trying desperately to forget myself and have a good time despite my situation.
It's a little perverse to want to relive one of the most awkward, frustrating, humiliating nights of my life, but I think part of me craves order... like, I want to look at those pictures and see a group of people who are okay with things, at least for a night. I want confirmation that I'm passing, as weird as that sounds, that these girls and boys don't look at me and see a man dressed up as a young woman, because the idea of anyone knowing the truth about me is somehow worse than the charade.
Then again, the few where I'm smiling - pretty damn fakely - are more ghastly than the ones where I have a blank expression.
I look at them for a while, then I have to close the browser because it gets too damn depressing, to think of wedging myself into that dress and those heels and completely lock "Tyler" away and pretend I'm Lauren and having a great time, amidst sweaty writhing teenagers gyrating to loud, obnoxious DJ music.
Yep, it's official, I'm still a tired 30-year-old guy inside.
Anyway, I guess I'm just writing here because I have to do something besides click through Netflix, bug Meghan to hang out, sleep, and dodge Lauren's friends. They're nice girls, but I have nothing in common with them, and as much as I owe it to Lauren to be good to the people in her life, my brain simply isn't wired to care about the Kardashians or TMZ any of the other things they gab about. I get surrounded by them and I get overwhelmed by all this shallow nonsense, and suddenly I have a newfound respect for girlfriends I've had who had to endure conversations between me and my buddies about Double-A Baseball.
The worst is when they talk about boys, though. There's a pretty wide range of attitude among the group -- some are very reserved and some are filthy. I don't know if this is all based on experience or just their runaway imaginations, but I could do without knowing what all these teenage girls have done and what they think I'm up to. I'm getting the impression that Lauren was at the latter end of that spectrum, because often when the conversation gets blue, they turn to me for some input. I mostly shrug it off or make some vague attempt at a dick joke, but... you know, those kinds of gags are different depending on the source and audience. Still, I've found these girls go crazy for a good "that's what she said." They're young, so it's still pretty fresh to them.
The other day, Susan - or as I have to call her to her face, "mom," - noticed my roots were starting to show. I guess Lauren's hair was a little too blonde to be real, but I didn't really think about it. And truth be told, the whole roots showing thing doesn't bother me, either as a guy who sees it on women, or as the person whose hair is currently two-toned. She said she'd make me an appointment for a touch-up, and I feigned against it, like "Oh, maybe I'll just go back to my normal color."
She looked shocked, and she took a hushed tone, saying "So... does that mean you're changing your mind about August?"
I didn't know what she was talking about, but she was spooked.
At first, I thought she meant this trip she and the husband were taking up to Lake Erie in August for a week. The kids have to go, but as the resident 17-year-old I was given the option to stay behind and fend for myself. Which, being a grown man who is used to a certain level of independence, I opted for.
But what could any of that have to do wit my hair color?
I found out afterward that Lauren was set to enter into the Miss Teen Allegheny pageant later in August.
Son. of. a. bitch.
Suddenly, certain things about Lauren make sense. The vast cosmetic supply, the body-displaying outfits (complete with "why would a teen need this" push-up bras) the prom obsession, the "inspo" folder of her laptop full of images of beauty queens, the wonky eating habits that I inherited and have worked against for weeks (putting on eight pounds in the process, which I consider good), the singing lessons. Shit, shitty, shit.
She seems dreadfully worried that I'll drop out, because I guess Lauren isn't much of a committer and this seemed like the first thing she ever set her mind to. Sue seems very invested in the idea of her daughter following through on this.
So I'm in the middle of this, as usual - trying to navigate between what I want, what Lauren would want, and what Lauren's parents want. I don't think I'm up for it, but if you asked me a few months ago if I'd be up for any of this, the answer would be a resounding hell no. It's up to me to decide how much "taking one for the team" this needs to involve.
Am I just a member of "Team Lauren" or the captain?
The bottom line is, I don't have to do this if I don't want to, and I don't... but how bad will the blowback be? I know some of these middle-class social climbers can really get caught up living through their kids, and that appears to be exactly what this is. Does Lauren have much of an opinion on the matter? She hasn't really been quick about returning my texts.
I look at that miserable girl in the prom dress though... who in their right mind would want that girl to go onstage?