Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tyler/Lauren: Arm's length

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Lauren's life was to end her relationship with her boyfriend of several months, Seann. It was a cold, logical decision that Lauren was really not thrilled I had to make, but she conceded that the idea of a grown man playing girlfriend to a teenage boy has way too many unseemly elements. When I called her to discuss it, there were tears on her end, and I think that was a moment that summed up, for her, how truly fucked up this situation is. Whereas she and the real Tasha have been playing house out in Texas for the past summer, I've been here keeping things moving in her life as best I can, in a way that is comfortable for me to deal with. I told her this may mean her social life takes a nosedive, and that whatever her plans for after high school were might have to get pushed back, because I'm not learning for her. But I'm trying to be a good person while wearing her face.

When I actually went through with the breakup, it was with a ruthless detachment that got a lot of names thrown my way, and some rumors that for all I know are completely accurate. But Lauren can rest assured that she has a few friends that seem really true to her, and who have been fairly kind to me.

One of those friends is Karlee. She's a sweet, bubbly girl, short and curvy, with a breathy voice and a bit of an... immature, shall we say, energy. She's actually quite sweet, as far as I've seen, but I would think she's just not emotionally ready for a boyfriend, which is why she hasn't had one. She's just too much of a kid.

Until the party I accidentally threw a month ago, where she and Seann went off on their own for a while, and... dot dot dot.

She came back, giddy as a squirrel with an acorn, and good for her I guess, but I'm worried she's developed a bit of an infatuation with this boy. He doesn't seem to have paid much attention to her for the rest of the summer, he just wanted a bit of a fling. And from my perspective, that's just boys being boys, but I never saw the way a girl might get attached afterward, making something serious out of nothing.

Days after that happened, Karlee and I had a talk where she confessed all, frantically apologizing to me for crossing the line with "my ex." I told her to go for it if it makes her happy, because "Seann and I" were far, far in the past, to put it mildly. Then she plied me for ways to win Seann over, and I had to fake my way through a sort of girly pep talk about "just be yourself, and if he likes you, he'll show it." In reality I think she should find someone who is interested in her, because I'm sure he's out there in the sea of hormones that is high school. Probably too shy to say anything.

Nothing appears to have developed yet, in that direction, and Karlee seems to be respecting my space and leaving me out of it, but I get regular updates from "our" friend Ginnifer. Karlee is privately obsessed with Seann, but way too shy to say or do anything about it. Meanwhile, Seann seems like he could hardly notice Karlee's existence.

Reading back those last three paragraphs, I feel like I've really gone deep cover on this one. Sorry, I don't know why I thought that all was important to say, but I guess it's all to say that thanks to that fairly public (even though I tried to be discreet) breakup, it's public knowledge since we got back to school that Lauren Sherman is "on the market," especially after a summer largely spent in seclusion.

I'm not, of course - I'm not sure how to get the word out about that, but it's become clear that male attention is not conditional on wearing makeup or having my roots properly dyed. I look roughly as ragged as Lauren has in her entire life, with a smattering in acne around my cheeks and forehead and unkempt hair, but boys still think it's a good idea to try.

So I was in the cafeteria yesterday, eating a chicken sandwich, minding my own business, when this guy I recognize but don't really know came and sat next to me, backwards on the bench so he could lean back on the table, propped back on his elbows. He made his leg touch mine.

"Hey Laur," he said, "You got any plans for the weekend?"

All the color drains right out of my face. I look up at this guy. He's leaning into me somewhat. He's got this cocky face on, staring directly down at my chest, discerning the curve of my breasts through my t-shirt.

I feel my face burning. My blood starts racing with this fight-or-flight reflex, like I'm cornered. I have to take a breath and remind myself that this kid is only doing what comes natural.

"No," I say honestly, "No plans."

So immediately, he says "We should do something."

"No thanks," I say, punctuating the statement with a mouthful of chicken. I didn't even have time to play like I wasn't sure what he was getting at, or soften the blow by making up some excuse. "I don't like you that way. No offense or anything."

"Oh," he said, deflated. He lingered a moment before backing away.

This is going to happen. I'm in the mix, in this crazy environment full of hormonal teenagers who all have to coexist. There's nothing I can say or do that will brand me as being as far off the table as I really am. I have to be on this constant defensive of "No, no thanks, not happening, not interested." No room for ambiguity.

I would be thrilled to be friends with these dudes. If I had landed in a 17-year-old boy's body, I'm sure they and I would be tight right now. As douchey as teenagers seem to a grown man, they would be basically my only option. But that's not the world I landed in. To them, I'm like a meal, a prize, an object to pursue. These guys don't have female friends except ones they're trying to date or who are dating their friends. I haven't had a meaningful conversation with a human male in, I can't remember how long... probably some exchange Wade and I had, like when we went away for the weekend. But that's the exception. Mostly they're just paying attention to me long enough for me to signify that, no, I'm not interested.

So I have no choice but to turn toward the girls. When I got back to school last month, anytime I entered a classroom, I immediately sat near a girl, even if it was one I didn't know, so that some guy didn't think I was giving him a signal just by electing to be near him. I need to put half the entire world's population at arm's length for the time being.

This has its own problems: after all these months I still don't totally relate to these girls and that's probably not such a bad thing (remember, grown man.) But, surrounded by teens, I'm definitely feeling the ways my outside doesn't match my inside. Sometimes I see some adult concerns when they start fretting over schools and planning their futures, even occasionally talking about politics, but then they go back to gabbing about who's hooking up and what happens on reality shows and what Taylor Swift wore to some red carpet and I just... glaze over.

It's going to be a long year.

Maybe even longer than that. But I don't really want to talk about it, because I still don't know.

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