Thursday, January 25, 2007

Educating meno

This morning i forced myself to step away from the computer and go swimming. I am glad i did, because after i swam over a mile, i felt like ten bucks.

When i am knifing my way swiftly through the cool blue water, counting the laps in my head, the rest of my mind wanders off into the weeds.

I started thinking about my friend Cheryl from junior high school. I was the biggest goon head in the world back then. (No wise cracks about now please.) My family moved here from across the country between my 7th and 8th grade and i knew absolutely no one the first day of school.

Cheryl was the daughter of one of my parent’s friends, and kindly took pity on this knee sock wearing, glasses bearing, book caring, boy scaring geek.

The first time i smoked dope? Cheryl. The first time i hitchhiked? Cheryl. The first time i swiped cheap gin from my parent’s stash and replaced it with water? Cheryl. The first time some boy groped by AAAs? I was with Cheryl.

She was a real education for me. A “Bad Influence.” If only my parents had been paying attention.

Eventually she grew tired of my unremitting doltishness and gave up on making me cool, but we remained friendly enough through high school and even college.

In college she really started big time on the drugs and sex, having two abortions and spending many nights of debauchery with many different men. Once she told me a story of going home with some guy and having sex with him. When they were done he got up and said, “My roommate is a virgin. Would you mind?”

“Nope, send him in,” she replied.

I was shocked to the core by this life, and not a little fascinated too.

Of course this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Cheryl has spent much of her life in and out of rehab, and even jail. The last time i saw her was at her brother’s funeral. He was killed while driving drunk.

But i remember that funny, quirky, smart ass teenager with the try anything attitude.


Mother of Invention said...

Yikes! What a life this brother and sister must have had! I have to admit, I was pretty green for a very long time but wondered a lot about people who had so much experience with sex. Still, I'd rather have had the sheltered life I had than to end up like that. Sometimes, what goes around does ctually come around. Does it make you wonder how she could have affected your life had you remained close friends? Probably a good thing you drifted apart but still, you always wonder what happened to different people you once knew.

thailandchani said...

What an interesting story! Everyone in high school had more experience with sex than I did. That's for certain. And I do remember one friend who had a promiscuous streak. I wasn't envious or anything. I just kept wondering why she was doing that. It seemed weird. :)



Lynnea said...

I wonder how many of us had a Cheryl? I had one, but I was between the ages of 20 and 25. She was wild, taught me to live instead of hiding from the world. But she ended up going back to fundamental religion. I like to think I found the balance between wild and mild, or came close.

Only based on what I know of you so far, I think Cheryl helped form part of who you are and therefore it is cool that she was part of your education. But I am also happy that you didn't go her way completely. That way, we ended up with the crazy, funky but smart and ever amazing mother Meno that we cyber-know.

Princess in Galoshes said...

I have two Cheryls in my life... one just re-entered, actually, about a week ago, after a 10-year hiatus when I cut her off because she was headed down a slippery slope of illegal white powder and boys so fast it would make your head spin.

But she got her act together, and is now a KINDERGARTEN TEACHER. And we found each other, again (ah, the wonders of MySpace) and I am just in awe of who she's become, considering where she came from.

The second one I met later in life, but I admire her as well, because of who she decided to stop being once she got pregnant (again) but decided to keep it.

They both happened to be performing arts majors. I wonder if that's a coincidence?

Anonymous said...

I think there's a Cheryl in everyone's life. And if you don't think there was one in _your_ life, then YOU were probably the Cheryl in someone else's.

Ugh. Back to bed.

lu said...

I wanted to be a bad girl, but the fear of hurting my family always stopped me from stepping off the edge, But I would follow friends who feared nothing and , steer them away from steep cliffs...take the cigarettes out of their hands before they fell asleep.

Antonya Nelson writes great stories and novels that touch on this kind of thing.

meno said...

MOI, they are an unusual family, that's for sure. I surely wish that i could have helped moderate the self-destructive impulses that she had. But i was both afraid of her lack of restraint and admiring of it.

chani, I felt like the last virgin in the world when i went of to college at 17. But i still didn't want to just find some guy and end it, despite the urging of Cheryl.

maggie, i'll bet many of us did have a Cheryl of our own. Someone to urge us on and to be a negative lesson.

princess, i love that your Cheryls had happy endings. Cheryl was into theater to, and also into actors!

nancy, good point! Now get back in that bed and eat some soup.

lu, i was too scared to be a bad girl, but that's a good thing. I'll look into the writer.

Susanne said...

Well, first I have to say, how good of you to have gone swimming after what you wrote yesterday.

And then - again - I might have to disagree with you all about everyone having or being a Cheryl. I was always the reasonable one. But then, when I think of it, my friends always were more timid than I. Okay, you won, maybe I was a sort of Cheryl for my friends.

It's nice to see that there are people who can stop the "try anything"-route from becoming self-destructive in the end.

Anonymous said...

Eeek. I really don't like stories like this. I mean, I know that they happen (and with startling frequency), but I like to hold in my head the idea that teenaged screw-ups eventually see the proverbial light and straighten up. I think, being a teacher, it's a belief I have to foster; otherwise, I'd want to take every delinquent in my classroom home with me to try to rehabilitate them before it's too late.

I'm glad that you were able to avoid the path Cheryl traveled. What do you think was different about you or your circumstances that made you able to do that?

karmic said...

Oy.. I guess it is good that your path diverged from Cheryl's .
Also what Mrs. Chili asked.

Lucia said...

It's fascinating that our lives can be on a trajectory, and then we meet someone, and the angle changes.

Fortunately, your angle didn't parallel hers. She sounds like a sadly lost and searching soul.

Anonymous said...

If is hasn't been obvious up to now, I am Cheryl. Without the rehab.

Although, I would not say I was an instigator, I was just never the voice of reason.

And I've never been a good swimmer.

peevish said...

Alas, I knew many Cheryls (some were the male equivalent, as well), and became a Cheryl for awhile. It was exhausting and demoralizing, and I'm so glad that period of my life is over. I must not have that addiction gene or I'd probably still be her today.

And, Princess in Galoshes, I was also into theatre. I think there is a connection. I, and the Cheryls in my life, all craved attention and excitement. You know, High Drama in our lives. Now, I just adore the most quiet days.

Meno: I'm glad you had her when you needed her, and before her influence became too dangerous.

Girlplustwo said...

i had a friend like this too...and i played the straight arrow next to her wildness.

it must have somehow fed us both.

Anonymous said...

My best friend in high-school was of the same ilk as your friend Cheryl. She made me try everything under the sun. She turned out very "well" and is now a high-powered executive in a trading firm. We met up a couple of years ago and I knew when I got home that our journey had ended. She has become one of the people we used to make fun of : corporate, materialistic, caught up in appearances... Funny how some people can just veer off into such an unexpected direction.

Anonymous said...

It's always sad when we outgrow our friends...or when they outgrow us. But I don't believe all relationships were meant to last indefinitely. While some are brief, it doesn't mean they are less significant or less important than our long term relationships. After all, everyone we spend time with helps shape who we are or who we become...whether we like it or not.

meno said...

susanne, thanks, i had to force myself to go, but as usual, i was glad i did.

mre.chili, it is sad. It seems that most people pull pull out of it and manage to chart a different course. Just not this Cheryl. The differences? I'm going to think about that and answer later.

sanjay, i was just too uncool for her. Good thing too.

lucia, she is lost, and to this day is still drinking and doing god knows what else.

de, i thought about you as i wrote this. What made you stop?

lisa, We still have a bond when i see her. But there is the caution there too, that she will ask for money or try and sell me drugs.

jen, you are right, something in it worked for both if us, for a while.....

hi caro, Wow, that is a dramatic turn-around. And disappointing too.

egan said...

Sorry your swim session conjured up bad memories of your friend's brother.

This friend of yours took the saying "I'll try anything once" a bit too seriously. Thanks for sharing this story and enjoy the drier weather.

Tink said...

I had a friend just like her! Her name was Kristen. She was whorish and trashy, loved drinking and smoking, and was always getting us into trouble. And I loved her for it. I will never forget her meeting up with some guy she'd met off the internet to shag with. She was 6 months pregnant. They met at a playground and did it on some swings. She got the clap.

I wonder where she's at...

QT said...

I love wondering what has happened to people. I think more often than not I have been the Cheryl in people's lives. I managed to not ever get arrested or addicted to anything, so I wasn't that crazy, but I can definitely be a bad influence when the situation requires a little prodding.

Anonymous said...

Drinking always bored me.

I thought, "They can't socially get it up without booze."

I still think that.

And sex is as overrated as Madonna. Sex is simply friction aided by various liquids and it's always outpaced by imagination.

meno said...

patches, it can be sad, or sometimes a relief on both sides when it is finally admitted. I certainly learned things from Cheryl, and not all of them were bad or risky either.

egan, yeah, there are many things i don't need to try in order to know that they are not good ideas.

tink, good lord, what a story. It would be interesting to know what happened to Kristen. i hope it's a better ending than Cheryls.

sally, it is a great way to be alone whilst surrounded by people.

qt, i am glad you never got arrested or addicted. You can't be all that bad. You'll need to try harder! :)

well hi there holly, i can't believe you said that about drinking. I know for a fact that i am twice as fascinating after a few glasses of wine. Just ask me, i'll tell you all about it! As far as sex, it's in the head where the real stuff happens.

Bobealia... said...

In your lake? Swimming? Yes, that is all I got out of this.

Anonymous said...

Hun, you're fascinating sober. John Steinbeck wrote that a man can get drunk on one glass of wine. That's so. Like sex, it's in one's head.

Andrea Frazer said...

I can't wait to hear your thoughts after you take a spin class.

Anonymous said...

What made me stop? It's not really about what I am actually doing (the destructive stuff), it's what I feel inside (self-destructive). It's probably as basic as instinct for self-preservation - something will be a lifeline for a while, then something else when the last no longer works. I woke up this morning thinking about this a bit and if I have time, will post on it soon.