The stuff no one teaches you

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 25, 2013, 11:55 PM | comments: 0

After making some remark about my senior year of college, my roommate from that year made a comment about how much we benefited from seeing the campus counselor/therapist around that time. I think she and I started to see him now and then during our junior year. I don't recall either one of us thinking we were totally screwed up, but it didn't hurt to get a professional perspective on how we were living our lives.

I've often joked about how there should be a manual for life, because for some reason, the experience of our elders never gets passed down to us in a meaningful way. I'm not talking about stuff like how to change your oil or build an f'ing bird house, but the really important stuff about relationships and work.

Let me give you a perfect example of how clueless I was. At the start of my sophomore year, during RA training, there was this girl that I ended up making out with at camp. She was a senior. My sum total of intimate experience with women at that point was embarrassingly limited. This particular one was a cross country star, but with unusually ample frontal proportions for a runner. I don't know if others would find her cute, but there was no question that she was attractive.

The making out occurs every day, going into the first week of school, and generally involves her being on top of me. She's aggressive, but I don't know what she's really after. One night, after watching Letterman in her room, oops, a boob comes flopping out of the giant T-shirt she's wearing. I'm so stunned by this that I really have no idea what to do. I mean, I know how sex works, but I have no idea what I should be doing.

By the second week of school, we "break up," which might be an exaggeration since I'm not sure that we were a coulpe in the first place. I don't think there was much of an emotional connection. I get to be good friends with a guy on my hall staff, who happened to date this girl the entire previous year. They were pretty much together most of the time, and he shares that she may have had nymphomaniacal tendencies (he was a psych major). She wanted it on demand, and frequently. That's when I started to put it together that just a little bit of cooperation with her, and she would have likely been a great teacher of many things.

Yes, it seems completely obvious in retrospect, but why didn't anyone ever teach me that breasts don't randomly fall out of T-shirts? In fact, I had a series of even more intense encounters my junior year, and I still didn't get it. It really didn't matter that these were not long-term relationship opportunities. At that point in life, the emotional maturity we have is awful to poor at best, so we might as well start learning the physical skills.

Here's another story. I'm at my first real non-retail job after college, running a government and school cable access facility. Truth be told, I had a lot of flexibility to do as I saw fit, which is probably not the best thing for a 23-year-old know-it-all to have. Early on, while I was figuring out what equipment to buy and get rolling, I started to reach out to certain people around town, and took over the basic bulletin board channels. About six months in, the committee I had to report to called me out for being an arrogant dick and refusing to work with people. I couldn't figure out why they were accusing me of this.

Over the next few days, I started to put it together. The secretary in my office, who used to handle the bulletin board requests in her specific way, was sabotaging me at every turn. She was telling people who called that I wouldn't do things, and it was generally not me at all. She felt like she was being replaced, so she set out to destroy me. In the end, they moved her out to one of the schools and replaced her, but it took months to undo that damage.

Again, why didn't anyone ever tell me that sometimes people are easily threatened in the workplace? I mean, I've honestly seen it in almost every job, and now I can identify it and deal with it. I'm sure I'm not the first person to encounter it.

Ah, these are the lessons we learn. I'm just not convinced that it has to be that way. Someone should prepare us for life's weirdness.


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