Edward I Want My Dignity Back.

Claire, 28, Teacher

I still remember my 7th grade crush’s phone number by heart (in fact, I suspect it might still be accurate—the notion that he’s still living in his parents’ house in suburban Georgia really isn’t too far-fetched). I made it my habit to scribble in my spiral-bound journal exactly what he was wearing (red Converse, Jim Morrison t-shirt, baggy jeans <3 <3 <3) after I inevitably “ran into him” at the town square each Friday night. I followed him around at football games, drew stick figure pictures of us kissing during Earth Science, and felt my first real pang of heartache when he made out with my cousin one (devastating) night.

Whenever Edward tossed me so much as a sideways glance or a nod of recognition, I felt as if he’d bestowed upon me the most lavish gift—his attention!—and I responded as any legitimately lovestruck pre-teen would: I dug deeper into the trenches of my obsession. I sat on my parents’ fence after school and watched the cars go by, sure that eventually one of them would contain Edward—the dreamiest heartthrob any precocious-Courtney-Love-wannabe-12-year-old could imagine. I bought his favorite CDs and listened to them on repeat. I convinced the neighbor kid, who was on Edward’s brother’s soccer team, to provide me with any details he knew about their family, cause when you are a freakishly obsessed 7th grader, the minutia are clearly most important—What kind of cereal do they eat? What’s their dog’s name? (General Lee, by the way, was their dog’s name. Which should have been my first red flag).

Like that of any tragic romance, my love for Edward was unrequited. During that liminal year of junior high, I developed some seriously destructive habits that would take well over a decade to break: amateur stalking (thank heavens Facebook didn’t exist in 1993), waiting weeks, months, even years for the object of my affection to decide he loved me back, making excuses for the poor (read: dismissive) behavior of my beloved. How was it that I didn’t know about female empowerment? What on earth happened to my dignity?

Perhaps most importantly: Why did it take so many years to eradicate these behaviors I perfected so well during my Year of Loving Edward?

Edward I want my pre-adolescent dignity back.

Trevor I Want My Place In The Kickball Line Back

Jules, 19, Student

You probably waited for the field monitor to drift over to the other side of the brown-patched Rheem School field, didn’t you Trevor. Didn’t you.

You probably stood there with your beady, conniving eyes locked on me for minutes beforehand, your undermedicated little fingers twitching opportunistically with Darwinian notions of power.

It was second or third grade, I don’t recall. In the hierarchy of my memory, emotional content far outweighs temporal content, and this was pretty fucking emotional. I still remember how I seethed for hours after the fact, shocked and hurt by my encounter with a ruthless side of human nature to which I had heretofore been oblivious.

Life was pretty simple back then. The usual elementary school digs—riding my yellow bike up steep Donald Drive in the morning, drilling times tables and basic grammar, snack recess, reading books far below my level of comprehension, getting out of class for leadership, attempting jumps off the bumps in the sidewalk as I zoomed down Donald back to the apartment complex. You know. Smart kid things. Oh yeah, I almost forgot—I also frequented the GATE program after school on Thursdays. Gifted And Talented Education. Funny, I never saw you there.

Anyway. Picture little ol’ me. Bright sunny day, standing in line behind the backstop, just waiting to pummel this worn red rubber ball. Gazing absentmindedly at the puny little pitcher, different ideas for specific pitch requests sparring in my head. (Slow baby bouncy? Nah, that’s ordinary. Slow roll? Nope, that’s for kids with no coordination. Slow big bouncy? Hey, I could kill that. Slow big bouncy.)

I could already imagine the body language of the outfielders when they’d see the ball, arcing above their heads, silhouetted against the blue sky like a distant black balloon. They’d turn and charge after it, sprinting, until they realized the true magnitude of my kick. Then they would slowly come to a halt. Giving up. Knowing that Julien had done it once again. What else could they have expected?

Suddenly, I felt a hand rip my shoulder backward, throwing me off balance. You stepped in front of me, simply and unforgivingly, as if I were supposed to just concede my spot in line, compromise my enthusiasm, and that would be that. Like, “Oh, it’s Trevor, crazy transfer kid, I’ll let him express himself however he feels whenever he feels like it no matter if it hurts my feelings.” Well, no. It wasn’t like that.

“Hey, no cutting,” I stated defiantly.

“Too bad.” (God, what an asshole.)

And then it happened. So quickly, so out of the blue. I was striding to reclaim my position in front of your devilish grin when you whipped around and fiercely clawed my neck, in one precise movement. Blood was drawn with ease.

I stumbled backward, feeling my wound, aghast with horror. First patting my neck with my forefinger, then licking off the salty substance. Yep, fuckin’ blood. My outrage was drowned by my incredulity. What kind of beast was this kid? All I knew is that I was getting the hell away, turning my tear-streaked face away from the madness, crossing once again the border between the wild grass and the familiar, burning blacktop.

***
On that sad, sad day, I couldn’t find the courage to go back out there and fight the injustice. I knew the risks were too great. And somewhere, in the stores of my subconscious, I know a part of me is dying each day whilst reliving this horrid event.

Trevor. You’re one of my best friends and all. And yeah, we “laugh it off” when we talk about it nowadays. But that’s not to say I don’t cringe inside and my heart doesn’t start racing wildly whenever I hear your voice behind my back.

It still matters.

Trevor, I want my place in the kickball line back.

Kristen I Want My Prom Back.

Andy, 19, Student

Even though I was only a junior it was going to be my second time going to prom. I was 17 at the time. I had been friends with Kristen for a year or so by the time January came around and my friends began asking girls to our prom.

I wasn’t so keen on the idea of prom ever since I was asked by a girl named Amelia the year before. I thought of Amelia as a friend, but it was obvious that she had much stronger feelings for me than I had for her. By the time prom came around for Amelia and myself, she was refusing to talk to me because I had no intention of dating her. Needless to say prom was a disaster, and three years later Amelia has yet to talk to me again.

With my bad memory of prom still very fresh in my mind, I contemplated not going my junior year, until Kristen began texting me. I had always thought she was very pretty and even had attempted to date her a few times but it always seemed like another guy would beat me to her. As she continued to text me throughout January, she eventually brought up who I was going to ask to prom. I told her that I wasn’t sure if I would go because of last year. She said she understood and didn’t bring it up again until a few weeks later. I started to pick up on some signs and decided that if I could go to prom with Kristen, things might turn out to be fun. I was secretive talking to her about prom, saying I was thinking of asking a girl to prom and needed her advice, eventually having her tell me what her favorite kind of flowers were. Daisies. For the first time in my life I had successfully done the right thing at the right time. I gave her the daisies before a play practice one day and asked her to prom. She was overjoyed and said she was hoping I would ask her.

Over the next few months we grew closer. She said she didn’t want to rush into anything after what happened with her last boyfriend but she always talked about stuff we could do together over the summer. I thought that after prom she would probably be interested in dating me. I could not have been more wrong. About a month before prom, I had my tux paid for, dinner reservations made with our group, I had even asked my youth pastor if I could borrow his new Charger to pick her up in. It was also at this time that she told me she wasn’t interested in dating anyone during high school. She never said if something happened or if I had said something to her, only that after prom we should just go back to being friends and nothing more. I was a little out of it, after liking her for so long knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to date her after prom, but she was still a very good friend of mine and I knew that was more important in the long run.

The day of prom it snowed in Minnesota. That should have been a sign to me that today would not turn out well. I picked her up and she seemed very quiet. I thought that she was just feeling awkward about the situation and that she would become more comfortable as the day went on. She didn’t want to stand by me while we waited for grand march. Things were going bad.

By the time we were at dinner she was still refusing to talk to me or even sit by me. The second we got to the dance, she ran to the opposite corner of the room and I didn’t see her the rest of the night. Friends would come up asking me where Kristen was and all I was able to say was that she was around. The dance ended and I was in the same spot as last year: dateless, alone, and with everyone else around me having a good night. I waited around until almost everyone had left the dance to see where Kristen was so I could bring her home and hope to say something to make this a better night, but she wasn’t there. I eventually got a text from her saying she left with a friend who was going to drop her off.

For the second year in a row, I was left alone at a dance hall wondering what I did to make a girl so angry at me. I tried to apologize to Kristen over the next few weeks but she continued to avoid me, I asked her friends but none of them could tell me what made her so angry with me. I guess that’s what makes this such a difficult situation for me, not knowing what I did wrong and not being able to fix it. Kristen and I have made some small talk since but it continues to be very awkward and I try to avoid it if I can. I didn’t end up going to prom my senior year. After screwing up for two years and not knowing why, I just figured I would save myself the trouble of a third time.

Kristen, I want my Prom back.

Jake I Want My 17 Hours Back.

The CIWMFB Team

Let’s begin with a confession: Yes, we watched The Bachelor.

There was a time in our lives when we did not admit this to many people, but we eventually grew to embrace our two hours a week of hot chocolate, prediction-making, and mild boredom.

Why did we watch it? This is a question we sometimes asked one another. The show isn’t innovative; it isn’t even especially entertaining.

Another helicopter ride? Wow, we didn’t see that one coming.
A heart-to-heart with Chris Harrison? Yes, Chris. We’re bored, too.
Shopping for two engagement rings because you have no idea which woman you want to marry? We see it season after season, but it’s still pretty weird.

So why do we watch this very uncomfortable and occasionally nauseating show?

Because we like nice people and we like love, and we really, really like it when nice people fall in love with each other.

So we liked Tenley and we liked Gia. They were pretty and friendly and harmless which is what we have come to expect from the show. We liked Ali, too, most of the time, when she wasn’t reminding us of the bossy girl we were scared of in high school. (When she apologized for saying those mean things, we forgave her, and we’re super excited that she’s next season’s Bachelorette.)

We rooted for Tenley because she was honest and sweet and she knew what she wanted and she had been hurt by that awful ex-husband; we rooted for Gia because she was sexy and kitten-like and insecure which came off as incredibly charming—plus, we were afraid that if Jake didn’t choose her, she might go back and make more bad dating choices (Gia, you deserve better!); and we rooted for Ali because she seemed like someone we could know, like she could be a friend of a friend who we sometimes saw at parties. We were so happy! We said, “Any of those three could win and we would be content, so let’s root for all of them!”

Then, of course, came the spoilers. We read them. We didn’t believe it. Vienna? No way. We watched with building horror every week, and now no longer were we rooting for our favorite three; instead, we were shouting at the screen, saying things like, “Jake, how could you!”

“But Gia’s so sweet!”

“But Tenley is perfect for you!”

“But you and Ali were falling in love!”

We watched the season wind down the way we were told (but didn’t want to believe) that it would, and the closer we got to the finale, the more we lost that good feeling about how nice finding love is and instead found ourselves filled with dread.

And then it ended, and we were bummed.

Jake, you told us during “After the Final Rose” that you and Vienna were happy and in love and that we would just have to deal with that. So, okay. We’re dealing. But the thing is that we didn’t really watch The Bachelor because we wanted you to be happy. We watched it because we wanted us to be happy.

So while we wish you and Vienna the best—Jake, we would like the 17 hours we spent watching you back.

Tom Tom Club I Want That Mother Back.

Heather, Teacher/Writer, 31

I bought my mother a Crosely portable record player for her birthday one year. I was maybe 20. It came in a light brown leather case. I had planned it for months. I had a plan in mind too, another one of my grand schemes at reconciling the disparate histories and memories wandering my mind.

There is a photo of us when she was 25 and I was two, and my grandfather is sitting in the green leather chair in the living room, my mother is on the couch, and I’m on a little two-step wooden stool. We are drinking Cokes out of green-glass bottles with straws. Even though my grandfather was long dead when I bought the Crosely, I had imagined we would once again sit around listening to the Sun Records boxed set. Maybe some Mingus. Definitely Patti Smith and Elvis Costello.

The Crosely was broken, she said, when she opened it. She returned it. She did not like it in the first place.

A few years later, my mother sold off hundreds of records in a yard sale. She placed an ad in the classifieds, and I wrote one for Craigslist. Album crates that once lined one side of her bedroom, stacked 2-3 high, now spread out on uneven asphalt, next to a vintage sewing machine and some garden tools.

I would try to look through the albums when I was in my preteens. She would tell me to get out of her room. But one thing I knew: she worked in a record store in the late seventies and early eighties, before her second nervous breakdown when I was five. And record store employees—like the infamous Rob Gordon and friends—never lose the critic part of their souls.

“Nirvana?” my mother would snort after hearing me play Nevermind until I wore out the cassette tape. “Black Sabbath did it first.”

These comments always confused me until I found whatever artist or album she said was better, and she was usually right.

But back to the yardsale: that day, people picked over the wooden crates; they interrogated her, and me, about quality, editions, possible artists in the clutter. She shrugged her shoulders. She no longer knew and did not care enough. I’m pretty sure one lady walked away with the complete boxed set of Sun Records for under $10. All of the collectors were collectors. They were nitpicky, cheap, looking for something to give them status, to add to their lists. They had never been to the shows, nor did they know all the lyrics; they probably didn’t even know who Patti Smith is. They knew what a round piece of grooved vinyl was worth.

My then-boyfriend was the one person who got why I was upset. An aspiring DJ, he bought a big crate of them for $60 and was gleeful and grateful for the vinyl.

Then-boyfriend and I broke up eight months later. He loved the music, and he was a pretty good DJ, but I was still angry at my mother and I could only take it out on him. His roommate let me in to pick up my stuff, and turned a blind eye when I walked out with more. I stole back all the Clash I could find, a Marianne Faithful British-release single, David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, and a few others after we broke up. I never did get back Tom Tom Club’s eponymous album.

Later my mother would tell me she should have charged him more. I said nothing. I used to think—hope—that we might connect on some level on how we experienced the key change that made something skip in our ribcages, how we experienced the joy of scratched personalities and sounds on a record player. A few times I would mention a show I had seen, or wanted to see. The responses were always the same.

Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your money. All I have from those days are records I don’t even play anymore and crap I don’t want to remember.

I wonder if the woman I imagined, pieced together from nebulous fragments of memories, ever truly existed. I do not know what happened, but I knew she once loved music. I knew that a long time ago, in a parallel universe we would still listen to vinyl, new and old, on whatever record player we could scrounge up. Instead, this person is a fairy tale that comforts me in thinking that once upon a time, my mother was happy.

Daniel I Want My Pink Sock Back.

Jules, 20, Student

We met on the first day of college. You were living in my father’s old dorm room, on the 4th floor of the building. I was living on the upper third floor. One night you led our building on a night hike. I instantly fell for your manly voice and your shirt that said “L.A. Zoo Volunteer”—which you later told me wasn’t even yours but was a friend’s.

Just as I had hoped, soon we were “fuck buddies,” “friends with benefits,” “lovers,” or whatever else you want to call it. If it was a school night and we hadn’t had time to get the gym and needed to release a little stress and alotta hormones, we were only a few doors down from one another.

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Carla I Want My Demo Tape Back.

Tony, 42, IT Systems Guy

So I used to be a High School teacher. It was sort of a fall back position when the liberal arts degree didn’t automatically lead to the Pulitzer prize. Being raised by beatniks and hippies gives you a certain level of optimism about how art will save the world and allow you to live a fulfilling life in which money appears somehow through the power of love and community.

One thing college did do for me was convince me I wasn’t going to end up a rock star or a famous poet and nobody was really running communes in the city anymore. I guess I could submit something about my band breakup, which was definitely harsh, but this story is only coincidentally related to that particular learning scar.

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