Saturday, September 24, 2011

The day I learned the consequences of holding hands with my girlfriend

Sixth grade. 
[My hair and my complexion haven't changed much. Really, the only thing different about me in this picture is that I'm holding a trapper keeper.]

Regardless of puberty taking its full gangly effect on my mind and body, I had somehow scored a girlfriend. Katie was sweet and cute and we started dating the day we met, the day before Thanksgiving break. By Christmas break a month later we were already fully committed and entranced in each other, meeting each other between classes and walking each other to the next one, standing by each other at recess, and hugging before we got on our separate buses at the end of the day.  Our love for each other was apparent to our classmates as well, who would ask us whenever we were apart, “Hey Brian, how’s Katie? :) :) :)”  Good, I would say bashfully. “Aw! You two are so cute together!” Thanks. 

A majority of the conversations I had with my fellow classmates consisted of those very words and usually nothing more. Everyone loved us. I loved us. By the time our relationship ended nine months later, we had kissed nine times. That’s a kiss a month, people!
There was only one person who didn’t support our relationship. Her name was Ms. Trotz, and she ruled PhyEd with an iron fist. I met her in sixth grade too, after hearing a series of the worst rumors middle schoolers could possibly conjure up in their heads about her. Seriously, they were hurtful and offensive rumors, mostly based on the assumption that she was gay, and she would not be working at the middle school if any of them were true. Being assumed gay in 2001 by middle schoolers is a death sentence with a punishment of three-straight years of name-calling and harassment, trust me.  Looking back, I see her as a person who would walk in to her first class every year with all of the kids already hating her. What can someone do in that situation? My answer would be “just get those hateful kids to throw foam balls at each other for forty-five minutes, and keep verbal interaction brief and cold,” which she did. I guess middle school is tough for grown-ups too.
Ms. Trotz, if you’re out there, I feel for you and I’m sorry I contributed in the collective hatred of you from my class. 

But I’m still going to tell the story about how you scared me and my girlfriend shitless. This is the day I learned the consequences of holding hands with my girlfriend.
Ms. Trotz had already sent me to the Intervention Room once, (Intervention Room = Detention, by the way, which I think is hilarious.), for “jumping” over the foot-high tennis nets…
TROTZ: Brian! I specifically told you to walk around the nets.

ME: But I was trying to get the ball, I lost my balance and I was going to fall into it...
TROTZ: No, I saw you jump over it. 
ME: Well I did, but in the interest of not falli—
TROTZ: See? Go to the I.V.
ME: The Intervention Room?! This is injustice!
TROTZ: You don’t know the first thing about injustice. 
ME: YOU don’t know the first thing about my jumping intentions! 
TROTZ: [pause]
ME: [eyes narrowed in accusation]
TROTZ: [raises a considering eyebrow]
ME: [hopeful eyebrows, thinking I won her over]
TROTZ: Go to the I.V. 
ME: Bullocks. 
[Acne is nonverbal angst.]

So our relationship didn’t start well. 
I suppose I should mention now that Holmen Middle School had a strict “No Public Displays of Affection” policy. It was preached to us so many times that, when sighted, even the students would take a break from their LOL-ing trapper-keeper conversations to gleefully point and yell, “PDA! PDA!” Only they mostly did it out of fear so they wouldn’t be seen as co-conspirators to such unlawful action.
Katie and I were hand-holders. However, with the privilege of having a hand-holding girlfriend comes great responsibility. Because of the rigid No PDA laws in place, we had to always be on the lookout for teachers roaming the halls. We became really good at it, as if each handhold was a prolonged drug exchange and we had to make sure there were no pigs or canaries around. 
[I only half-know what I mean by “pigs and canaries.”]
One afternoon Katie and I were walking hand-in-hand, away from our friends,  in the solitude of one of the Middle School’s halls. We were strolling happily along when Ms. Trotz suddenly turned the corner and looked right at us. There was nowhere to hide, no one to blame, and not enough time to release our hold. It was the perfect storm. A cold, evil smile ran across Ms. Trotz face. I still get the chills when I picture it.
TROTZ: My office. Now.
US: [gasp!]

TROTZ: I’m not even going to send you to the Intervention Room yet. I want you to call your parents first.
US: [gasp!]
TROTZ: You know our rules about PDA. I caught you red-handed. 
US: [gasp! A pun!]
We walked to Ms. Trotz’s office, shivering in our Sketchers. I could already tell that this would not be a good acne week.  Katie went first. She came out with blotchy red eyes.  “Brian, you can come in now,” said Ms. Trotz. I sauntered over and dialed my mom’s work phone. 
MOM: Hello? 
ME: [shakily] Hi Mom. 
MOM: What’s the matter? Are you alright? Are you sick?
ME: No I’m fine. I’m just getting sent to the I.V. today. 
MOM: What’s the I.V.? 
ME: It’s where you go if you get in trouble. 
MOM: Oh, like detention. 
ME: No, it’s the Intervention Room. 
MOM: That’s funny. 
ME: I know. Listen, they’re making me call you before I go down there.
MOM: Oh God, what did you do now? 
ME: What did I do “now”? What’s that supposed to mean?
MOM: I don’t know, were you playing High Five Spin the Bottle again?

MOM: Still. Are you SongBombing people?

ME: I won't invent that for another ten years. And it won't even really take off (...YET).
MOM: What did you do, Brian?
ME: The real reason I’m going to the I.V. is…well…I was holding hands with Katie. 
MOM: [pause]
ME: Mom? You there?
MOM: Is that really what you did? 
ME: Yes.
MOM: Don’t lie to me, young man. 
MOM: Oh. Okay. [Clearly suppressing a smirk--I could hear it over the phone] I guess you need to go to the Intervention Room then. 
And so, Katie and I spent an hour in the Intervention Room, filling out a half piece of yellow paper stating what we did, why it was wrong, and promising never to do it again. When we got out, the conversations with our classmates changed. They went from a joyful and coy, “Hey Brian, how’s Katie? :) :) :)”  to a more somber:

FRIEND: Hey Brian, how’s Katie doing?
ME: She’s doing alright. 
FRIEND: Yeah, the Intervention Room had to have been quite the strain on your relationship. 
ME: It’s been tough, but we’re pushing through.
FRIEND: Stay strong. 
ME: Thanks. 


  1. I do love these trips down memory lane! I especially love your interpretation of them 10 years later.

    "Acne is non-verbal angst" cracked me up!

  2. My first Canadian follower asked me this, but it didn't show up:

    Very funny! How long did it take you to hold hands again?

    My answer is: WE HELD HANDS THAT DAY. We are system-buckers.

  3. Thanks, you brought back all the horror of grade school. Except Ms. Trotz was Mr. Rose.
    And he had it in for me for pretty much everything...

  4. Your pictures and memory of the event was fantastic. I'm still laughing, and thinking of my grade school teacher nemesis, Mrs Olsen. No PDA was involved, but I got into trouble and things taken away all year, I could do nothing right.

  5. Thanks Dawn Marie! You should check out the links in this post that point to "High-Five Spin the Bottle" because I also had a teacher with whom I could do nothing right. Oh valuable yet so anxiety-inducing for kids like us.

    Welcome to Popcorn Day!

  6. I LOVE this one! These are some of my favorite of your posts ever!! That's all I can say, it's very good.

    Pigs and canaries, good job on that.

    The whole thing was rather well written!

  7. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!! (I hope all those exclamation marks didn't lose their mojo because there were so many of them. I meant every one.)

    I'm so glad you're back and commenting, Christie. Even though I somehow received a handful of extra readers, it's nice to hear my girlfriend talk about my post too...all the way from Prague no less!