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Too Cool for Drool
...in which Ashley mourns the dork who got away.
I envy you people who say you have no regrets. That is, I would envy you if I thought you were being truthful, and not simply living in denial about all the disgraceful lapses in judgment that blot your permanent record.
Regret could be considered my primary character trait. My life is a rich tapestry of bad jokes at funerals, lampshade-clad party gymnastics, and anger-fueled outbursts of “I don’t need your stinking job!” when clearly I did. My body itself is a testament to regrettable actions. I’m covered in scars received not from acts of orphan-saving valor, but from double-dog dares that I couldn’t catch a Nerf football from the back of a moving moped and similar adventures. If I did it, it’s likely that I regret it.
But often it’s the actions I didn't take that bring the most regret. And of course, being a nerve-wracked wallflower type all my life, I usually regret the missed romantic opportunities – the broads less traveled. Sure, there were the inebriated make-out sessions with mystery meat that I wisely preempted before juniors were conceived. No regrets there. But then there were those objects of desire I was simply too pants-wettingly terrified to go near. And that includes my biggest regret, Delores Dewhurst.
Delores sat behind me in my 6th grade English class. And I found her especially intimidating in this field of study because she herself was English. What on earth this royal subject was doing in a South Carolina public school was a mystery, but even then I knew it was a grave injustice. Her lilting, British accent, like Mary Poppins on the verge of song, clashed harshly with the yodels and hog-calling of my other hillbilly contemporaries. She was exotic and foreign, which in the brutal food chain of middle school, made her a bottom-feeder.
Aside from her alienating speech patterns, Delores was unnervingly pale – that near-albino pigment that only the sickliest of rain-soaked Londoners can achieve. She was thin and gawky in an Ichabod Crane sort of way, with a huge overbite and stringy, blond hair too thin to cover her jutting, Prince Charlesian ears. She was covered in freckles – a lone feature that could make even the sultriest of schoolgirls unacceptable in the unenlightened ‘80s. She had a fashion sense at least 20 years out of date, wearing girly jumpers and colored stockings that made her look like one of the kids on “Family Affair.”
Naturally, I was deeply in love with this strange and wondrous creature. But for the sake of my social standing in the schoolyard, I couldn’t tell anyone. Admitting that I swooned over this gangly nerd girl would have reduced my own social standing to that of Myron Lockerman, the thalidomide kid who threw up on the gym coach.
And so it was that the enchantingly awkward Ms. Dewhurst stayed at arm’s length, even as I quizzed her in class about her native England. She puzzled me by claiming to prefer the South Carolina swamps to her home in London. “England is so duh-tee,” she chimed like Big Ben. I should have seen this as a hopeful sign. Delores didn’t want to return to England. She wanted to stay here with me, where I could snuggle on the couch with her, giving her the benefit of my cultural enrichment by teaching her about Star Trek and Bigfoot.We could have been very happy.
Instead, I shunned poor Delores in favor of chum-approved girls from the regional trailer parks and bowling alleys. My Monty Python quotes were lost on these cultural vacuums, and I was forced to entertain inane blather about their Van Halen albums and unicorn collections. They were obsessed with hair and jeans. They made out with acne-covered bubbas at the video arcade and smoked menthols behind the Putt-Putt. Delores read Jane Austen and Hawthorne. She wrote romantic poetry with gloriously refined penmanship. The girls I went out with were keen on tractor pulls. I was a peer-pressured idiot.
The divine Delores Dewhurst vanished after middle school – probably to teach English in some Montessori academy, leading the children in song to reinforce their understanding of past-participles. Ultimately, my romantic life turned out great, but what of poor Delores? Is she still suffering the emotional pains of having been snubbed by that incredibly charming and attractive American boy? It’s hard to imagine she wouldn’t be.
Many of you women out there lament your school days, the years of getting teased and bullied by the other girls for being fat, dorky, or generally skanky to the point of cootie infection. And though it’s really no consolation, you should keep in mind that we boys were equally teased and bullied…if we ever let it be known that we were attracted to the fat, dorky, skanky, cootie-infected likes of you. We did like you, but we couldn’t admit it to our Cro-Magnon classmates without inviting wedgies at best. Confessing to a sexual attraction to mountain goats would have been less traumatizing than telling your friends you thought the chunky girl with pink eye was kind of nice.
And that’s a shame, because that’s the sort of girl who can talk you out of trying to catch footballs on the back of a moped.
(And let’s not forget Ashley’s website, jam-packed with portraits and other drawings, his highly-affordable prints and books currently available, his eagerness for your portrait commission, and his contact email, email@example.com, where he longs to hear from you.)