I never had sex until I was 20, or was it 21?
My high school yearbook photo 1975
After so many years of elementary, junior, high school and college and university, I can only remember a few teachers who really taught me something. I had one in 4th grade, Ms. Demuth, in Minnesota. She gave me a Snoopy card once that said, "Life is full of rude awakenings." I'll never forget that lesson. I don't remember any elementary teachers who influenced me or inspired me after her.
In High School, I had Mr. Holts, my science and biology teacher. Mr. Holts taught me that there's a big difference between playing and doing. And then, and, in college, there was Mr. Al Miller. Mr. Miller was best of all because he taught me about television, how to handle myself in front of people and, outside of school, he taught me how to be a real gentleman; how to be kind and respectful to people - to all people.
Mr. Miller impressed me because he would, for example, talk to parking lot attendants and doormen and call them, "friend" or "sir." He treated everyone with respect. Not only did his mannerism and respect for people influence me, it touched me so much that it set the way I try to treat people all my life. Alas! I am a poor student and I can never attain the enlightenment of my sensei. I think few people can be such a sincere gentleman as Mr. Al Miller. If the world was filled with people like Mr. Miller it would be so much a nicer place to live.
But I digress.
Mr. Al Miller was the best school instructor I've ever had
Even though I had these teachers in school, the best teachers I had in school weren't actually my official teachers. Nope. The best teachers were girls I liked. There were several of them. They didn't teach me important things because they were my girlfriends or anything. They didn't teach me anything because they were particularly kind to me. They taught me well because they were only kind to me when they wanted something from me. They were kind to me when they wanted something like for me to tell them the answers to questions on tests so that they wouldn't fail. They taught me when they used me.
I'd oblige them because, well, in my high school immaturity and insecurity I figured being used and then dropped like a wet a dirty dish rag was better than not being used (or even spoken to) at all. This might sound bitter, but it's not. Those girls taught me well and I appreciate them for it. The lesson that they taught me was a lesson in life and, had they not taught me, someone else would have. They taught me the real world.
One of the girls who really taught me well was a girl who was in several of my high school classes named Kathy Dobbe (I think that's how it is spelled!) I'll never forget Kathy. Kathy Dobbe doesn't know that, all through high school, I had a crush on her and thought she was the most beautiful girl in school - maybe even in the entire world. I thought Kathy was a goddess.
Kathy was a great teacher. The peculiar part about Kathy's teachings to me is that I'll bet we never spoke three words in total to each other my entire junior and senior years.
I am reminded of Kathy recently because, on Facebook, a few weeks ago, I saw one of those dumb "Guess who's joined your high school class Facebook community?" notices and saw that Kathy had joined (I don't join things like that - come to think of it, how do they know what high school I went to???). I also wonder why so many people seem to long for high school days. Are things that bad today? Were things that good back then? I don't think so... But, then again, I wasn't a popular kid in school...
Anyway, from the Facebook, notice, I saw what Kathy looks like today. Well, I am assuming it was Kathy. I've never met her mom, but I gather that she today looks like her mom did back then. Kathy looked pretty good, all things considered. I think she looked quite good especially compared to her peers.
Not aging fast enough? Drink soda! Hoo boy! Japanese people don't drink sweet drinks anywhere near the level that American people do. Even lots of younger Japanese still prefer tea.
Damned if people in America don't look very old, overweight and past their years! Kathy didn't really look that way, but when I see people in America my age, they all have gray hair and are fat! I saw another picture of a girl whom I have known for over 35 years last night. She is a year younger than me but in her photo she looks easily ten years older than me. It must be that processed food Standard American Diet (it's called S.A.D.) that those people are eating. I'm glad I eat raw food and live in Japan where people eat healthy food. (Any wonder why Japanese women live, on average, at least six years longer than American women? The men live more than four years?)
But I digress.... Again!!!!
Unbeknownst to her, like I mentioned, Kathy also doesn't know that she taught me self respect. She taught me that because I had a complex all through high school; I thought I was inferior and shorter than all the (pretty) girls in school. Really! This complex messed me up because I figured that pretty girls don't like short guys. The guys all have to be tall, dark and strong; just like in the movies. Kathy taught me that I wasn't shorter. In fact, I was taller than her by a few inches... Actually, until she taught me, I never knew that I was taller than all of them. I simply never realized it.
Now, you're probably imagining that Kathy taught me this important lesson in self-esteem in life at some school function like a dance. Imagine! Kathy Dobbe and me dancing cheek to cheek on the high school gymnasium floor to some slow and romantic song. It's one of the last numbers of the evening. The lights are turned down low. Everyone grabs their date and heads to the dance floor.... We look into each others eyes and we embrace...
The saxophones start to play... "And they called it puppy love...."
No. No. Stop the music... Stop the music! I'm not that old!
Think of it, Kathy and I, cheek to cheek, in a warm high school kid's love embrace? Can you imagine it? No? Neither can I. I was enthralled with Kathy but that was it. Even if I had asked her for a date, and she said, "Yes," that would probably be the end of it. She'd probably have scared me so much that, had we met for a date, I couldn't talk. Not a word. If I could utter a sound, it would be like a bird chirping or a wheel squeaking. Nope. Couldn't do it. Just like in the movies. And that's the only part of this that is like it is portrayed in the movies: Geeks can't handle beautiful women. Geeks are always like that.
It's been scientifically proven that high school geeks' vocal chords stop functioning properly when they are around girls who they think are so pretty they aren't real or aren't from the Milky Way galaxy.
I suppose I should tell you why I had such an inferiority complex. It's a long story so I'll make it brief. Before moving back to California, I had spent the last 8 or 10 years (I can't remember) moving all around the USA and going to a different school almost every year. That meant that when I went to a new school I had to start over and make new friends... This also meant that I didn't have very many friends. This is hard on a kid but a good lesson in life (that is for another blog post on another day). Since I went to schools in the South and Midwest, I was used to their school system and their curriculum.
Well, I don't know about today (but can't imagine that it's so different) the level of education in Midwestern and Southern elementary schools are a few years ahead of California public schooling. That means that what they are teaching in 5th grade in a school in Minnesota, they are teaching in 7th grade in California public school. So when I moved from Minnesota, where I was getting "C's," to California, I was suddenly getting "A's." Classes that I hated and struggled in in Minnesota, like Algebra, were, in California, one big joke. Suddenly, from being a dumb kid in school in Minnesota (or as my very kind older brother would insult me all my life, "The F-minus Kid") I went to being the smartest kid in my class.
Through high school, my older brother got all "A's." He went to school in Minnesota too (you do the math). So, even though my grades in academics weren't as good as his, I was still a geek, got mostly A's and, as such, an outsider. Because, even back then, in a California school getting good grades meant you were a momma's boy or teacher's pet and definitely NOT cool.
So here I went from being a dummy in school with no friends in the Midwest to being a smart kid in school with no friends in California. I thought being smart was good? Not in California public school it isn't. Can you imagine how that would play games with a 15 year old's mind?
My high school in California, was a regular west coast high school like you'd see in the movies. You know, pretty blond girls and handsome blond guys. Everyone drove a hot rod American car and had perfect teeth. The ocean wasn't a ten minute drive from school so we had tons of surfers, stoners and our high school also had the standard issue football team and basketball team that every all-American high school had.
Everyone at my high school looked like they had just jumped out of some Hollywood movie. This is Janet and Randy, who were Prom King and Queen.
The boys teams at my high school were lousy (you wouldn't know it by the "big man on campus" attitude those guys showed while at school). Nevertheless, it was a big deal every year when we'd play the cross town high school's own lousy team in our standard issue cross town rivalry. The teams would basically take each year going back and forth beating each other. The cheerleaders would cry because, well, as you know, beating Cross Town is so immensely important, especially since, as any cheerleader will tell you "...This is senior year and our last year at high school. We must win!" Maybe it was all planned that way... Maybe they do that in American society to teach militant tribalism (it's great for military recruitment)....
But I digress.... For the third time...
I was talking about Kathy Dobbe. Besides the very pretty girls, surfers, stoners, hot-rodders, and football and basketball players, my school also had geeks. I think I was King Geek at my school. I was King Geek because my grades were almost all "A's" and I was president of the Science Club for my junior and senior year.
That's me on the top left, Science Club president. Foolish me. At the time I never thought about dating any of these girls... But they were the classiest (and most beautiful ones) in the whole school yet I never realized it (and, probably neither did they!)
Being a geek in high school sucks because the "cool kids" (pretty girls, surfers, stoners, hot-rodders, and football and basketball players) didn't want to have anything to do with you. The only friends a geek has in high school is other geeks. So, all through high school, I only went on a date twice. The first time was when Shanda Shinkaruk asked me to go to a backwards dance with her (she was pretty too and terrified me also!) and then, my senior year when I got up the nerve to ask one of the smartest and most popular girls in school, Debbie Henry to go to the prom with me. Debbie said, "Yes" and that changed my life too.... But let me stick with Kathy for now. Debbie is another story.
How did Kathy teach me self-respect and give me a better self-image? It's ridiculous, really, when I stop to think about it. Here, all that time, all through 11th and 12th grade I thought all these girls would never go on a date with me because, are you ready?.... I thought they wouldn't go on a date with me because I was shorter than they were.
Seriously. This is what I thought. It was what I believed. The day that Kathy Dobbe destroyed this belief is still strong in my memory...
Only geeks and dorks helped the teachers with things like the projectors and handing out petri dishes. I did that sort of thing a lot. Come to think of it, this might be my first photo of my ever having worked in the cinema industry.
It was biology class. I can't remember why, but Mr. Holts told us to line up to collect some materials. For some reason, it wound up that Kathy Dobbe was standing right in front of me. I had never come that close to her before. I was an extremely shy boy and would never intentionally stand next to her. I was so shy that, had she come close, normally I would shy away and back off to the other side of the room. But here she was! The girl of my dreams! The girl I had only seen from afar and she was standing only two feet in front of me... This goddess!!!!
As usual, Kathy paid no attention to me and was talking to one of the other beautiful people, a guy, in the class. When she turned her back to me was when it hit me. I was shocked! I couldn't believe it. I had to get closer and check and recheck again. Were my eyes deceiving me? Not only was I taller than Kathy but I was taller by at least three inches!
You cannot imagine how much that really confused me and threw me for a loss. I was absolutely dumbfounded. It was as if a scientist who dedicated his entire life to a theorem and was completely and totally convinced that this theory was true had just found out that all his beliefs and life's work were completely wrong. Everything he (I) had thought, believed and was convinced to be true was completely wrong and had zero basis in reality. You can imagine how this twisted my mind especially as a geek and president of the Science Club!.... Chuckle.
Soon after, I began talking to many other girls. I began to check my new theory and discovery by use of the Scientific Method: "I am taller than these girls hereby it is OK for me not to be such a loser." I tested it over and over and found it to be true.
I stood next to the beautiful girls in school. I was taller than them. When some of the pretty (but dumb) girls in science class would suddenly take a 180 degree turnabout and go from not even knowing that I exist or actually being mean to me to being so sweet and kind and asking for my help giving them the answers to Biology tests, I started having an attitude. I'd intentionally give them the wrong answers.... Really! I am ashamed to admit that I did that one time but then felt bad about it... After that, if those girls wanted my help, I'd just tell them, "You're always mean to me then you want my help at test time? No. I don't think so." Then these girls would get really mad at me and bad mouth me. I think they got mad because I had always given them answers before so they had come to depend on me and when the answers stopped coming, they thought I was a jerk. They treated me like a jerk 100% of the time from then on.
That's OK. I didn't care. Before that, they treated me like a jerk only 95% of the time excepting at test time. Now they'd treat me like dirt 100% of the time. So what? Their loss, not mine, I figured.
And, after all, I was taller than they were and I got good grades. "Who needs dumb manipulative girls, anyway?" I realized.
Life is full of give and take. Life is also full of manipulative people. I thank god that I was to have this seemingly banal experience of standing in line behind Kathy Dobbe and how that changed my life. It's weird the little seemingly unimportant things that make a huge impact on our lives and way of thinking. From the lesson I learned from Kathy Dobbe, I learned self-respect and self-confidence... Perhaps from that experience I also learned too much, way too much, self-confidence too and exercised that far too often.
But this self-confidence has taught me to be independent and to be creative and to depend on myself. It has helped me to avoid the rat race whereby too many people today fear for their jobs and their future. Of course, I sometimes worry about the future and money too, but, opposed to a company employee who has no control over whether or not they lose their job or get laid off, I create my own work and I create my own income. I have come to, through experience and self-confidence and a good self image, to know that, if I put my mind to it, I can do anything. I believe that thinking that way, and helping your child to do so also, could be one of the best lessons in life that they'll ever learn.
I think the lessons I learned from this one experience are (if you are a student, this is for you. If you are a parent, please consider how you can help your child):
1) What we think and believe is often not true. An open mind is necessary. Some of the things we believe are so opposite of actual truth it is epiphany when we realize it.
2) Often we need others to help us achieve these realizations and epiphanies.
3) We need to have more self-confidence and to explore.
4) Learning to read and write in school is important, of course, but many of the other important lessons are not taught by teachers. They are taught by other kids, parents and the outside world. We need to prepare our kids better for that.
5) Parents need to tell your kids that they are beautiful. This seems obvious but not enough parents do this. Most parents never do this at all.
6) A kid with great self-esteem and self-confidence can do anything and be whatever they want to be. Make sure your child is that way.
Thank you Kathy Dobbe and to the Kathy Dobbe's everywhere.