This evening I began considering some of the most embarrassing events of my teenage and adolescence after engaging in an exchange with Kabang Arts Director Meg Shorette and BDN Reporter Mario Moretto about the 1996 film The Craft. With a hint of embarrassment, Moretto admitted that seeing that movie in the 90s sparked his young obsession with Fairuza Balk, ultimately leading him into his “goth” phase. This made me think of one of the more embarrassing moments—or eras—of my youth which, upon admitting took place after years of willfully forgetting it, felt particularly cathartic.
Without further ado, I present the 5 most awkward moments from my adolescence and teenage years.
Warning: As these are embarrassing stories, a great deal of subject matter someone is just bound to complain about is contained within. Read at your own risk.
5. Season of the Witch
Like my colleague, I was also obsessed with Balk and the rest of the ladies from The Craft. I took Moretto’s entry into a “Goth phase” a step further by buying books on witchcraft, wearing a pentacle necklace, and entering my moderately short-lived Wiccan phase. Thankfully, smart phones were not yet a thing and so there is no photographic evidence of this period. My witchy activities included practicing throwing balls of energy around a room and being really, really into candles. I am filing this in “embarrassing territory” not to disrespect Wiccans—I am sure Wicca is cool and all—but because my interest in witchcraft had absolutely nothing to do with the related wisdom and practice and everything to do with secretly hoping that I would one day meet Fairuza Balk’s doppelgänger in real life and she would be very impressed with my encyclopedic knowledge of spells. Unfortunately, that day never came, and even if it did I was the sort of kid who got into “witchcraft” because of a crappy 90s movie so I never would have stood a chance with imaginary Fairuza Balk’s doppelgänger anyhow.
4. Truly, Truly, Truly Outrageous
I have touched on this elsewhere on the blog, but when I was little I used to watch reruns of the 80s cartoon Jem and pretend that the protagonist was my aunt and that I worked for her as a special agent. I don’t know if had seen Charlie’s Angels by that point, but that was the sort of arrangement I was imagining, as I recall, with Aunt Jem as a Charlie-like figure at the helm of a spy agency and me as a… I honestly have no idea which of the Angels I would be. Now that I am re-watching the cartoon show with my daughter, it is safe to assume that I was misreading its universe a little bit. In Jem, Jerrica Benton—who secretly moonlights as the eponymous pop singer with the aid of a holographic computer—runs an orphanage funded by Starlight, a foundation left to her by her late father. Perhaps, with my then-small frame of reference for what orphans were, I thought these children were her nephews and nieces? What also comes to light upon further reflection is the fact that I had an uncle who was pretty rowdy in the 80s who dated a lady named Beth. She wore bangles and definitely reminded me of one of the Misfits, Jem’s rivals. Maybe I imagined her to be my aunt and me to… In retrospect, this is all very confusing. Either way, it seems tame and sort of innocent and sweet in retrospect (particularly in comparison of what is to come), but I was mortified by the prospect of my father ever finding out my secret identity throughout the remainder of my childhood.
3. Punky Jordan
Again, this one feels a little lame looking back on it, but the next two anecdotes are about poop and masturbation, so hang tight. On my first day of pee-wee basketball, I insisted on wearing a Mickey Mouse watch and a number of wrist packs, which were like fanny-packs for your wrist (presumably for coins, but actually probably for drugs). I also adorned myself with a snap bracelet and a bandanna around my ankle so that I could be like Punky Brewster (another 80s pop culture orphan connection, strangely enough). I like to think that my mother encouraged me to remove these before going to practice because if she didn’t, she was actually:
A. Totally not paying any attention to my life
B. Devilishly cruel
C. Wicked hilarious
D. B & C
I can vividly remember the coach meeting me upon my entry into the gymnasium and asking in stunned disbelief, “What is all of that crap all over you? You know that this is basketball, right?” That was decidedly the last time that I ever felt 100% confident about anything.
Note #1: For a long time afterward—after having watched Teen Wolf a number of times—I was actually convinced that the coach in question, who was super pale, used to sweat all the time and had pronounced canine teeth, was a werewolf.
Note #2: A similar incident occurred a handful of years later when I picked basketball back up in the 7th grade and joined the boy’s traveling team. I did not watch any sports on television at all, and my only frame of reference for basketball attire was the cardboard protective sleeve of my brother-in-law’s VHS cassette of the movie Hoosiers. As such, I wore Converse sneakers throughout practice sessions and to our first away game, where I was relentlessly made fun of by the other team. While that was somehow not my last game, I decided at that moment that my basketball career would not make it past the 7th Grade.
2. Vengeful God
This is another sports story, but it is actually about masturbation. The next story is about me defecating in my pants while listening to This American Life, so this one isn’t so bad, really. While I can’t remember how, exactly, I stumbled upon masturbating when I was 10-ish, I do remember that Herbal Essences strawberry shampoo was instrumental in the first couple of weeks of that initial streak. Those in the know about the evils of using soap as an intimate lubricant are already bummed out, but for those who are not, soap—when not thoroughly washed off of the skin—can create an extraordinarily grim chafing situation. A week into the newfound fun, I noticed bleeding, scaling of the skin, and incredible pain. This, unfortunately, came in conjunction with a minor league baseball game following said discovery. No big deal because I was a terrible baseball player and there was no way I would hit the ball, right? As if I wasn’t already positive God was punishing me for the sins of self-pleasure, I knocked that ball out into the field in what might have very well been my first hit since t-ball. Unable to run because I was positive that my area had been stricken by an Old Testament style redemptive plague, I hobbled to first, which had been tagged long before I finally got my inexperienced, chafed penis there. I had to tell my coach, who was at once shocked that I actually hit the ball and disappointed by my inability to make it all the way to to first base without getting struck out, that I was nearly positive I had pulled my groin.
“Pulled my groin.”
1. Highway to the Dangerzone or: My Third Most Embarrassing Poop Story)
You already know that this one is about poop, so get out of here if you’re not down. However, if you made it past the story about a preteen’s masturbating foibles, you are probably pretty ride or die. This story involves Fresh Samantha, the Maine-created, all natural juice that was Odwalla’s predecessor, Found Magazine‘s Davy Rothbart and the famed radio documentary program This American Life, so it should appeal to both appreciators of scatological anecdotes and the canvass tote-bag lovers of the world.
I spent 4 years of my teenage working at a place in the Maine Mall food court called Souper Salad. Not unlike now, I was really outspoken about what I did and did not like. I was also really into that super-crappy-but-kind-of-campy-and-cool Mark Harmon movie Summer School, in which a ne’er-do-well teacher encourages his class to write letters to companies they love and/or hate. I was a big lover of Fresh Samantha juice, a bottle of which I enjoyed every shift while working at Souper Salad, and so I wrote the company a loving letter.
The wonderful people at the company sent me a sweatshirt and coupons for 5 free juices, all of which I drank in one shift. On the handful of bottles of orange juice I enjoyed, the company boasted in print that there were the equivalent of 16 oranges in every container. If that was true, this meant that I had consumed the equivalent of roughly 80 oranges before I actually thought about the implications this would have on my already vegan, greens-and-tofu-filled digestive tract.
I got into the car and started driving to my then-girlfriend’s parents’ house, where I was living at the time. The house was 20 minutes out, and I had just enough of a window of time to listen to Davy Rothbart tell a story about his mother’s relationship with the spirit of an ancient Buddhist monk on This American Life. Thanks to the ever-glorious Internet, I can look back in the show’s archives, find that story in particular, and tell you that this all happened on May 10th, 2002 just in case you want to compare notes regarding what we were all up to on that day.
So I am soaring over these back roads in my 1989 powder blue Crown Victoria, which was basically like riding in a steel-encased magic carpet, when I feel that tornado of oranges twisting and turning in my gut. I realize I am very likely in trouble, but figure that I am just a handful of minutes away from the house and I have more than enough time to escape from the danger zone. But do you know when you’re driving and it feels like the car is sort of gliding and you hit a bump that is at just the right angle at just the right speed and your stomach feels like it is floating around in your insides? That resultant sensation sort of feels a little sexual, right? And all of your muscles relax for a quick second… So that happened and right as that is going down, I let out a belly laugh in response to the part in Rothbart’s piece in which he asks his mother if the spirit of the monk she claims accompanies her through life looks the other way when she and Rothbart’s father “knock boots.” Not unlike the scenario that Dr. Gonzo is trying to make real when he is in the tub and wants Raoul Duke to throw the radio into the water at the precise moment in Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit when “the rabbit bites its own head off” in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the juice of the 80 oranges thrashing around in my gut, that erotic bump and that belly laugh all came together in a perfect storm. Only instead of achieving transcendence through drug-inspired electrocution, I pooped my pants.
Somehow that is not all of it, because there I was sitting in that crescendo, seething for the short remainder of the ride home. This was embarrassing, yes, but I should have been fine, as no one was scheduled to be home. Of course, though, upon pulling into the driveway I saw that my girlfriend’s mother’s car was in the drive way, in fact, and the second I opened the door to waddle my way through the kitchen, she appealed to me emphatically, “Alex, your and Larisa’s room is in the Prosperity Corner of the house and…’ Remember how Feng Shui was a really big deal for a hot minute in the early Aughts? That was her jam. “… I need for you both to clean that, because there is no way any of us are going to get ahead when…” To which I interjected, “I am sorry, Linda, but I don’t have time for this. For the love of Christ, I shat my pants.”
I should not have to spell this out for you, dear reader, as I have the utmost faith in your intelligence, but the moral of this collection of stories—of course—is that there is a nonathletic, pop culture orphan obsessed, ill-lubricated, horny adolescent pants-pooper inside of each and every one us.