Summer of not-so-much loving
Rejection covers off most body parts. A cold shoulder. A kick in the teeth. A slap in the face. They all hurt like some kind of hell.
It is the most discriminatory of acts, yet in itself does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, at any time, anywhere. Sexual or intellectual. Both sting. Both smart.
I have been rejected in the dead of the night, in the most frigid of winters, but most often I have been spurned during summer. When the nectarines sing and the bed is full of sand: the season of rejection.
During the most miserable New Year's Eve of my life I sobbed shudderingly into a deflating air mattress, while my (then) boyfriend made out with another girl in the balmy air.
The first rejection to brand my psyche occurred at year's end, at my Form Two disco. Pink with sunstroke from a day spent at the pools and plump with puppy fat, I had high hopes that the object of my crush would ask me to dance.
But while he took out the dance floor with his wild moves and a burgeoning creativity that would later make him rich and famous, I spent the evening droopily yearning in a corner of the gymnasium.
Last month, just before school broke up for the year, my five-year-old daughter came home with a heavy heart.
It was dairy day, but even the prospect of a dollar's worth of sour snakes did not revive her. It was, she said, about a boy. A boy who had told her he liked her.
Easily charmed (like mother, like daughter), she arranged to meet him after the bell for playlunch, by the junior playground.
She had waited, she said, a really long time, until the bell rang for class. She went back, too, at lunchtime. He never showed.
I couldn't bring myself to tell her that this would only be the first bookend in a lifetime of brush-offs.
Friends who would exclude her from their Friday night plans, jobs she wouldn't get in spite of her best efforts.
I didn't tell her that at 22, living in Switzerland, sick for home and vulnerable, I had been stood up just like her.
When a customer, a regular at the bar I worked at, who had always struck me as an obnoxious boor, asked me out, I agreed instantly.
He told me to meet him on a particular corner in the neighbouring village.
Outside the café with the geraniums in window boxes, opposite the clockmakers, everything postcard perfect. Except that the girl in the cotton dress waited and she waited. And the boy, the obnoxious boor, never turned up.
My loneliness bigger than my pride, desperate for company, I rang him from a phone box in the café (this was before mobiles). His brother answered. Said he wasn't there. I could hear him laughing in the background.
Neither could I bring myself to tell her that it never goes away. That fear of not being wanted. Left out.
Once on parent help at kindergarten I joined in a game. It involved everyone standing in a circle with one person in the middle who picked someone to join them. I was an adult in a ring of four-year-olds. And the little voice inside cried: pick me, pick me!
Sunday Star Times