It was winter, in New York City, and I was once again at a French restaurant, trying to figure out whether or not I was on a date.
I am going to go ahead and declare myself the reigning champion of ending up on dates I don't know are dates. This may stem from my inability to read basic social cues (I am basically "The Mentalist" on Opposite Day) or my particular eagerness to meet strangers someplace to dip fries in warm mayo. Whatever the case, I often find myself sitting across someone from a bucket of mussels, wondering whether or not I should have worn a cuter bra.
This particular maybe-date was a guy who had attended the same midwestern high school as me, although we hadn't been friends. He'd found out via Facebook that we both worked in that classiest of industries, Internet, and wanted to get together for shoptalk and that thing where you name all of your mutual friends for 30 minutes while eating food. (Honestly, the details are a little hazy, because again, sometimes I'll just kind of come to in these situations, suddenly aware that I'm sitting across from a stranger and wearing a nice outfit, like a mayonnaise werewolf.)
There were strong hints that perhaps this was not all business -- we were drinking wine, the place was candlelit, he had on a jewel-toned sweater. I am also a naturally sparkling conversationalist and there were a lot of lengthy pauses from him in that way that tends to indicate a person is sexually dazzled.
I had just realized that this was probably a date when he told me that he had naked pictures of me from when I was a teenager.
When I was a kid, in the late 1980s, there was a brief fad for keychains that played a variety of sound effects, like an explosion or a trumpet blare or a burst of flatulence. Mine was lost someplace, to the infinite basements and yard sales of time, but as you can imagine I have never more acutely wished for one of these sound effect keychains in my entire life.
While this might surprise some people to hear from their maybe-date, this is sort of par for the Me course. I don't remember exactly what my response was, but I think it involved wondering whether a naked picture of a person who is now a grownup could still get someone sent to jail. It's now to the point when a guy doesn't cop to a felony or two over crostini, I'm always a little surprised.
"Hm. And why do you have that?" I think I asked. I mean, I have no idea what I said, but that seems like a reasonable thing, right?
Then he explained.
Back in high school, I was something of enfant terrible, which is French for "dickhead." I did not study particularly hard, and I think I enjoyed marijuana more than most people would consider conducive to homework or personal hygiene.
Luckily, I am an excellent test-taker (unless it involved pee! Ha ha ha! But no, really), and I didn't have a whole lot of trouble finding a college that was willing to take my tuition dollars in exchange for my middling GPA. Getting an acceptance letter early on meant I was free to spend the remainder of high school doing what I loved: writing to serial killers, drawing comics, and going for long walks with my obese pet tabby Pink Floyd. I wish you could have known me then, at my human best.
One day, a group of seniors at lunch were discussing the important matter of Senior Week -- most notably, where we were going to get three greased-up pigs*, and who was going to streak.
Every year, some brave senior had donned a paper bag or a ski mask and run naked across the school's front lawn. I'm not sure why this was such an essential graduation ritual at my (otherwise very nice!) little suburb, but it was. It was my class's turn, and here we were, dangerously close to zero hour with nobody sacking up to represent us via kinetic junk.
"I'll do it," I volunteered, through a mouthful of mayo. (I mean, I assume.) Why? I don't know. I wasn't what you'd call a runner or a huge fan my body. Furthermore, I was a bit of a Judd Nelson and had all the school spirit of Zeke Tyler, as portrayed by Josh Harnett in cinema's "The Faculty." But there was attention to be had, and I wanted it.
As far as deals go, this was a Not Insignificant one, because this kind of tomfoolery was not tolerated at my high school. Suspension was a very real possibility, given that the lawn was patrolled by a weird old security guard named Pops, who was charged with corralling truants, smokers, and I guess, the odd naked teenager.
To our knowledge, my high school had never had a lady streaker, so I was really blazing a trail here. Word spread as word did, and on the day of reckoning, there was a decent crowd assembled to witness my historic run. During lunch, my friends and I drove home to my house, where I martialed my courage and stuffed my one-hitter with throat-scorching Ohio ditch schwag.
We drove back to campus, and I took my clothes off in the back seat before barrel rolling out of the car and behind a tree on the edge of campus. I zipped past my delighted classmates while they drove alongside me, blasting Aerosmith (again, no idea why -- maybe something to do with the pot).
By way of disguise, I wore a waist-length wig and a pair of aviators, so I looked kind of like Weird Al in "UHF" if he'd had comically huge breasts. Needless to say, people still had a pretty idea of who it was running around naked and visiting shame on her family again.
I made it back into the car and my clothes with plenty of time to stroll into AP Statistics, to a round of polite golf claps, which mystified my poor math teacher. Even the teachers who knew what I'd done never got into any kind of trouble for it -- my guidance counselor actually congratulated me at graduation for remembering to wear clothing.
It might not have happened at all, except that apparently, people took pictures.
I guess my French-restaurant-maybe-date and his friends didn't know about Internet pornography, and were so excited about the idea of BOOBS that they brought a digital camera to the lawn that day. They managed to get a couple of snaps of me running nude, which I'm sure are very flattering, depending on the shutter speed and whether I was exhaling at the time. He stored them on his mother's iMac (yep), hidden safely in some secret teen boy porno file (probably called like, "Great Gatsby essay" or "NOT porn, no porn here" or something -- you remember youth).
Either out of sentimentality or indifference, he'd forgotten about the whole thing til recently, when we reconnected almost a full decade later. Because he is not a monster and does not want his parents to go to jail, he'd also considered the fact that they still existed on a desktop someplace hundreds of miles away, miraculously having escaped detection over the intervening years.
I admit, a part of me was curious. The naked me of those photos was at her most pert-breasted and physically elastic. I was high-school thin, un-tattooed, and relatively unsullied by the 10 subsequent years of romantic disappointment and Hank Williams-eqsue "rough living."
Thankfully, the part of me uncomfortable with photos of herself naked and technically a minor won out over any sort of vanity, and I politely suggested that he destroy the pictures when he visited his parents over the approaching holiday, which he thoughtfully agreed to.
"Erase the drive twice, and zero it out," I said, because I'd recently seen "Runaway Jury" and I think this is how you delete something so that not even Gene Hackman and a team of experts could excavate it from the digital netherworld.
I didn't go out with him again -- but not because I think he's a teen-nude hoarding creep. He's actually a very nice guy. I mean, I'm not wild about the idea of being photographed naked without my consent, but I guess I sort of tacitly waived my right to privacy when I ran around a city block with my breasts exposed, screaming SEEEEENIOOOOOORS.
Was it the best thing to lead with on a date? Maybe not. But as far as stupid things to have done on account of youthful idiocy, it's not the worst thing.
You know, relatively speaking.
*every year, somebody would suggest the Three Greased Pigs prank. You know, where you release three pigs numbered #1, #3, and #4 presumably with the intent to drive school administrators to the edge of sanity catching three greased pigs and searching for a nonexistent fourth. For some reason, the multiple logistical flaws of this particular piece of hooliganism eluded us as teenagers.