The other day, a guy who was a jerk to me in high school requested me on Facebook.
My first response was to carefully examine his tiny profile picture for signs that he was deeply dissatisfied with his adult life. Maybe, if I enhanced it, I would see that the house he was standing in front of sported a tiny "FORECLOSED" sign, its sparse, crab-grassy lawn littered with miniature bottles of cheap hooch.
My second, more measured response was to seriously consider this an an extension of some sort of futuristic olive branch. Maybe he has indeed spent the last 10 years in quiet reflection over his past misdeeds. Maybe he's now a guy who is really great to women who haven't yet grown into their teeth. Just because I have difficulty maturing doesn't mean that this guy hasn't metamorphosed from the young man who called me "Horse" and once deliberately threw up on my house.
You would never guess it to look at me, what with my severe bangs and tattoos, but I had a bit of a rough time as a teenager.
The source of my angst then, of course, was teenage boys. Mostly, whether they wanted to stick their tongues in my mouth or not. I didn't understand how a girl could have bizarrely huge incisors and those cool pants with enormous bells and not be shielding her face against boners like somebody running though thick underbrush.
But beyond just Not Wanting to Take Me to Prom, some of the teenage boys I knew were real above-and-beyond assholes. Like the one who complimented me by telling me I'd be a "solid seven" if I had my hair relaxed, or the one who made up a rumor that I had sex with him and was denying it was because I'd been "so bad at sex" that I was embarrassed. I have to admit, his logic was airtight.
Now, at 28, it's easier for me to tell which guys are jerks due to a temporary napalm hail of hormones and age-based dummardry, and who is probably going to be a shitsack for life. You know how your skull doesn't completely ossify until you're 25? Maybe being a teenager is like being temporarily insane, kidnapped by the SLA of your pituitary gland.
But Facebook is a sacred place I reserve for obnoxious self-promotion and obsessively posting about Fleetwood Mac. Did I want to let this guy, with his potentially fully fused jerk-bone, sit under my bodhi tree? Or did I want to punish him by withholding the sweet salve of my beatific forgiveness?
I emailed One of My Best Heterosexual Guy Friends, a former dating columnist and a huge feminist who says things like, "You can't refer to her as your step-mother. Mother is a sacred occupation. She is 'the woman who married your father.'" He's in his thirties but he still knows what Facebook is, and thus ideal for this particular quandary.
Me: Were you a creep when you were a teenager?
Guy Friend: No, but I did my fair share of awful things out of frustration/being submerged in a bath of testosterone. I wasn't really mean to anyone, but I definitely cut Anna Bertsch's backpack straps because she wasn't into me anymore.
Me: Just so you know, this is about the guy who purposely threw up on my garage.
Guy Friend: You're "friends" with 12,909 people, and now we're talking about standards?
I needed a control. Maybe somebody who was an admitted jerk in high school, who is still what we'll politely refer to as "a bit of a cad." I knew of one, also in his 30s, who won't be my Facebook friend because he doesn't like seeing me talking to dudes on it.
It's OK, he doesn't read my articles.
So that still didn't answer my question. This is about the time I slapped myself on the forehead, because, DUH, of course, I have two ACTUAL TEENAGE BOYS at my disposal. Whoa, cool your jets, FBI, they're my younger brothers.
But because one of them technically just turned 20, I decided to email the younger, still-actually teenaged one.
He ignored me.
In between getting over this and texting my dad "YOUR KID = DICK," I started to think about whether or not I was being misandrist here. Maybe teenage girls are awful, too. Isn't Diablo Cody's entire career predicated on this hypothesis?
I don't have the best track record with guys, as an adult. Maybe… just maybe, I was a jerk too. Maybe I am a jerk now!
I remembered this one guy who "knew of" me in high school. I reconnected with him in New York almost 10 years later, and we went out to dinner once. It should be noted that he was super nice then, and is super nice now.
Alas, I think my informal study is inconclusive; teenagers remain a mystery to me on par with cosmology, war or why Vin Diesel isn't a bigger star.
Ultimately, I think I've decided I'm over high school (clearly). And perhaps, the guy friend-requsting me is too, or he has somehow intuited that I will one day write the Great American Novel and wants to grab onto these coattails while there's still room.
I think I'm going to accept his request, because it's the grownup thing to do. If he's ever mean to me again, I can exploit my new access to his "info" to find out where he lives, and barf on it.