A New Planet for Geeks
When I was in my teens, I did not even dare to speak to a boy, much less ever go on a date.
I was a complete and total geek. I had red hair, freckles, braces, coke-bottle glasses. I was shy, skinny, bookish. My room featured posters of Einstein and Shakespeare — even Edgar Allan Poe! Not rock stars.
I kept my head down and minded my own business. I earned my way into college.
Then, I escaped high school and landed on an entirely new planet.
This planet was full of people who didn’t delight in teasing nerds. It was also full of guys who attempted eye contact, the only subject I was really, really, bad at. And many of them offered diamonds.
Once at university, everything changed. I learned there were so many different kinds of people and ideas. There are almost no cliques or exclusionary clubs (except, maybe, for some athletic circles). Get this: you are expected to be quiet in class.
Who knew? Most of us attend school for more than 12 years and classrooms were always among the most boisterous, loud, and rude places, there are, especially for quiet girls.
My best friend in college noticed I wore big baggy clothes, jeans, and generally practical clothes. I had not worn a dress in years. At his advice, one day I decided to buy some stockings and put on a new sleek, green dress.
By then I wore contacts, and the braces were off. Hooray!
When I reflect upon why I began to get more male attention, I realize it boosted my confidence, which boosted my ability to be outgoing.
Boys to Men
I had never prepared, nor known, how males would treat me once out of high school. I don’t know how it is for other girls, but this was the greatest change in my world imaginable, and believe me, I came from a family always in absolute, tumultuous upheaval.
Boys — let’s start calling us men and women at this point — men, were noticing me! By the time I was done with college I had an engagement ring. Ultimately, I said no, but he insisted that I keep it. The next year I was given another diamond, and a proposal, and two the year after that. The fifth marriage proposal came as I started graduate school.
This is not to say men were always falling all over me with diamond carats. My best friend, Mike — the one who changed my life by telling me to show off my legs — even asked me to marry him, but no ring. Also, he was still working out how to come out of the closet with his sexuality. He would still be my best friend if he had not died! I miss him so much.
I think losing my own brother, then Mike, also helped me think of just how short life is. I loved to dance, attend parties, and dress up for science fiction conventions. I said “NO” a lot, but as this was before #MeToo, a few jerks did not respect my boundaries.
It’s curious, upon reflection, but I honestly think that pushing to have a long-term commitment made me a rare item. It’s possible that men learn: “She’s playing hard to get so I’ll be more aggressive.”
Most guys didn’t proffer diamonds. Most of them were just flirtatious and grabby. But by far, most of them just kept reminding me to “smile.” I thought it was nice to be noticed, and smiled graciously.
I just learned a few years ago, in a brainstorm of revelation, that telling a woman to smile was offensive. I now understand the many reasons why that only happened when I was a young woman. Now, I notice that random men on the streets don’t do that anymore after a woman reaches age 35 years.
They no longer ask me to smile. I guess that’s #MeToo progress, although something about it still feels kind of sad for girls who went through so much with those braces and horse-bridle style, middle school headgear orthodontics!
Maybe just a tiny proposal?
In all, I think I have had eight marriage proposals. Nine if you count the second one from my current husband. However, I have only six engagement rings sitting in the old treasure box.
To be honest, I miss people asking me to marry them. I suppose it is just a sign of insecurity, but such ego-boo really does touch the heart of someone who was teased mercilessly as a kid, and had always been taught that, with females, it is beauty, not brains, not kindness, that counts the most. To be seen as someone with beauty cannot help but aid a woman.
Popular culture still sends this message, although it is slowly changing with the body positivity movement. And, yes, of course, I also know about my white privilege. That said, I also know that I fight skin cancer daily.
I remember well that red-heads were also called “day-walkers” and “gingers with gingervitis”. Little red-haired geeks don’t know when they are just little children that other children may be suffering even more.
I felt like I stayed determined to wait for the best of them. I knew that it was my mind and my compassion that matters more than a body. Forever guy and I look for those traits in one another.
People are getting married less.
People don’t propose marriage as much anymore. Not just to me, of course.
It didn’t all change with Disney’s Frozen, or the death, (or Megixt) of Prince Charming, people are less inclined to get married these days.
People can’t afford to marry with the wealth gap, global uncertainty, gig economy, and less need for babies. Social roles have changed. Many are distracted with other things such as a scary world.
But, still, there’s a sorrow to the end of “the happily ever after” screeching, lying fairy tale.
Romancing the stone.
The romance part, all those men I deeply loved, has floated away like mist. All those men, many of whom I deeply loved — and in many ways always will — do not have the slightest idea I keep and cherish their diamond rings.
I am completely aware that more than one of them is cubic zirconia. But that doesn’t diminish its gleam in the least. On the contrary, I always knew their tender feelings were genuine, and that is what matters. “Fake” sparkle still sparkles as a beautiful bling.
I really miss all those guys. I know we would be true friends in this new millennia that allows mixed coed friendships.
I have lost contact with all of them, except an occasional terse Facebook greeting.
I still love the diamonds, however. Sometimes, I even wear one or two. My husband is secure enough — no wait change that to completely uninterested enough — to never feel even the slightest tinge of jealousy.
He knows I chose him. He knows I love the best of the best of all diamond rings that gets banged around quite a lot while we do farm toil together. He and I know we wear one another’s rings for life.
They say a diamond is forever. But that defies the the laws of physics. After all, we are all just carbon — the boys I loved, my man, and the diamonds.
What lasts forever is love.
Previously published on Medium.com
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