Friday, September 14, 2012

Thoughts . . . .

The other day, in the weight room at the gym here at the Big U, I was waiting for a guy to finish with the drinking fountain.  He was young, perhaps 20 years of age.  He smelled mildly of either cologne or some kind of deodorant.  This smell mixed with the smell of sweat and the generally close fear and testosterone drenched atmosphere of the place.  It reminded me powerfully of my late teens and early twenties, when I was seemingly incapable of being comfortable in my own skin.  I remember running a lot during those years and now I think I was trying to run out of myself; out of the discomfort of my mind with my body as it adjusted to adulthood.  Of course, it didn't work.  It was years before I could walk the earth in a relaxed manner, not really worrying about how I felt because I felt good almost all the time.  I still do, by and large.  I also became really well conditioned and I am still thankful for that and for the habit of exercising every day.   

This olfactory memory haunted me for several minutes, and I brooded through my next few exercises that I did and on into the locker room afterward.  I recalled in particular walking into the library at Merritt College in Oakland one afternoon, intent on wasting time of course, with my shirt sticking to my armpits which felt clammy and damp and irritated by the English Leather deodorant I was wearing.  I felt like the most uncoordinated, acne-ridden nerd the world had ever known and I was scared of my own shadow.   I was unconsciously convinced that I smelled bad, looked bad, and radiated fear.  This translated into a kind of physical discomfort that only left me when I could go out and run hard for an hour or so, or when I played my bagpipes.  There were no other real outlets.  Reading helped, especially when I would fall far into a work of fantasy fiction, but it didn't give me the release that running uphill for an hour would. 

I now look at my son and hope that somehow he is spared the worst of this.  He is social on a level I was not, so perhaps he'll avoid the worst of it, that dark desperate fear of terminal aloneness brought on by my own failings and discomforts.  He's far better looking than I was (as all hapa kids are) and is happily aware of attention he gets from girls.  Of course, this brings its own set of negotiations with self and others, but I think he'll be up to that.  I'll be happy if he gets past that social paralysis that dogged me into my early twenties.  If he can swing down the street stepping lightly on most days, I'll have done my job and I'll be a happy old guy. 


Blogger Don said...

Sounds like that's exactly how it's unfolding.

I worried about my sons turning out like me but thanks to the fact they grew up in a different environment, to me, and especially to their mother, they're quite the social little beasts. J has his introvert side but he understands and works with it and thanks to scouting and jobs and the fraternity has it quite under control. K never had that particular problem in the first place. And now, after half a century, I'm beginning to wonder if I was really born an introvert myself, or just grew it out of all the hidden fear and mistrust that seems to be dissipating finally ...

I do not miss the fear and mistrust of the world that you describe. It's good to be confident and comfortable as I am, and would really like to know how that earlier life would have turned out had I simply not been so damned afraid.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Well, I'm not too worried about Dayton. I came out of that period pretty well, but while it lasted it was intensely uncomfortable. I also think that being an introvert is neither good nor bad, it just is.

I'd like an answer to the same speculation about life between the ages of 15 and about 22, but fuck it. Unless time is circular or spherical and reincarnation exists and we get to live it again, we'll never know.

For now, Dayton has the usual amount of shyness you'd find in a relatively unassuming 9 year old, but for some reason I think he'll do better than me.

2:45 PM  

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