Next week, I unveil the ninth and final installment of my series, Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And even though it's so great that sexual scientists are calibrating its orgasm-inducing qualities right now, I know some people will be disappointed. It's inevitable because in books, like in life, we make certain assumptions about the way things are going to turn out. And sometimes the larger the assumption, the greater the disappointment. Here are sixof the biggest disappointments of my life spanning from pre-K to my first post-college job -- all of which came from flawed assumptions no one ever asked me to make.
I'm not sure how this got into my head. After all, we're talking about when I was four, but I seem to recall hearing all through my early childhood that girls were more mature than boys. Maybe it was just a misquote intended to describe physical maturation. But to young Gladstone that meant little girls weren't petty or cruel. They were above childish playground taunts and silly cut-throat competition.
The Crushing Realization: Little Girls Are The Devil
I remember some boys in pre-K who refused to play with little girls. Cooties or something. I was never quite sure on the details, but I swear I never had that phase. And one day during quiet reading time, I saw two of my classmates sharing a book that I also wanted to read. Undaunted by their lack of a penis, I asked to join in. Denied. And this is a quote: "No. You're a booooooooooooooooooooy." (That's pronounced "boy," but apparently little girls are capable of making that a four syllable word.)
I soon came to realize that if testosterone is the hormone that turns boys to men who wage war on their brother, then latent supplies of estrogen are responsible for fashioning prepubescent girls into Satan's little helpers. I'm sure there are worse things in the world than ten-year-old girls, but thankfully I've yet to encounter them. Sure, Jeffrey Dahmer would drill holes into his victims' skulls in a failed attempt to convert them into sexual zombies, and then eat them, but only a ten-year-old she-beast would go up to a little girl on welfare to show off her $80 dollar shoes. Only a little girl would throw a party inviting everyone in the class except the one girl she hated. If little girls are more mature than little boys, then that means only they've more quickly acquired the shameful skills of adulthood.
I remember being a kid and seeing kids cheat at games. I remember lies told to teachers about the extra Munchkins stolen from Dunkin' Donuts boxes. And I remember just a whole bunch of basically immature, shitty little kid behavior, flowing from thinking that went like this: "who cares about being fair? I want what's best for me." I'd shake my little prepubescent head (which I guess means my head before it sprouted a penis?) and comfort myself with thoughts that one day these kids would have to grow up. Maybe it's because my parents were pretty fair so I kind of assumed that's what grown ups were.
The Disappointing Realization. Grown Ups Are Just Taller Children
I remember the exact day this assumption was shattered. I was about ten years old and in Hebrew School. For reasons that were not clear to me, some kid was throwing sharpened pencils at the back of my head during class. Obviously, because I'm incredibly cool, I didn't tell on him, but I did warn him to stop. He did not. And I did nothing because I didn't want to get in trouble during class. (I was cool and practical!) But when class was over, I walked out to the hall and promptly punched him as hard as I could in the stomach. I then walked to where my mom was supposed to pick me up.
Well, before I got there, I was accosted by this kid's mom who was screaming at me for striking her son. I explained that I wasn't a bully. That her son was throwing pencils at my head. And then she said something I'll never forget: "I don't care what he was doing!" I was pretty stunned. If my mother found out I had first been picking on the kid who then kicked my ass, she would have smacked me herself. But not so with this mom. There was no acceptable reason for her son getting smacked, including him really earning it. I know. I'm bumming you out. Don't leave, I'm about to talk about sex.
I don't know about you, but I did not particularly enjoy high school. Not because I wasn't having tons of great sex with naughty cheerleaders and worldly visiting twenty nine-year-old English teachers from Holland - I totally was. But I thought most of my peers were shallow, sheltered, petty, suburbanite jerks. But come college? Look out! My peers would see the real me! I'd wear a long scarf for no apparent reason and ponder poetry in the windows of 200-year-old institutions, striking the fancy of some bisexual, bipolar girl who dared me to achieve orgasm on the front lawn of the Bursar's office. Or at the very least, no one would call me a fag for liking David Bowie.
The Disappointing Realization: Those Jerks From High School Go To College Now.
Y'know, you'd think I would have seen this coming having actually scored high enough to get into a University, but apparently, it did not occur to me that everyone I disliked was also going off to college too. And that the thick-headed, boring Bruce Springsteen fans of suburban New Jersey I was about to meet were not going to be very different than the thick-headed, boring Billy Joel fans of suburban Long Island I was leaving. (If those musical references are too antiquated, replace Springsteen and Joel with any two nouns in your room and turn my column into your own Mad Libs).
So yeah, it was a depressing realization. But then, in the second half of my freshmen year, this dark, mysterious girl moved in across the hall from me. One day, we got to talking in her room about how cool David Bowie and Alice Cooper were. One thing led to another and suddenly she was making my face up with her mascara, eyeshadow, and lipstick. Y'see, besides being confident in my sexuality, I was pretty sure this was just foreplay. I quickly excused myself and went back to my room across the hall to get a condom. While I was gone, however, my sophomore transfer roommate had invited his gang of well-tailored Sigma Chi date rapists over. My appearance was difficult to explain, but considering these guys literally vomited on each other as part of initiation, I didn't feel I owed anyone an explanation. Anyway, the joke was on them because I totally got - actually I think it just ended up being second base. Maybe shortstop. Is that a thing? Anyway those first two years of college were super rough.