Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Rival

While visiting the family for Christmas, I amused myself by rummaging through a drawer full of old photographs. There was stuff jammed in there from before I was born all the way up into the 2000s. I found lots of pictures of pets (Henry the Cat was a favorite, and might have had more photos taken than any other family member, R.I.P.), family vacations, and tons of photos of me and my sister holding fish.

I also found many pictures of me wearing clothes that hipsters would kill for nowadays.

Exhibit A.

I was looking for Halloween pictures, since my sister and I can't remember any of our costumes, even though we remember going trick or treating and wouldn't have gone in street clothes. That's just not done.

I didn't find any of those, but I did come across some photos taken at our big performance at this drama day camp we went to. And yes, I went to drama day camp. It helped me become the man I am today.

That's when I saw him. My middle and high school rival.

Actually, I never really knew the guy, so I don't know if you can technically call him my rival. No, you know what? Screw that guy. Yeah, he was my rival.

Let's call the guy Chet Goodwin. It's close enough, and have you ever known a good Chet?

He was my age, and took a lot of classes at the place my sister took ballet. This was enough to get me to dislike him, since I had to hang around the boring studio with nothing to do waiting for her after school. Chet was the star of the end of the year performances, at least according to my mom. And I guess he was, since there was a photo of him in among the rest of the pictures of my sister dancing.

"That little Chet Goodwin is a great dancer," she'd say. I didn't care, since at that age and in those homophobic times, dancing was strictly for dillweeds and gaywads,* but it might have bothered my sister.

He was also in the gifted program, like me (my mom was actually the county's gifted teacher, so there might have been some nepotism involved). I got to hear about how smart he was all through middle school.

Somehow my parents kept up with him, even though I think he went to a different high school than I did. I still got to hear about how smart, talented, and well-dressed he was. That last one didn't really bother me. I mean, check out that photo again. I was styling.

I swear my parents got some sort of Chet Goodwin newsletter or something, keeping them abreast of every fascinating thing that stupid kid did. Naturally, I hated him, even though we had never met. For years this guy was held over our heads as the ultimate teenager. I can even vaguely remember yelling out at the dinner table, "Well, why don't you adopt Chet Goodwin," although that could be one of my faulty memories.

As I drove home Christmas afternoon, Chet Goodwin was on my mind again. I hadn't thought of the guy in over 20 years, but now I hated him again as much as I did when I was a teenager.

"I'll bet Chet Goodwin gave his parents a Lexus for Christmas," I fumed. "And is probably with his photogenic and loving family right now cleaning the oil of sick pelicans with their spare hundred dollar bills."

I looked him up on Facebook as soon as I got home. I hoped he was homeless. I was so looking forward to calling my parents.

"Hey, we know some of the same people," I thought. "No relationship status, but kids. Shit, wonder if he got divorced or had a wife who died young? Aw, that sucks."

Maybe it was the lingering Christmas spirit or my concern over his poor dead wife, but I couldn't hate the guy any more. I mean, hadn't he been through enough? Plus, I have more hair, and am probably a better dancer nowadays.

Jealousy is a pretty stupid habit. Even worse is comparing second-hand stories and Facebook profiles to your own life. Everybody has their secret trials and tribulations, and people who you think have it all figured out are frequently as clueless as you are. I mean, poor Chet Goodwin had an imaginary dead wife. I didn't friend the guy or anything, but I did feel a little better putting our one-sided, long-dormant, and forgotten beef to rest.

I still told my parents that he was a homeless crack addict, though.

*These were actual insults at the time. None of the kids who slung them around had any idea what they meant. I still don't. I mean, dillweed?

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