Tickle Me Surprised!!
Let’s take a quick trip back in timeâ€¦back to the year 1994. Shit was pretty awesome back then, as I don’t really need to tell you: Clinton was in office, Global Warming was just alarmist hippie bullshit, Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first Black President, Bill Bellamy presided over the MTV Beach House, and the image of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears’s genitalia were not yet a piece of the public consciousness. Sure things got rough in there when Kurt died, and Forrest Gump was such a big hit, but Biggie was still around, and then the movie SPEED came out, and the economy was just sailing right alongâ€¦.
This was also the year that my Ali, my best friend at the time developed an intense and consuming crush on a boy we will refer to as â€œElmo.â€ Elmo has a real name, but for security purposes, Ali and I felt it best to conceal his identity whenever we spoke, alluded to, or obsessively passed notes about him. Due to the rabid insane popularity of Tickle-Me-Elmo at the time it was an innocuous, oft-heard name that would draw no attention.
Elmo was the kind of guy who was considered â€œcoolâ€, but not because he was a rich-kid-alpha-male douche, like the majority of the guys at our school, but because he was a nice, laid back kind of a guy who seemed utterly unaware of the schools social caste system and who genuinely seemed to like everyone. He was also cute, in a non threatening, floppy-haired sort of a way that makes the hearts of pre-teen New Jerseyans beat a little faster.
So Ali was smitten, and didn’t know what to do as Elmo had heretofore been dating Beth one of the more gregarious and adored girls in the class. Beth was something of an anomaly in the world of NYC-area prep school girls. Despite her conventionally unattractive appearance, relaxed attitude towards basic grooming practices and her affinity for Brine Lax shorts, every guy in school wanted to be Beth’s boyfriend. It was in this way that Beth managed to snag Elmo, one of the most coveted bachelors in the class. This was my first lesson in the power of self-confidence.
Unable to publicly declare or â€œjustify her loveâ€ (as was the parlance of the time) Ali ached with it secretly for an entire semester. The details of what happened at the beginning of spring term, however are somewhat hazy. Allegedly, Beth broke up with Elmo the day before Claudia Near’s 14th birthday party and shit got pretty real. The party itself was an awkward mess since both Beth AND Elmo showed up. Elmo was clearly a broken man, and sat in the corner by the stereo where he programmed Claudia’s dads CD changer to play U2 “With or Without You” on repeat over and over again, creating a palpably awkward environment and frankly, being a little creepy. Seeing usually cheerful and chipper Elmo with a heartbroken, brooding frown on his face was as out of place and disturbing as watching Tara Reid enroll in Theology School.
The weekend did not soothe his heartache and he broke down Monday in class and cried, which just made him more endearing to every other girl for being so in love and so sensitive and able to show his emotions.
Shortly after the breakup was the 8th grade Halloween dance. I don’t remember a whole lot about it (Green Day. Cypress Hill. Those annoying plaid jumpers that were in style then along with patent leather Mary Jane’s and those stupid kiddie barrettes everyone was wearing in their hair.) I’m pretty sure I had a shitty time, cause 8th grade kinda sucked and if memory serves I hung out by the DJ booth and listened to the slightly misanthropic 9th grader who had agreed to DJ tell me about this awesome British band called Massive Attack that was going to be huge. Anyway as the night wore on, Ali decided that enough was enough; Elmo was single, her heart was afire and time waits for no man.
The next day, a Saturday, after mustering up all the courage she could find, she called him from a friend’s house.
I wasn’t there at the time, so I don’t know exactly what happened but from the details I do have, it seems that Ali asked Elmo out, he stammeringly changed the subject and presently the phone call ended.
The next day, Sunday, she called him to â€œfollow upâ€ as they say, and get his answer.
He was silent for a minute.
“Answer to what?” he queried.
“Um…” Ali was in full on panic mode. “Like…when did you want to go out?”
“Oh. Man. Yeah, I thought you were like… jokingâ€.
It felt a lot like this
The speed of teenage drama being what it is, Ali got over it pretty quickly but she and I sort of stopped hanging out and then my family moved away. After that, everyone went to college and then a couple of April’s ago, at a Nouvelle Vague show at Irving Plaza, I ran into Ali for the first time in almost eleven years. It was refreshingly awesome to run into someone you used to know and find that they not only didn’t turn into a complete asshole, but actually have become the adult version of their younger awesome self.
We found out we live near each other and see each other from time to time and gchat and whatever. So a couple days ago I get the following chat message
Ali: I don’t know quite how to say thisâ€¦.
Ali: I think I’m being stalked by ELMO
Ali: I just got this letterâ€¦i just got an email on my work account that says this: â€œSorry if i have the wrong Ali. This is â€Elmoâ€ from Dwight . I know this is random, actually, u probably have gotten a few of these emails lol. I saw u in a music video on youtube (note to reader, this was a small part in Ali’s friend’s music video which you would only find if you googled her full name), and i decided to poke around the internet to see if i could find an email or something. It seems youre doing cool things? You looked gorgeous by the way. I hope all is well, just wanted to say hello and wish you well. Take care. â€œ
So clearly, as our glorious, carefree twenties faded away, Elmo was taking stock of his past, and decided to Google search Ali.
A few keystrokes and a visit to facebook later revealed that Elmo is a video game and gambling enthusiast living in East Newark, NJ. Brutal.
As I’m writing this, Ali is totally over it, but I’m still fascinated by this turn of events.
On television and in popular culture the myth of adolescence is that cool guys who rejected you will grow up to be brain dead losers subsisting on cold pizza and Coors Light in their mom’s basement, or if you prefer, East Newark, a 10 minute car ride away from their mom’s basement.
They also lead us to believe that given the chance these once-cool guys who were too cool for your introspective, intelligent, non-slutty self back in high school, but are DEFINITELY not cool now, would jump at the chance to date the hot sophisticated, accomplished urban woman you have become.
It’s a cheesy assumption, and its as unfair to judge someone for their lifestlye their crisis-inducing 20’s as it is during their teenage years, but still some part of me is pleased by it. Not in a gloating way, although its kinda cool when certain cliches come to pass, but more because of how strange it can be when your old self catches up with your new self. Like that William Faulkner quote that said â€the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.â€