November 8, 2008

Between the ages of eight and twelve the person who has never been seen in the same room as me lived in Washington, D.C. His family moved back to Charleston, South Carolina at that point, so he had to start seventh grade in a new school with people he didn’t know. Apparently he did in fact know a few of them, from when he’d lived there before, but he’d been seven, and he didn’t remember any of them by now. So it was with great apprehension that he sat down for homeroom in the fourth desk from the back in the far right row. He knew that his comportment over the next few weeks would determine his classmates’ opinion of him and that this opinion would be immutable for all time.

A girl leaned back from the row on his left, two seats from the front, and said, “What’s your name?”

“Joel,” he said.

“Oh, like Billy Joe?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered, “but with an L.”

Whereupon he realized instantly that what she had actually said was “Oh, like Billy Joel?” and that he had effectively ruined any chance he might have had at a social life for the next six years.

He still wonders, I’m told, what his life would be like now if he’d just been listening a little more carefully.

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2 Responses to Between the ages of eight and twelve the person who has never

  1. birdfarm says:

    or if he didn’t think in such black-and-white terms that he was sure his life was over after one comment?

    but seventh grade was very black-and-white, wasn’t it… i helped ruin a girl’s life after she made one such comment (she revealed that she hadn’t seen The Muppet Movie even though she said she had)… Julie S., the new girl, also seventh grade… she seemed like she expected us to hate her and ruin her life… she acted like she was just waiting for the axe to fall.

    not that that excuses my horrible behavior. i hate thinking about that. but i was on the bottom of the social hierarchy and eager to find someone further down to trample…

  2. Esther says:

    How very different does he think life might be like now if only he’d said, “Yeah, just like Billy Joel” back in 7th grade?


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