As much as I pride myself on my ability to eschew shopping for new clothes in my twenties, as a young teen I had major mall madness. My condition had a specific remedy: almost all the money I ever made or was gifted went directly into the dank and cologne-infused cave known as Abercrombie and Fitch.
I am baffled by this past behavior. First of all, Abercrombie was so expensive. Apparently, at the time I simply didn’t have the mental capability to just shop somewhere cheaper (or not shop at all). Second, the expensive purchases were pretty much all sexually suggestive. I wish I could blame my youthful stupidity, but I totally understood my t-shirts that had “Abercrombie Camping: Forget your Clothes” and “Freshly Squeezed” emblazoned across the chest. I just figured people wouldn’t notice. I honestly have no idea what I was thinking. Whenever I started up with a guy, and he assumed I was anything sluttier than a rather chaste fourteen-year-old, I would be dumbstruck, even though my clothes were practically screaming “I’m easy!” Needless to say, my “50% Single” and “If You Got It Flaunt It Beach Party” tees have not been seen since 2003. — Contributing Writer Alice Stanley
I got my first e-mail account in 1998, just after I started high school. For me, personal email was still a novelty, and something that I didn’t quite understand — which is why, for instance, I thought it would be too risky to put both my first and last names in my address (hence: darrylC@onlinemac.com).
In my naivety, I spent a lot of time forwarding chain emails. This was, you have to remember, before the word “viral” had any metaphorical meaning, before people could propagate memes on YouTube and Facebook and ytmnd.com, before the combination of Google and Snopes.com became the preferred method of debunking internet legends. So I forwarded everything, from lists of blonde jokes (“…shine a flashlight in her ear!”) to surveys about my taste in music (“What’s the most embarrassing record you own?”).
To be honest, although I genuinely did believe that most of those emails were funny or amusing or a decent way to waste a few minutes, I also forwarded them because most warned of dire consequences for my adolescent love life if I didn’t. After all, I had enough trouble around girls as it was — why take any more risks than necessary? — Assistant Editor Darryl Campbell
Like many twentysomethings, my drivers license still has a photo taken of me in high school. In this picture, I appear to carry just a tad more weight; my vital statistics on the card confirm that I have indeed shed a couple pounds since then. To what can we ascribe this change in size and appearance? I’m fairly certain it’s related to my loss of love for Costco.
The sheer amount of food I consumed as a teenager were horrifying. Carbs were my addiction, and Costco, by selling the “Big Gulp” size equivalent of everything, was the enabler. Plastic boats of croissants, muffins, and cookies trembled in my presence. Crates of frozen mini-pizzas and sodas were no match for the metabolism of a fifteen-year old boy. And then there was the time a friend’s mom dropped almost $500 on food supplies for a Costco-furnished Super Bowl party. I ate so many bratwursts that the Finance Minister of Germany should have written me a personal thank-you card for supporting his country’s economy.
After visiting Costco last weekend, the only food items I left with were spinach, almond butter, and organic brown rice. Not only have my eating habits changed, but my enjoyment of the Costco experience has as well. The novelty of free samples has been replaced by the grim sight of elderly employees robotically hawking salsa, detergent, and kitty litter. Navigating the canyon-like aisles used to be an adventure; now they are treacherous with bargain-seekers bumping jumbo carts. At checkout, a man was asked by an employee: “How are you doing today?” “Broke!” he said, pointing to a cart laden with home supplies. The uneasy tone of their chuckles left me unsettled. While it once beckoned as a bigger-than-life warehouse of limitless consumption, now shopping at Costco just feels like a necessary evil during slim times. — Contributing Writer Daniel Adler
My first crush was on a girl named Emily Howard. She was a brunette and awkwardly tall (she had at least few inches on me). Thinking back, I’m not really sure why I liked her. Emily wasn’t pleasant, and any part of personality that deviated from a pale imitation of Daria could best be described as bland and forgettable. I mean, she wasn’t even that cute. Seriously, bro.
But Emily remains my greatest unrequited pursuit. I put it all on the line when I crafted her a mix CD — I know, the Donnie Darko of romantic gestures — which she never complimented me on. Or acknowledged. But can I really fault Em for that? It was an era when Jimmy Eat World, Alien Ant Farm, and Pink Floyd dominated my Winamp (remember Winamp?), and I’m pretty sure that mix CD included at least three songs by Incubus.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally check up on her Facebook profile. (Hey, look at that, she was tagged in a new photo.) And if she were to send me a message that said, “Hey Kevin, just found that mix CD you made me in high school and I adore it,” then I would be beside myself not to move to Boston immediately and see where things went. Right?
As the saying goes, “high school never ends.”
Okay, I think that’s a line from an Incubus song. — Editor Kevin Nguyen
No one understood me in high school except for Sylvia Plath. At least that’s what I think I thought back then. Her brutally dark and personal poetry was the intellectually stimulating, emotional outlet I needed. While everyone else was aimlessly cruising through their normal, unenlightened existence through high school — with the proms, committees, and football — I really knew what was going on in this life. Sylvia Plath told me so.
During our freshman year poetry presentation, I chose Plath’s “The Stones,” a grisly poem describing Plath’s numerous encounters at the hospital and the meek attempts to put her back together: “On Fridays the little children come / To trade their hooks for hands. / Dead men leave eyes for others.” Needless to say, it killed the mood for the rest of class. — Writer Jordan Barber
I don’t think any discussion about embarrassing obsessions from high school is complete without a discussion of Magic: The Gathering, the collectible card game that devoured my weekly allowance and lawn mowing earnings throughout middle school and into freshman and sophomore years. One of the few things more embarrassing than admitting to youthful follies of Magic, though, is admitting to once playing the game with a serious, tournament-level intensity. I’ll cop to that latter part.
The highlight of my Magic career took place when I was fourteen. My dad drove me and two friends to a tournament at The End game center in Charlottesville, Virginia, an hour-long drive that my dad spent listening to Car Talk and questioning the generosity of his gesture. For me, this tournament was a culmination of months of research and fine-tuning, of afternoons spent reading tournament reports and deck analyses. I had settled on playing Rebel-geddon, a white deck that would overwhelm my opponent with creatures and then destroy their mana supply. It was a thing of sleek and destructive beauty, and it needed to be, because both the day’s winner and runner-up would be invited to the Junior World Championships.
I cruised through the early rounds, dispatching a kid half my age who barely understood the mechanics of the game in the process. My friends long-since knocked out of competition, I found myself in the semi-finals, one match away from being invited to Orlando to play against the best under-sixteens in the world. My opponent kicked my ass — his Chimeric Idol was unstoppable, and even my Wrath of God was useless. But I didn’t mind too much. I left with eight free booster packs and enough success to rub in my friends’ faces.
The next year I played a domain joke deck at the Virginia State Championships. When the seven-year-old I had beaten in the junior tournament tore me limb-from-limb in an early round — he was now eight and more clear on the rules — I dropped out, sold my cards to a vendor there in the Holiday Inn ballroom that hosted the tournament, and used a pay phone to call my dad for a ride home. I couldn’t drive yet, but I had already outgrown my desire to play on the Pro Tour. — Contributing Writer Tim Lehman
At some point around Junior year, more as a result of spending too much time on the internet than of seeing the film Waking Life, I became fixated upon the idea of having a lucid dream. Looking back, though the obvious motivation for exercising conscious control over my dreamworld would be to rectify my lack of success with corporeal girls, I recall that I basically just wanted to give myself the powers of a Dragon Ball Z character. This is an embarrassing admission for a number of reasons, particularly since by that age I had long feigned disinterest in Japanese culture, but today I’m mostly ashamed that flying around and shooting lasers out of my hands was the best thing I could imagine doing with omnipotence.
Back then, as now, I could never shut up about something I was obsessed with, so I started to tell all my friends about lucid dreams and how, allegedly, to trigger them. Because I was trying so hard to control this involuntary process, I had no luck. But since my friends likely only half-listened to my blathering, these ideas must have filtered down to their subconscious minds, which, of course, is the only way to make this stuff work. Soon I was hearing reports of their awesome lucid dreams, and I was feeling seriously ripped off.
But then, every so often, I would be presented with a triggering scenario as I slept. (The light switch trick from Waking Life is one example. If you try to turn the lights off while dreaming, nothing will happen, you will realize you’re in a dream, and you can take control over it.) I would walk over to the switch, flip it, notice that nothing changed, pronounce that I was asleep, then become so excited that I was finally lucid dreaming that I would wake up. — Editor Nick Martens
I truly believed in the book report I gave on Timothy Leary’s The Politics of Ecstasy in 11th grade. In the ’60s, thirty-year-olds were taking hallucinogens for the first time and thinking that they had found the key to enlightenment. Doing so before you even have your drivers license makes you ready to jump on board Further with Ken Kesey and change the world’s perception of existence.
If the drug had been a dog, one would say it had bitten me, hard. For three years I immersed myself in Huxley, Leary, Casaneda, Jerry Garcia, and any other dreadlocked burnout to type an essay on their psychedelic experiences. These guys had the answers, and I was determined to follow their teachings. Thankfully, as the old saying goes, I was cured by the hair of the dog that bit me.
If you ever feel like you have dove so deep into the placid waters of hallucinogenic Nirvana that you will never again find the surface, just try taking them at a music festival full of drunk, drugged out hippies. I saw the dark side of every man woman and child that day. There was no enlightenment there. — Writer Locke McKenzie