April 21, 2011

Nathan (Revisited)

Mia is an awesome, nice, kind kid (what else am I going to say - I'm her dad) but she can be a lot. And I mean this in a very good way. A lot of attitude, a lot of ideas, a lot of high-velocity thinking, a lot of verbal communications. Which is why I'm pretty sure that not every kid is going to love my kid. But we're teaching her that she has to be polite, try to be kind and exhibit friendship even if she doesn't particularly like someone. There's one little girl she's having a hard time with. I told her she's your Nathan. I had to explain. Here's how I recapped it a couple of years ago.

When I was in junior high school, I had this friend named Nathan. He was a nice guy but totally spineless, one of those guys you could push around, so desperate for friendship that he'd do about anything. I hate to admit it, but I used that, and him. I mean, he was a friend but maybe I took advantage of it from time to time. Nathan, however, never seemed dismayed by me or my attitude and honestly acted like a friend should.

After junior high school, I moved - not around the corner or across town but halfway across the country. New school, new friends - several of whom I count as friends to this very day - and new opportunities. During my senior year of high school, a new kid arrived. My class had over 400 students so, ordinarily, it would have been tough to pick a new kid out. But this guy was easy to spot. He was extremely tall, wore nothing but black, had more piercings than anyone else in school and had a mohawk. Amazingly, this guy was Nathan.

Here's the part that's tough to admit - I never once talked to him. Granted, it took me a while to be sure it was him, to corner someone who knew his last name. And there was always the appearance excuse I could hide behind, that he looked nothing like his former self. But once I figured it out, I was embarrassed and that embarrassment was two-fold - I hadn't recognized him, a former friend, immediately, and, worse, I'd treated him like shit when he was my friend.


In rereading this, I realize that I was perhaps too charitable towards myself. I was a real and total ass and I totally took advantage of Nathan's own feelings of inadequacy or whatever it was that caused him to be such a lemming. I never did talk to Nathan and I always, to this very day, regret it. I think about him - and what an asshole I was - often. And I guess I don't want Mia to make the same mistakes. Though I suspect she will.

What's your biggest regret? Have you ever had a Nathan?

Posted by Chris at April 21, 2011 7:20 AM
Comments

Yeah, I had a Nathan. Someone who was my friend but I cut out of my life completely and got the rest of the class to shun. I felt horribly for years and found her on Facebook last year. It took my months to gather the courage to send her a message but when she replied kindly and said all was good, I never felt such a feeling of relief. We may never be close again but at least now we have cleared the air and are friendly.

Posted by: Aurelia at April 21, 2011 7:32 AM

I had a Wendy. She was taller than everyone and you could make her blush easily. Oh how I tormented her! However, I really admired her,a nd though our lives went in separate ways after High School, whenever I went back to our home town I went to her shop to see her.
I suspect she never forgave my teasing, because she never sent Christmas cards or anything (I did, cause I actually liked her), and I never had a chance to say, "You know all that teasing I did? Well, it's because I actually admired you back then."
Well, Wendy was Bi-Polar (did not know this) and two years ago, committed suicide.
I know I could not change it, but I feel badly that she never knew that I thought she was something special.

Posted by: Maribeth at April 21, 2011 8:49 AM

I never had a friend like that but I still regret this thing I did to a kid named Kenneth. In 7th grade, he really liked me. He wrote me a love letter and printed it. This was long enough ago that it was printed on a dot matrix printer, the kind with those long sheets of paper with the perforated side edges. Anyway, I was a real meanie to him and corrected his grammar and returned it to him. After repeated attempts at wooing me - and each time I shot him down - he eventually turned on me and hated my guts. To this day, I still feel really awful about it.

Posted by: Claire at April 21, 2011 10:05 AM

I was Nathan... but I don't really care. It made me self reliant and strong. It made me form my own personality based on myself and not as my role as "the pretty girl" or the "funny girl" or any other kind of girl, actually. Being invisible has it's benefits. I know for some people, it hurts their self esteem... and maybe it did mine for a while too. But now, I know I don't have to try to fit into any mold, and I don't really care if the group likes me or not, because I was never part of the group. And not being part of the group, freed me to try a whole bunch of other experiences I might not have otherwise.
The only downfall I can see now is that it's hard for me to accept a compliment, or praise on anything. It's hard to believe that anyone really "sees" me after being used to being invisible. So, I tend to allow very few close friends. Which can arguably be good too. This same familiarity with a disconnectedness, however, also makes it very easy for me to walk away from a friendship when it's crossed a line for me. I don't even feel the need to explain.

I'm not damaged... I'm just not invested in the BS of all that group, approval, clique thing.

Posted by: varinia at April 21, 2011 11:07 AM

I had a Nathan. In Junior High there were very few of us - 8 in my 8th grade class. So we did everything together. One year I decided to not invite one girl to my birthday party. I do not know what I was thinking. I'd read Judy Blume's "Blubber"; I new better, right? Yeah, well, not so much. My other classmates implored me to invite her, to not be so mean, but once I'd done it, I didn't feel like I could cave. I convinced myself that I didn't have to invite her just because she was in my class. She told me she would bring my gift to school, since she wouldn't be at the party. For weeks and weeks she said she'd bring it and even though I didn't care about a gift, like a total git I waited for her to arrive every day and gave her arch looks if she hadn't brought my gift. Finally one day she turned up with a gift bag full of small things I think she'd gathered from her home. One was a pen shaped like an ice cream cone. I was absolutely ashamed of myself even before that day, but I don't think I ever apologized to her. She was a nice girl, but she bugged me for some reason, I don't remember why. After all that, God bless her, she never mentioned it again, and we went on to invite each other to parties, BUT, my classmates gave me my comeuppance by declining to invite me to a party hosted by my Big Crush. I totally understood, although I was disappointed not to have the opportunity to appear in a swim suit at Big Crush's house. I have two and a half regrets in my life, things that I would give much to take back. That choice I made in 1987 is the first, the most, the worst. The next is a very distant second.

Posted by: Brooke at April 21, 2011 11:39 AM

Okay, first: you moved halfway across the country...and SO DID NATHAN? What are the chances of THAT?!
I had a friend named Marjorie that I was friends with in Jr. High but while she was a good girl, albeit slightly mousy, my mother didn't approve because she lived in the "poor part of town" and I told her I couldn't be friends with her anymore and we didn't talk again. I hate that I was such a bitch to her.

Posted by: natalie at April 21, 2011 11:50 AM

I'm very intense re friendships so I've never had a Nathan. I've had a "Nathan" boyfriend or two but that's a different story though ha ha

Posted by: azita at April 21, 2011 11:50 AM

I'm sure I had a few Nathans in my life to some degree. I went to a catholic school from 1-8 grades and they were all the same kids for 8 years with a few that came and went over the years. We almost became siblings we knew each other so well. I didn't push anyone around but I was probably less friendly to them!
My sister and I were just talking about someone who got hit by a train a few years ago....he was a geek and I remember getting embarrassed because he would go to our track meets and sit and talk to our mother!! Oh the horror! that someone would see HIM talking to my mother (she could be bad enough herself some days! haha). Just remembering that and the fact I wasn't friendly to him made me feel bad. I know the me of today would have talked to him (probably why my mother was nice to him...)

Posted by: NancyB at April 21, 2011 2:12 PM

Have you thought about trying to find him and send him a note? Maybe your attitude back then didnt affect him, but maybe a note would make a difference in him today.

Posted by: at April 21, 2011 2:21 PM

I'm trying to think of someone, really, but I'm afraid I might've been the Nathan.

Posted by: Heather at April 22, 2011 2:42 AM

Like Varinia, I was pretty much always someone else's Nathan. I was a painfully shy, bookish only child and my parents moved around constantly when I was in primary school, meaning I was often forced to start at new schools (8 schools by the age of 11!) halfway through the year etc. I became very malleable, very lemming-like, desperate for someone - anyone - to like me, and hated myself for it. Secondary school was more stable (same school from ages 11 to 18) but I was still shy, complexed, inhibited, unathletic (in a sport-obsessed school). I had one or 2 friends, no more.
Even now, I have few friends (but really good ones - it's just that I don't see them very much). And yes, I hated the way people treated me at school ("we'll stop teasing you if you do our French homework for us" "OK", that kind of thing) and still resent those responsible.
And I can't even gloat that I made a huge success of my life, because I haven't - just very, very average.
I'm sure your Nathan - who seemed to have overcome his lemming-ness - couldn't give a damn now about your treatment of him; I never want to hear from my nemeses again because we could never be friends and I don't have anything to say to them.
Kids are cruel and thoughtless beings, and the "damage" done at school can last a lifetime. I don't feel "damaged" by what I went through because it wasn't anything major or tragic (not really bullying), but I certainly remember it and try and help my daughters (particularly my elder one, who is shy like I am) recognise the poisonous types of kid who will hurt them. We had one bad experience 2 years ago and Carla was miserable, but luckily her teacher pushed her towards more "appropriate" friends and separated her from her nemesis. This is something that worries me, even though both girls seem to be doing OK.
Sorry for the saga-comment!

Posted by: Kirsty at April 22, 2011 6:48 AM

I think most of us have a Nathan, and have been someone's Nathan. It's an unfortunate part of learning how to be a good person and friend.

Posted by: Brad at April 22, 2011 11:00 AM

I think I was more of a Nathan then had one... I was a loner as a kid, desperate for friendship, and would go to all sorts of length just to try and be accepted.

Now? I have a few good friends and I'm happy with them. They are family to me. But I also have a lot of problems forging new relationships and often make a serious effort to distance myself form those around me. Part of it is my bipolar and social anxiety, but I think just as much of it is due to not learning the right way to create and maintain relationships in every day life.

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