Thursday, July 9, 2015

Chapter One: Humble Beginnings

Here's the first chapter from my memoir, American Stripper

Chapter One: Humble Beginnings

My childhood and adolescent years were pleasant enough.

I grew up in a rural town in northwest Florida, fairly close to the Alabama state line, where peanuts, watermelon, and cotton were the main crops. Many people felt pride in their Confederate heritage; even the town’s emblem contained the Confederate battle flag and the Bonnie Blue flag.

Though there wasn’t much to do, I loved my town. It had that charm of southern hospitality where people greeted strangers with smiles and politeness. There were plenty of forests and rivers to explore and fish from, and the Gulf of Mexico with its sugar-white sandy beaches was only an hour’s drive.

My parents moved there when I was very young. They met during the Vietnam War. My father was a Southerner and came from a family of coal miners who’d served in the military. My mom was Vietnamese, and her father at one point was the sheriff of a province and owned much wealth and land in the region. My parents had two kids: me and my older, autistic brother.

When I was almost four years old, my father died in a work-related accident leaving my mother to raise me and my brother alone. It was a struggle for her since she had little help, but she ensured that we were clothed, well-fed, and made decent grades. She sent us to a Methodist church, even though she was Buddhist, and enrolled us at a strict private Christian school. As a result, we had a healthy dose of religion in our lives.

My mother spoiled us, compensating for her lack of childhood luxuries. We had the latest video game systems, baseball cards, or whatever else we wanted. However, she did not spare the belt, rod, or tree branch when we misbehaved. One time, when I was seven, I irritated her so much that she chased me out of the house with a butcher knife raised above her head. I hid in the woods for a few hours, and crept quietly back into the house later that evening. She constantly reminded me that if I were in Vietnam, she could beat me to death without legal repercussions. “Good thing we’re not in Vietnam,” I would tell her.

Fearing my mother’s wrath, I got good grades and stayed out of trouble. Like any teenager, I committed a few random acts of mischief, but I never went to jail. I experimented with marijuana and got drunk on occasion, but never made a habit of either. Eventually, I abstained from drugs and alcohol and sought personal pleasures from books and video games.

When I entered high school, things got tough. People said I looked like a kid because I was so short; I was very skinny, too, weighing around 110 lbs. my freshman year. I wished I could be fat, and tried to eat a lot to gain weight.

Being short, scrawny, and nerdy, fitting in with the popular kids was out of the question, so I grew my hair out and wore Iron Maiden or Megadeth T-shirts. My group of friends were considered the “weird kids” at school. I had no dating life. I never had a girlfriend in high school that lasted beyond two or three weeks. These girls always dumped me and ended up dating someone else shortly thereafter. I chalked up my lack of success due to my small stature, but my awkwardness and lack of confidence didn’t help, either.

Homecoming and Prom dances were big events for many other students, but constant disappointments for me. I never had dates, so I tagged along with friends who did, hoping there was a single girl at the dance who was lonely like me. No such luck. During my senior year, a Polish exchange student finally asked me to prom. I accepted. Once we got there, she ditched me to hang out with her friends. It turned out that she used me as a date, so she wouldn’t seem pathetic showing up to prom alone. Several of my peers ragged on me about this, and I laughed off the matter as though it were nothing . . . However, on the inside, I was embarrassed and hurt. 

My whole high school experience was lackluster to say the least. 

 The shortcomings of my social life meant success in academia, though. I earned a scholarship to the University of Florida. My mother was proud, and that made me happy. So I left home to pursue a new life at college, optimistic that the “college experience” would open up new dating opportunities and invitations to parties.

I soon discovered that college wasn’t so much different than high school. Except this time, I was away from the comforts of home.

Next Chapter: University of Florida

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