Wildwood Daze – Summer of 1977 – Terri – First Love – Part 2

I was excited at the prospect of taking a cute girl out on a date. If felt like the planets were lining up. I was working at the motel doing my usual glamorous scrubbing of the tiles when sweet Terri appeared and came out to chat.

“My dad said it was okay for me to go out with you on Friday.”

Those words exploded in my young mind like fireworks forged from dopamine.

“Great! It’s a really good movie and you’re going to love it. I’ll pick you up at 7 tomorrow?”

“Sure. I’m excited.”

This was like a classic boy meets girl fable. Boy is from the city. Everyone hates him and he’s ugly. He goes to the seashore for the summer, his skin clears up, get a job and meets a pretty girl from another town from far away and they go to the fair.

My anxiety was running super high the day of the date. I had lived with anxiety my whole life. People that don’t have it don’t understand it. They can live such better lives. They can just be happy, calm and do things without some weird crazy fear.

My sister Janice is a perfect example of a clear minded, stable person. I was so messed up my family even came up with an acronym to describe me. ARM. Anxiety Ridden Mess. I know that sounds cruel, but I actually coined the phrase and they just went with it.

When you have anxiety, it creates all kinds of bad symptoms. Mine was panic attacks, sense of dread of being in danger, paralysis, and worst of all physical illness.  I always had this fear of throwing up in public in front of whoever I was with at the time. At the heart of my disorder was the fear of something new, or different. I wanted badly to date girls and kiss them and hold hands with them, but the fear of actually having to do it was debilitating. Things that bring most people joy and are fun, just grind my mind and gut into powder. I remember that shit starting when I was around 6 years old, and will write about it another time. Let’s get back to the story at hand.

Read more here: (Because this is a dating blog and not a site about mental disorders)

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

Hours before the date I was having bad anxiety.  Restless, I even took a bath. I hadn’t done that since I was a little kid, but I thought it might calm my nerves.

It didn’t work. The deadline was approaching. I knew I had to force myself to do these things if I wanted to ever overcome this disorder and have a semblance of a life.

I’m actually feeling a lot of anxiety just writing about this moment in my life.  My stomach is upset, and my shoulders are tight, and I’m on edge. I’m sitting at a table in the corner of a restaurant I frequent. I had lunch here earlier. It’s Misconduct where I have taken several dates and is a place of comfort. But I’m still having the fear composing this piece. I didn’t think this would happen, but it feels like I’m right back there before the date in 1977.

But I’m not, and I have to tell this story. Once it’s finished I’ll feel better that I finally got it out. Writing is one form of therapy that has really worked for me my whole life.

I just ordered a Manhattan hoping that’ll knock the edge off the fear. Anyway, back to the story…

So, I get dressed and try to look my best. My stomach is empty so I can’t throw anything up. That was my usual go to move back then, but that can cause headaches and weakness of spirit later. I pull myself together, look in the mirror and take a deep breath and head out the door to the motel.

I should be happy to be finally going on my first date with a cute girl. But what I’m feeling will haunt me well into middle age. I’ll just have to learn how to cope with it. Back then there was no medicine or therapy for kids like me. If there were I never took anything or talked to anyone. Part of me is glad I never took any medicine for it. Because where I am in my life now is a better place mentally than I’ve ever been.

“I used to be at war with my demons… but now we’re all on the same side.”

I know anxiety and depression so well and their symptoms I have rewired my brain to head them off faster and earlier so that they can’t get the upper hand, but it’s still a fight. It’s called evolving and coping. Something my own father never learned how to do. I never knew he suffered from OCD and high anxiety. I just thought he was uptight and controlling and got pissed off a lot. Rage is one of the things that dissipates anxiety.  I learned this one  day I was driving to a first date with a girl shortly after the separation with my wife. I was so scared and nervous I had a double plastic bag on the seat next to me if case I had to pull over and puke before the date. I hated the feeling and also throwing up, but it made me feel better after I did it and I could go through with the event.  But somebody cut me off in traffic on the highway and I got angry. The fear vanished. In that moment I understood a part of myself and my father that not even he knew. That shit works, but is only a band-aid, not anywhere near a long-term solution for treating your anxiety.

I’ll wrap this story up tomorrow!

 

 

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Sun Stories: Haley – Lightning in a Bottle

“Now with what I’m describing you’d think that this young lady is a perfect little angel.

Quite the contrary.”

I got a text from Achilles (See: Sun Stories: Achilles, 2016 to Present – The Bronze God) He asked if I could work open to close today. That’s 10am to 8pm, on your feet, running around the salon for 10 hours. I agreed, because I have a flexible schedule at my other job, and I think he may have come down with a cold. On top of that it’s been thunder storming all day, and he probably doesn’t want to come out in this mess.

So I’m at the salon, and it’s a pretty quiet day. You’d think more people would come out to tan on a rainy day, but it’s the other way around. They come when it’s warm and sunny out.

I’m just standing behind the counter writing my blog on the computer. When in walks this cute 19-year-old girl. Raven hair, blue eyes and fair skin. She says my name, and I do a double take.

“Don’t you recognize me because I’m not tan?”

“Oh my god! Haley!”

I come from around the counter and she goes in for a big hug.

“I missed you!”

From mid April until the end of August is our busy season at the salon. We can’t provide the level of service that our customers deserve with only one person on shift at night. So Achilles usually will bring on a second person at night to ease the flow of clients. Haley had been working every summer at the salon since she was 16 years old.

Haley has a sister Elisa that’s a year younger that she is. She comes into tan but never worked here. Elisa’s cute, but Haley’s beautiful. There’s a difference.

Haley was also a straight A student last year in her senior year. Beauty and brains. A deadly combination. She wants to eventually go to medical school to become a doctor!

So Achilles brought her back again last summer to help out at night. I wondered how that was going to go. Me, a middle-aged man working with a senior in high school.

Well I’ll tell you how it went. It went fantastic! Working with Haley from day one was glorious. She’d been doing the job for two years prior, so she knew everything about the salon. We ran the place like a well oiled machine. I’m driving in the sales. Haley picks up on how I ask every customer if they need lotion or protective eyewear. She starts pitching it to every client thereafter. She’s like lightning when she works. Super fast and really efficient. She knows exactly when to put the laundry in the washer and stays on top of the time when to get it into the dryer. (I love her South Philly accent. Instead of saying “towels”, she pronounces it “tales”. It is to adorable!

“I’m so sick of these tales! I hate the color and they’re too hard to fold and they don’t fit under the counter right!” she would say.

Working with Haley was a total riot. We would take care of the clients but had a lot of fun working together.

On time this weirdo douchebag guy comes in to tan. Haley asks him what kind of bed he wants to tan in. (Stand up unit, or lay down)

He says: “How about a four-poster.”

Haley is silent but I look at him with a hard eye and say: “Dick. She’s in High School.”

Shut that fucker right down.

I see Haley like a daughter or a niece. Gotta protect the young ladies around us.

I told Achilles about the incident and he also gave them his own personal warning to the guy. I don’t know what he said or did, but we never had a problem with this asshole again.

One day told her that out of everyone I knew, she and my daughter Lorelei, are the only people I know who don’t use profanity, which I find very refreshing. Haley responded by saying that she doesn’t curse around parents. (Apparently this is the same story with my kid.) I like that!

Speaking of her parents, she said her dad is a bit of a curmudgeon, but her mom is a total sweetheart. Her mother would always drive up to the salon at closing in her truck with their dog and pick up little Haley. Her mom is kind of hot. But I love that she would always come and get Haley and make sure her daughter got home safe!

Haley went down the shore after graduating from high school with honors and went to work as a server at Mack’s Pizza in Wildwood, NJ for the summer. She told me they originally want her to work a bunch of hours but she told them she was down the shore to have fun, relax and enjoy her summer. She was still making around $800 a week slinging slices to the hungry tourists.

“It’s the most money I ever made at a job in my life!” she squealed to me today.

Currently she is in college and working part time at an Italian restaurant in South Philly.

Now with what I’m describing you’d think that this young lady is a perfect little angel.

Quite the contrary.

Sure, she’s a great student and is a really well-behaved kid. But technology is much better than when I was a teenager. She has a fake ID that looks exactly like a DMV issued drivers license that says she’s 21. She showed it to me and it looks better than anything I’ve ever seen. That’s so she can get served and go into bars and nightclubs.

She’s a good girl and has a nice guy she is seeing, and she behaves herself. They play it cool and are careful when she and her friends go out. They mostly just like to hang out somewhere and drink beer like teenagers have done for decades.

I love the paradox of the brilliant, beautiful student that has a touch of. I can trust that in a woman.

I remember she would bring her laptop into work and do her homework sometimes. The customers didn’t know what she was doing, and could care less. They just want to hop into an available bed and get their tanning session, and get on with their day. But I know Achilles doesn’t like any of his employees focusing on anything but the clients and what’s going on in the salon. I get it. It’s his business and the salon is his livelihood. But Haley is such a good student with high aspirations, and I never said anything because she’d been working there off and on for three years. So I didn’t care what she was doing because at the time I didn’t know what his arrangement was with Haley after all of that time.

Besides she was always all business when it came to being on point in the salon every night. She made my life easier and I absolutely loved working with this lovely, lively girl. She’s so full of life and apparently I’m good at making her laugh.

When she worked the Saturday shift, (Which is from 11am to 6pm) sometimes her  classmate, Lia would come in and hang on the couch and keep her company. I get it. It’s a 7 hour shift and teenagers get bored easily. She’s a pretty black girl and she’d sit on the sofa and hang with Haley, bring her coffee and snacks to pass the time because weekends are slower than nights during the week. I mean, I’ve had friends come and hang at the salon and chat with me while I’m working. On any given night, Church will swing in and hang for an hour until we go to the bar after I close up shop. (See: Church – 2012 to Present – Brand Ambassador)

But Achilles found out this black girl was hanging out on Saturdays and wasn’t happy with it. Again… it’s a business and his livelihood and didn’t want a bunch of kids hanging around in his salon not doing anything. I get it. He’s right, but I went in once on a Saturday to make sure everything was cool, and to tan. (I like to tan on days I don’t work. It just feels better) I had the pleasure of meeting Lia. She’s a lovely young woman who has been accepted to Yale!

Yes. I said Yale. You don’t get into Yale being a crazy reckless youth. This girl is going to go on to do great things in her life. She’s sweet, charming, and obviously very intelligent and focused on her future.

So my girl Haley surrounds herself with great people and I’m really proud of her. She gives me hope for the future youth of America!

Oh, and she has the exact same birthday as my daughter, Lorelei! Haley is 11/17/97 and Lor is 11/17/96. Two  Scorpios. Don’t mess with my girls or you’ll get stung!

I was so happy to see my former co-worker today. It made my 10 hour shift on my feet running around on a very rainy day just a bit sunnier. Haley is a ray of light that I am happy to have had the opportunity to work with and have in my life.

Oh… one more thing. Haley isn’t on ANY social media. Just doesn’t see the point of it. Hope!

Seeing her today inspired me to write about her, and I am now going to publish another piece about our adventures at the tanning salon. I’ll give you a little hint: While we were working together we came up with official rules for the salon, based on some of the stuff Achilles would lay on me about how to run the salon. We also created lists of clients we loved and hated. But the funniest list we made was the “Things that Annoy Us.” You may not get all of them, and I will explain what they mean in this future post. But if you’ve worked in retail or the service industry, you should be able to relate.

I love Haley, and didn’t realize how much I missed her smile and laughter until today!

 

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