Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When Late Is Right On Time

My wife and I often joke about how many times the Social Skills Fairy let me down when I was in high school and college. But maybe, just maybe, she knew what she was doing all along.

Let's start with my senior prom. I had to go to it. No really. I had to. I was the class president, so I had to go to the prom. The problem here was going to be getting a date. Despite the fact that I was class president, I wasn't one of the popular kids, and girls weren't exactly beating down the doors to go out with me. Quite the contrary, they often ran the other way when they saw me coming.

I did get a date though. I asked "Jean," a girl I had dated on and off earlier in the year. We were now in one of our "off" phases, but I figured that she'd go with me if I asked. I was right.

Then, 15 minutes later, "Bonnie," a girl I'd had a crush on since 9th grade, but figured was unattainable, came up to me and asked if I had a date to the prom yet.

Where was this girl 20 minutes earlier?

I told her that I already had a date, and went to the prom with Jean as planned.

20 years later the Social Skills Fairy came knocking on my door, saying, "Keith, you did the honorable thing by going to the prom with Jean anyway, but you could've asked Bonnie out for some other time."


And this wasn't the only time the Social Skills Fairy failed me by arriving too late to do me any good. I think of the time, in college, that I walked my good friend "Sarah" home in a really bad snowstorm, and she said that I really didn't have to go home in that weather, that I was welcome to stay at her apartment. I assured her that I could make it the 3/4 of a mile to my house, and went on my way.

10 years later there's a knock on my door. It's the Social Skills Fairy again, suggesting that maybe that wasn't just a friendly offer to come in out of the snow.


There have been many other times when the Social Skills Fairy failed me by showing up too late to do me any good. But I'll spare you, and myself, the painful details of romantic opportunities missed because the Social Skills Fairy was busy somewhere else. What might have happened had the fairy been there when I needed her?

Well, for one thing, things might have worked out. With Bonnie, with Sarah, with Emily, and a number of other girls I was too stupid to catch the hint about or know what to do with. And that would've been a bad thing.

A bad thing? How could it possibly have been a bad thing? Well there's a common theme in science fiction about how one little change in the past can have huge implications for the future. Forget science fiction, take a look at It's A Wonderful Life, and how things would've turned out in Bedford Falls had George never been born. Had things worked out for me with any of the girls I just mentioned, even temporarily, it might have changed things drastically for all of us - and the rest of the world.

It's funny. The Social Skills Fairy arrived right about the time that I met my wife, Cheryl. And all those things she told me about Bonnie, Sarah, Emily, and all the others, she told me long after Cheryl and I were married and had kids. Kids that we might not have had, had she arrived with her advice earlier.

I guess that by arriving what I often think of as "late," she arrived right on time.

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