Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hometown Memories: A Real Life Ugly Duckling Story

(I'm short on time today, so I thought I'd re-share this story that was originally posted in spring 2011. I hope you enjoy it!)

Over the years, when I was still living in Montreal, I bumped into many of my childhood friends. Most of them recognized and remembered me, and most of the time I recognized and remembered them – unless they had changed drastically, which isn’t often the case since many of us don’t change all that much, we just become older versions of ourselves. But once in awhile a person’s appearance changes so much as the years pass that you would never be able to link the two versions (child and adult) together. Such is the case of one of my childhood friends that I did not see until I was in my late 20s. When he was a kid, he was a scrawny, buck-toothed, silly and awkward boy who didn’t rate anywhere on the ‘cute kid’ radar. He was a lot of fun, and one of my favourite friends, but hardly adorable. He wasn’t one of the little boys you would expect to grow up to be a handsome man.

But oh my...

One day while I was scanning items in a supermarket aisle - near my 30th birthday – I felt eyes upon me. Moving my head back and forth while pretending to check out items, and hoping that my peripheral vision would catch a glimpse of the gawker, I noticed a man had stopped a few feet away, just staring at me. It was early afternoon on a weekday, a time where most stores are quiet, so it was just the two of us in that aisle. There was no doubt his eyes were fixed on me; I felt my cheeks getting very hot as I became self-conscious of his blatant gazing.

I wanted to move out of that aisle but I wanted to move out with poise, slowly, calmly, without showing any sign that he had in fact intimidated me. I had no idea what had possessed him to stop and stare. Was he some guy who routinely tried to meet women in a supermarket? Was he a creepy character that I should be concerned about? Would he follow me around the store? To the cash? Into the parking lot? I didn’t know. What I did know is that he was making me nervous. Still, I wasn’t going to grant him the satisfaction of watching me flee in fear. I decided I’d turn around and look at him straight in the eyes as I walked right past him. And when I did turn to look at him as I moved past him with my shopping cart, I found myself face to face with one of the handsomest faces I’d ever seen. My heart skipped a beat (or two or three...), my eyes got big and round and my legs turned to jelly. I could hardly breathe. Or move. Or take my eyes off him. Now I was staring.

That’s when he said my name.

“Martha?”

Huh? He. Knows. Me. ! This gorgeous hunk of a man knows me? ! How? From where? And how could I not know him? Who could possibly forget someone who looks like this?

“Do I know you?” I asked.

“Yes” He smiled. And the universe shook. I swear there was a halo around his head. “From a long time ago.”

Oh, how blessed those days must have been...

When he told me who he was, I had to remember to put my jaw - that had nearly dropped to the floor - back in place. This dazzling, tall, dark, eye-catcher was the same scrawny, buck-toothed, corny boy that I had spent many days playing with as a child. The ugly duckling story that I had read as a child sprung to mind. Here I was standing before a classic example of a complete – and stunning - me-ta-mor-pho-sis.

Reduced to the awkwardness of an adolescent, I nonetheless tried to retain my composure and make casual – and coherent - conversation. It took tremendous effort to stay focused. As he spoke, telling me a little bit about himself and his news, my mind wandered off and I could barely make out what he was saying; I was too preoccupied, wondering if I looked okay, chastising myself for not having taken more time to fix my hair or polish my make-up or dress nicer. What was I thinking coming here without making more of an effort on my appearance? A girl should be prepared at all times; you never know who you’ll bump into at the supermarket, right? I was even filled with anxiety when I couldn’t remember whether I had any pimples on my face or if I had recently plucked my eyebrows or shaved my legs or put on deodorant.

Well.

It turned out he was still single and lived close to my home in the same neighborhood. OHMYGOD. Then he asked about my situation by using three words that had never sounded so obscene in my life: “Are you married?” No? Maybe? Kind of? Sigh… Yes. (Damn it) I was incredibly alarmed to find myself more annoyed at having to admit I had a husband – what kind of person was I? - even though the marriage was a fiasco and a terribly unhappy one. So instead of speaking about a husband that was obviously more of a nuisance in my life than a source of happiness, I focused on my daughter instead, chatting away, hoping to direct the conversation away from the ‘man’ in my life. If I could avoid answering questions about my partner, I wouldn’t have to deal with saying wonderful things about him that I didn’t feel, and I wouldn’t have to concentrate on making sure my eyes and facial expression were up to par with my lies.

After we said good-bye, wishing each other well, I floated through the rest of my shopping spree, imagining all kinds of scenarios that were not appropriate of a married woman, feeling tingling sensations that screamed x-rated. I never saw him after that, which was for the better, but I think about him now and then, and hope he is doing well.

So while some of us do not change all that much as we age, others go through a complete transformation, the man in the supermarket being a fine (oh so fine…) example of that. I would never have recognized him had he not recognized me, and I figure he knew who I was because I was still quite recognizable, albeit an older version of myself. I just hope I made as much an impression on him as he had made on me. One can only hope.

(And just for the record, my second marriage is a match made in heaven because I'm with the most amazing man in the world, so I wouldn’t hesitate to answer that I’m married if I bumped into this man now. Just sayin')

36 comments:

  1. Great story! I enjoyed reading it. I don't remember it from the first time you posted it, so it was new to me!

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    1. It's possible we hadn't met yet, Debra. It was sometime in 2011 that I stumbled across your blog (spring, I think), and this post may have been right before that.

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  2. In our thirties, I would guess that maybe the majority of our childhood friends would still be recognizable unless they went through some type of major metamorphose such as that man did. HOWEVER, I just saw a group picture of my high school classmates at a reunion that I was unable to attend. We are in our early 60's now and I couldn't recognize the majority of them. It seems that weight gain, graying and balding drastically change the way a person looks. Oddly enough, when I went to a wedding in our home town, several people approached me but I had no idea of who they were. I seem to just be an old me.

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    1. I read somewhere that there is a drastic change in most of us between the ages of 50 - 60, so that would certainly attribute to some of us looking very different. But in our youth, I imagine we don't change too much. This man was an exception!

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  3. Loved this story! How great for him that he transformed and nice that you were friends with him in the 'ugly duckling' stage.

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    1. I never thought of him as an ugly duckling. He was one of my favourite friends and we had a great time together as kids!

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  4. What a great story of hope for potential "ugly ducklings" out there. I had someone recognize me from 30 years ago when we lived back in San Diego. She had been married to one of my brother's best friends. After she told me her name of course I recognized her and remembered her, but I might not have if she hadn't said something to me first, so glad this guy did finally approach you and mention who he was :)

    betty

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    1. I'm glad he did, too. It was so nice to see him again. We had a wonderful time together in our childhood!

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  5. Enjoyed reading this story. I was all up in it to see how it all ended. Wonder why he was still single? Between marriages, did you ever think to look him up? I've see a few people from school that have changed drastically too.
    Lisa

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    1. It crossed my mind but I had more important things going on at the time, so I needed to work on that.

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  6. I hadn't read this before - thanks for sharing.

    May you and your amazing man in the world have a very Happy Easter.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you, Jan! I hope you have a wonderful Easter weekend.

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  7. I always like those Maury episodes where ugly ducklings confront the ones who made fun of them in years past

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    1. They get their satisfaction. I don't remember anyone ever being mean or making fun of this man when he was a kid. He was a neighbourhood favourite.

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  8. What a vivid description of this incident. I wasn't going to read this when you said it was a repost. I'm glad I did.

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    1. I was being silly when I wrote it! All joking aside, it was nice to see an old childhood friend, and I was happy that he was doing so well.

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  9. I never read this before must of been before I discovered your lovely blog . I have seen and met up with people I went to school with and didn't recognize them at all but then they said I hadn't changed a bit and yeah know I found my old school photos and I haven't changed much at all. Great story and well written I had a giggle as it reminded me of my self back in the day lol . Thanks for sharing , Have a good weekend and a Happy Easter !

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    1. Sometimes it's fun to run into old friends/classmates/neighbours, especially if you liked each other! Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

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  10. ha! great story. I've not been back to see anyone from High School in all these years .... wonder how many of those moments I might encounter!

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  11. Great story and I loved the ending. That this time, you would not hesitate to say that you were married.

    Hope you had a great week.

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    1. Oh yeah, no way would I hesitate. I've found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow :)

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    2. There must have been two rainbows out that day :-)

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    3. Nope, no rainbows out that day :) It was actually quite a few years before one came along!

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  12. Loved it! Great post/repost :)

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  13. one of the best and interesting story dear Martha ,the way you told it is mind blowing ,

    it happens often that people appear very different what they were used to be in their childhood physically and or in habits and behavior ,best wishes

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    1. Yes, people can and do change! Thanks for stopping by, Baili. It's always nice to see you here.

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  14. Vaguely familiar I think but SO good to read again, Martha.
    You are a very good story teller....you had us both laughing here. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks, Jim. I'm glad you and Ron enjoyed it! It was fun putting it together. I joked around a lot but the truth is that it was so nice to see an old friend. We had so many wonderful moments during our childhood!

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  15. Great story Martha, what an interesting experience.

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  16. Have you Googled him? (Don't answer that.)

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    1. I actually never have. And I don't even remember his family name, only his first.

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  17. I enjoyed this tale, Martha! Your writing is vivd and flows beautifully! Great fun too! Happy Easter!

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