Before I start I want to thank you for doing this. At the moment I don’t have anybody I can talk to but I really need to get this off my chest and hope it somehow helps. Also, I tried to send you this letter a few days ago but your note saying you are out of letters made me think my Internet somehow failed.
A few weeks ago I was in 12th grade; in a few weeks I’m going to be in 13th grade – at the moment I try to enjoy summer holidays. The 12th and 13th grade are what we call “Oberstufe” which is, I think, an equivalent to high school [in the U.S.].
In my physics class are, next to me, 15 other students. I get along well with most of them; some of them I consider as close friends. As you probably can imagine, only two girls chose physics as advanced class. One of these girls – let’s just call her Aria – is, as I would have described her about two months ago, quite cute. However, two months are a long time.
Seven weeks or so ago, the 12th grade had been on a “study trip” which was to be our last trip together as students. It was in Croatia when we were visiting Baska (a city) where we had about two hours free time. This next part might seem a little weird but I guess…. I’m just a little weird.
When we met at the bus again, I had some Croatian rissole [a pastry often filled with minced meat and fried] with me. Aria and a friend of her were standing right next to me and, even though I knew both of them are vegetarians, I somehow failed to realize that. However, I pissed off Aria’s friend because of the rissole’s smell. I didn’t really get Aria’s reaction because I was just backing off at that moment. In the end I just threw my food into the next dustbin and felt extremely shitty. For some reason I was extremely sorry for what had happened.
To be honest, my first thought was about what Aria might think of me right now. I didn’t really care about what her friend thought, although she was the one who told me to go away. I wasn’t proud of this and once I found Aria alone two days later, I felt like a whining dog when apologizing for disturbing the good atmosphere a few days ago. Little did it surprise me (because I knew she is a very forgiving person) when she said it doesn’t matter to her, but it still was a huge relief for me.
This need to say I’m sorry, the fact that since then I didn’t eat any meat – not because I don’t want to but because I simply can’t – and my mind being fixed on nothing but her gave me a clear sign that I feel more for her than just the cute girl in my physics class. During that trip I saw her laughing, relaxing, thinking and having fun. This feeling grew stronger every day and soon she was the most beautiful, friendly, tolerant, patient, elegant, precious, adorable and simply the most perfect girl – or should I say young lady? – I have ever seen and it feels like I deeply fell in love with her.
And that’s where the problems begin for me. I know that it doesn’t hurt talking to somebody, and for some time I was even confident to just start that casual conversation and then ask her whether she got some time left for me during the holidays. I know that even if she had refused it, she wouldn’t have told everybody about it or just ignored me. In the end I didn’t ask her– sometimes I was just too afraid, and sometimes I wanted to ask her but her friends were around.
Hands down, I’m an antisocial being with no experience in social life. When I told her that I’m sorry, she said that I’m more of a social person than what I look like. I seem like a worm-eaten, semi-good looking creep, having long hair, always clad in black and band merchandise. Leper, outcast, weirdo, misfit. Just unclean. Whenever a teacher is too authoritarian and/or thinks his methods are the best, I tend to argue with him, which again leads to me just saying what I think which rarely is something nice. I guess that’s why I seem like a bastard to strangers.
But I really am not. I can be a kind, loving and peaceful person. I actually care about people that are close to me. And I want to show Aria that I care about her more than about anybody else.
You may wonder why I am afraid. That’s easily explained. To keep it short, for some of my childhood I got harassed by other kids because I was “the stranger” (my family moved to where we live now when I was 8). This pretty much crippled me inside because I was quite young and had never experienced anything like that. From 9th grade onward, things got better. I found friends who stick with me until today. But even though fear and hate vanished, they are still there, somewhere deep inside of me. And this fear makes me lose any courage.
Papabear, I don’t expect you or anybody else to have the one solution for me (but if you do have it, let me know). In about three weeks I will go to school again and then I will see her again. I don’t know whether I will find any courage, but I hope I will. Whenever I see her, it feels like my heart is going to explode, when she’s just asking me for something I love to help her but also feel so goddamn weak and fear acting like an idiot. All I want to do is take her hand and together walk this land.
Not to put the blame on someone else – it clearly is my fault –, my friends make things not better sometimes. Since I told some of them what I feel (hell, I was drunk) they often say things that feel like needles piercing my skin. But, again, they wouldn’t do that if I had the courage to actually do something. And until I have that courage I will probably continue writing a thousand love letters she will never read.
Thank you for being so patient and reading my long letter. I know that this is all messed up, but at least I could tell somebody what is going on inside of me. Maybe you have an advice for me, what I could do to find some courage. Or you could just kick my butt, that might help as well. I don’t really know what to expect right now. I just feel better, now that I told somebody what I feel.
Love, Stefan (Germany, age 18)
(Also, I’m sorry for the song references that might read a little weird)
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I apologize if somehow I missed your letter. I’ll try to make up for that now.
I was half tempted to edit out the rissole episode because I was thinking it’s not very relevant, but I do have a policy of not cutting letters and only editing them (slightly, and not always completely because I don’t wish to alter the writer’s style) for grammar. So, let me just say this about that: you have a perfect right to eat a food item with meat in it in a public place, and if some vegetarian gets her panties in a bunch because of the smell, then she can move her butt elsewhere and stop being a twit about it. This would be different if, say, you were in her home and brought a pot roast, knowing she was a vegetarian; that would be rude. But, in this case, you did nothing wrong, and Aria, who is also a vegetarian, said she was fine with it. So, it’s not your fault. The other young lady was being a sanctimonious snoot about it and needs to get a grip.
But let’s move on to the important point here: Aria and your love for her. Actually, I take my above comment back: the rissole anecdote IS relevant in that it illustrates that Aria is pretty cool. She’s a vegetarian, but unlike her companion, she’s not someone who insists on making other people feel bad about their personal choices. Big point for her side. She also sounds like she’s intelligent and pretty. No wonder you’re smitten.
And, you already know what the problem here is. Your severe lack of self-confidence—exacerbated, if not caused by your being harassed as a child is holding you back. It’s interesting to me that in one breath you call yourself a “worm-eaten ... creep” who is a “weirdo, misfit,” but in the next breath you describe yourself as “a kind, loving and peaceful person.”
There are two voices in your head. That first, negative voice comes from the kids who were judging you badly because of the way you dress etc.; the second voice is your own, which recognizes that you are actually a good, loving person. Clearly what needs to be done here is to silence the nasty voices and allow the real you to come out.
So, how do you do that?
Take notice whenever those voices start saying bad things about you. As soon as you notice them, stop yourself.... And counter what you just said with something positive. For example, say the voice says “you’re ugly.” Stop right there. You know you’re not. You said so in your letter. So, argue with yourself right there: “No, I’m not ugly. Maybe I’m not perfect looking, but I am certainly not ugly. In fact, I’m kinda handsome in my own way” or something to that effect. “You’re unclean!” Stop. “Aw, c’mon, I took a shower this morning and I’m wearing freshly laundered clothes. My hair’s a little long, so what? Jesus had long hair, too.” Well, you get the idea.
As for being “weird”? That’s not a negative thing! That’s a great thing! Sheeple are normal. Dull people are normal. Unoriginal, lazy people are normal. Be weird! Be unique! Stand out from the crowd! Remember, it is the wealthy elite in this country who hate “weirdoes” like you because they can think for themselves. And it’s okay not to agree with your teacher, but kind of pointless to argue with him or her in class. The law says you have to go to class, but you don’t have to agree with your teacher, and you are encouraged by yours truly to read independently of the school curriculum and think for yourself.
So, now here’s my question: if you can give a teacher back talk in a classroom, thus challenging the teacher’s authority, why can’t you take that same bravery and go up to Aria and tell her you like her? I’ll answer that for you: because you respect and admire Aria more than the teacher and, therefore, fear her rejection more than the teacher’s, or, as you put it, “fear acting like an idiot.”
Once you get those negative voices out of your head, take that authority-defying courage you’ve got in your belly and talk to Aria. Embrace your weirdness and be you. Walk up to her and say, “Aria, I just wanted you to know that I think you’re cool. Thanks for not freaking about the rissole thing. I’m trying to eat less meat, actually. Can you recommend a good vegetarian place?” And if she does, say, “Could I take you there for dinner?”
What’s the absolute worst that could happen? She could say “no, thanks,” in which case you’re no worse off than you are now. Actually, maybe a bit better off because your friends will have to admit you’re not too shy to ask a girl out. And, if she does say no, say, “Well, okay, let me know if you change your mind, because I haven’t changed mine.”
And, of course, maybe she’ll say yes. In which case, you’re golden.
Stefan, you already know the answer to your question. You just have to get out of your own way.
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