Ah yes, I remember my junior high days fondly. Those were the days, weren’t they? What? They weren’t??? Let’s recap, shall we?
Growing up in a small town meant there was only one high school and one junior high school. There were two elementary schools feeding into the junior high school which meant you knew half of your classmates when you entered the 7th grade. You knew who the kids from the other school were because you hated them! Well, I guess hate is too strong a word, but they were not cool! It didn’t take long to make new friends (even from the dark side) because we were lumped together in a variety of classes.
Our school was experimenting with “tracks” which meant the smart kids were in Track 1, the almost smart kids were in Track 2, the almost dumb kids were in Track 3, and the dumb kids were in Track 4. It didn’t take long for us to realize that was going on because you always saw the same kids in every class and you wondered what happened to some of those kids you used to know. Of course they based this classification on those standardized tests we were forced to take. I always did well with those tests, so I was put in Track 1. That was not necessarily a good thing! This meant I had to work hard to keep up! I actually had to pay attention and do the homework! Why couldn’t they put me in Track 2 so I could coast for the next two years? It didn’t help that I was following one year behind my sister who suffered from such an intense desire to please the teachers that she became an overachiever. I entered 7th grade with the teacher’s expectation that I too would overachieve. I was happy with just achieving! So I was deemed to be a student who was “not living up to his abilities.” It’s not true! My abilities include not really caring about pleasing authority figures, so I was right on target!
Socially, I was way ahead of my time! I really knew how to talk to the ladies! If I liked a girl, I would make sure she knew it by how I never talked to her. There is one girl I remember from the 7th grade who ended up becoming my “girlfriend.” I never held her hand, and I never kissed her! Somehow she found out I liked her and she liked me, so we became an item for a week. I’m not exaggerating! It lasted one week! At the end of the week, she decided she couldn’t handle my awesomeness and she moved on. I think I said, “okay, that’s cool,” and then I breathed a huge sigh of relief because I really had no clue what I was doing! I’m sure to this day that I ruined the other guys’ chances with her because she will always compare them to me. Trust me – my skills did not improve when I reached the 8th grade! Or the 9th grade. Or yesterday!
How about gym class? I’m sure my athletic skills would help me excel in gym class! This was the only class that started with changing into our gym clothes, moved on into sports like dodgeball, volleyball, track & field, and every other sport except for one I may have excelled in, and then ended with nudity in the locker room! At least in the locker room, I could show off my advanced puberty skills, right? Oh wait, why does that guy have so much hair down there? Are you supposed to be that hairy??? He even has hair in his armpits! What the fuck is going on here?!?! If this happened to me today, I’d blame it on manscaping gone wild! ”Oh, you didn’t know this is how the girls like it? My girlfriend loves it like this!” I spent most of the 7th grade gym class wrapped in a towel.
Okay, so shop class should be good, right? That’s the class where you learn to use tools to make things. One of the larger employers in our town was a company that made tools. If you wanted to work in that factory the rest of your life, you better excel at shop class! So, while one guy was making an elaborate table leg with the lathe, and another guy was making a cabinet with a door and everything, this guy was using a band saw to cut wood into what I thought would be a Volkswagen Bug. It was going to be a pen holder with the pen in the middle of my Bug. So I cut the wood carefully into the shape of a Volkswagen. I sanded it down, lacquered it up, and presented it to the teacher (who, if memory serves, was missing a finger or two – or maybe that’s wishful thinking). He took one look at my Volkswagon, turned it upside down and declared it to be the funniest looking Mickey Mouse he had ever seen! Now I’ll never get that job in the factory!
Okay, so maybe junior high wasn’t all that good. Then again, I think my sense of humor is stuck there! Many of the things that made me laugh then make me laugh now. They all involve bodily functions like farting, farting with your hand in your armpit, farting by blowing on the palm of your hand, belching, swallowing air so you could belch again, saying the alphabet while belching. The list is endless! One persistent rumor was that a football player set the record by farting for 14 seconds. I wonder who thought to time that! That guy is probably working for ESPN now.
As for me? The awkward, nerdy kid became an accountant. I figured out a long time ago that you can try to fit in where you don’t excel and look like a tool, or you can fit in doing what you do best and become King of the Nerds!
On my FAQ post, the responses were mainly about my smile. I thought I’d try and share with you some of the most memorable encounters I’ve had with people due to my smile.
As a kid, it was a non-issue for my friends and family. It was just how I smiled. It was a part of me that made me unique. I had a few negative experiences, one of which comes readily to mind. It was easy to find people to play a baseball game in the Presbyterian Church field. It wasn’t really a baseball diamond – we just made it that way. One day, after months and months of my ignoring this kid who kept calling me “crooked lip,” I cracked and called him by his middle name. He threw down his glove and came toward me ready to kick my ass. I stood my ground and said, “You’ve been calling me “crooked lip” for a long time and I didn’t do anything about it. This is the first time I called you by the name your parents gave you and you want to fight me? That’s pathetic!” He backed down, walked back to his position and never talked to me again.
When I was younger, my mom sent us to the Fraser’s house while she was at the hospital delivering babies (I think it was Carl but it could have been Mark & Martie). All I know is that I was standing up in the rope swing hanging from the Fraser’s tree. My brother, Doug came out and decided to spin me around. I guess when I yelled “STOP” he heard “SPIN FASTER!” I couldn’t hold on and I flew face first onto the sidewalk. To make a long story short, I broke my nose and I lost about 5 baby teeth. The rushed me to the hospital and I ended up needing surgery to put my face back together. The first thing I found out about after I got out of the hospital was that Mr. & Mrs. Fraser wanted to make sure my smile wasn’t ruined! I thought that was really weird at the time, but now it’s a fond memory.
While in boot camp in the Army, I met people from all across the country. This was my first experience meeting a large group of new people who I thought must have seen my smile as an oddity. No one said anything or asked about it until one day, with a big grin on his face, a fellow soldier gave me a nickname. He said, “I’m going to call you Turnip.” When I asked why, he said, “Because your lip turns up when you smile!” I laughed hard at that one!
Since then, there have been random strangers asking me about it. As I age, people have started asking me when I had my stroke. I just tell them I was born with it and that’s the end of the conversation. One time recently, I was sitting at a bar. Next to me was a guy with a hearing aid who seemed roughly my age. We started talking and it turns out that he was an artilleryman for the Army and we both served at Fort Benning,Georgia. He couldn’t stop thanking me for my service to the country. I assumed his hearing aids were the result of blowing shit up. Out of the blue, he said “what happened to your face, did you have some kind of a heart attack?” After briefly considering laughing and correcting him that he meant to ask about my stroke, I just told him about the forceps.
It’s really a non-issue for me. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. It hasn’t stopped me from landing a job, making friends, or having children. Actually, that reminds me. There were a few times while holding a toddler (mine or a niece or nephew), that they would inevitably try to mimic my smile. It made me laugh every time!
Everyone has something that makes them unique. Lucky for me, mine also makes me awesome!
Yes, now stop making me think about my parents having sex!
What number are you?
I’m the 9th kid and the 4th son. While not technically the “middle child,” 9 out of 14 is close enough.
What was it like having such a big family?
Yeah, but you always had someone to play with, right?
And we always had someone to fight with too! During the blizzard of 1978, I spent more time at Shawn & Craig Honnerlaw’s house than my own. I walked through a blizzard with snow drifts taller than I was in order to keep myself from going crazy at home.
You guys could have fielded your own basketball team!
If by team you mean unathletic, uncoordinated people who were 5 feet 5 inches tall on average, then you are correct!
What did your dad do? Did your mom work?
My dad drank. A lot. For money, he worked as an accountant. We weren’t allowed to discuss money so I didn’t know how much he made until he co-signed my student loan. In 1984, he made $45,000. That’s roughly $93,000 in today’s money, so he didn’t do too badly. The house was paid off, so that helped. Mom worked during my teen years, but only as a way to stay sane. She could get drunk on less than one beer.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the metropolis of Wilmington,Ohio. It’s located about 45 minutes from Tri-County and 45 minutes from the Dayton Mall. I always stopped at Dingleberry’s whenever I went to Dayton Mall. First, I went there because of their prices and selection of albums. Beginning the summer before my senior year in high school, I shopped more towards the front of the store.
Wilmington, huh? Did you live on a farm?
Fuck you and the stereotype you rode in on! Small town America isn’t all farms! I spent a summer detasseling corn, which was pretty damn tiring. I made good money, but I learned I’m not cut out for that kind of work! I think our house was the farm house before they built the Southridge subdivision, but that was before our time.
Are you married? Do you have any kids?
I got married at 20 and divorced at 35. We have three sons, 23, 20, and 17. I was married for 15 years and I’ve been divorced for 15 years! I love my kids and I’ve remained active in their lives. I don’t think I’ve been active enough, but they turned out to be extremely well adjusted, productive members of society. Remaining friends with their mother may have helped with that, but I’ll give her the credit she deserves.
Are you seeing anyone now?
In the 15 years since I’ve been divorced, I spent 6 years being the King of the One-Night Stand. I didn’t want to be in a relationship because, if I did, it would have been a horrible idea. I spent the next 7 years trying to be in a relationship with a woman who had two young children. That ended after many years of me trying to help raise her kids while she was their mother and also an expert in early childhood education. I was a fool to even disagree with her! I then spent about 6 months alone until I met the woman I love who wants to be the next Mrs. Whittenburg despite all warnings to the contrary! She’s like the character in the horror movie that makes you yell at the screen “DON’T GO UPSTAIRS!!!” She never listens, she goes upstairs anyway, and she dies a horrible death. Whittenburg men (with a few exceptions, maybe), don’t make the best husbands.
Why do you smile like that?
Like what? Like Two-Face from Batman? Like Sylvester Stallone? Like this? - http://www.chacha.com/question/when-you-have-a-crooked-smile,-what-does-that-mean-about-your-personality
My smile is a byproduct of a doctor using forceps to help speed up the delivery while I was being born. He severed the nerve that controls the right side of my face. I can’t raise my right eyebrow or the right side of my smile. The great thing about that is when I think I’m raising my eyebrows, I look like I’m intentionally raising just the left eyebrow. That trick comes in handy sometimes!
Are you really as awesome as you seem?
No! I’m way more awesome than that!
Is this the last question you’re willing to answer today?
Yes it is. Please use the comment section below if you want to know more.