You Can’t Always Get What You Want
“MOM! Can I get the fun cereal, just this once pleaseeee?” I was of course referencing the kinds with shapes and marshmallows.
“No honey, you have enough of that at your Father’s on his weekends with you. Lord knows you don’t need anymore sugar,” my self proclaimed nutritionist Mother said.
“But Madre, none of the other kids have to eat that all natural stuff. They don’t even sell it at normal stores.” I pouted, referencing the special hippie place my Mom bought a bunch of my snacks from. She didn’t buy any of the foods packaged and targeted to kids. There was no color changing spoons at the bottom of my boxes.
I started kicking my legs and squirming around, as I was sitting in the Meijer shopping cart. I was still little enough to ride in there, but old enough to talk back on the regular. I had never been a screamer or a cryer, I was however quite good at using my words to get my way. I didn’t understand why any of my objections weren’t sounding logical to her. I was even demonstrating manners, and still this impossible woman was not budging.
I began what I have come to reference as a boiling internal tantrum. I act extremely aloof as if nothing is wrong, just that whoever has wronged me is of no interest to me any longer. I will not engage with anything they say, and if needed will be very short and curt. All while carrying the deepest look of disdain one can imagine on my face.
We went down the next isle to get more food items meant for a farm animal, and now I even had my arms crossed. A little girl saw me on the other side of the isle, she was very cute and couldn’t have been more than 5. She wasn’t sitting in a cart, and had the superiority of walking around as she pleased. I bet she munched on Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch every god forsaken morning. I hated her immediately.
My new nemesis stared at me smiling, for what felt like an entire commercial break in the 90s. I tried not to look, but her gaze was too powerful. I did not uncross my arms, and decided a nice glare would send her packing and on her way. Instead she began to wave at me.
Is this girl having some sort of episode? Is she looking at someone else behind me? Is this an imaginary friend situation? I was not here for any salutations from an unknown human. No new friends.
I did not wave back, and stared at her like she was a peasant before turning my nose up and looking in the opposite direction. It was at this point she burst into tears, and started tugging on her father’s pant leg.
“Daddy! How come this little girl won’t smile back at me, or wave to me? She’s not being very nice,” she sobbed. He gave my mom and I a weak smile, and consoled his daughter as they left our area of the isle.
My mother had been so busy looking for veggie pasta options, she hadn’t noticed the exchange. She asked me what happened, and I blamed it on her 0 tolerance of sugar in my breakfast foods.
“You made me mad because you wouldn’t get me the cereal I wanted, so I wasn’t going to be nice to that girl. I’m not happy, and I don’t want to be happy with anyone right now!” I grumbled.
My mom crouched down so she was eye level with me, which wasn’t very hard as she was only 5 foot 1. “You can’t always get what you want missy. There is going to be a lot of things that don’t go your way, but that doesn’t mean you can take your anger out on other people. You have to suck it up and be nice to everyone, especially if they didn’t do anything wrong to you. You don’t know how much a smile or a wave could have meant to that little girl.”
Over 20 years later I still think about this interaction. I can see that little girl’s face in my head, going from the most genuine of smiles to sniffling away in tears. I try to think of my mother’s words whenever I’m upset about something. You can’t always get what you want is a hard realization for me. I have OCS, getting what I want is what I do. If not at the first try, maybe the second, or the third. There was no challenge too great.
“But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” What a concept. Trying doesn’t feel good enough for me. Trying doesn’t feel like winning. Needing isn’t wanting.
Many Onlies (including me) grow up with the sky’s the limit mentality. That Mick Jagger was spouting a fountain of lies, and you can indeed always get what you want. Please reference the previous chapter, Material Girl for examples. On a rare occasion, this was not the case.
The first time I astronomically did not get what I wanted, was when my mother married my Stepdad. It wasn’t so much the act of marriage, it was the move to a small town that accompanied it. I won’t act like at the age of 9 I was some big city Gossip Girl type, who lived in a high rise and took the train to school. However, I was exposed to more culture and diversity where I was from, then those who resided where I was going. Resulting in me being treated like a foreign alien.
Those first couple years in middle school were the hardest for me, and I lost a lot of who I had dreamed I would be. I have always been extremely weird, but when you’re young being weird is a curse. Can you change what’s in your brain, your thoughts that often turn into actions? I didn’t think I could, but what I did know is that I was a great actress. I could trick these people into thinking I was normal, I thought.
I had all sorts of friends before the move. A diverse group of boys and girls whose parents swooned at my politeness, hilarity, and yearning to learn. I was exposed to many different cultures and family dynamics. People were open and accepting of one another in the city I grew up in.
I had developed a sense of confidence in who I was as a child. I was smart, I was funny, I got my way, people liked me, they looked up to me, I was a leader. Kid’s parents told them they should be more like me. I was the role model for excellence. Nothing could break my swagger in Grand Rapids.
In small town Zeeland I felt like an outsider. Everyone was white, and there was a Christian Reformed church on every corner. Student’s parents were still together, as was accustomed in ultra religious towns. Who cares if they were actually happy, as long as they weren’t going through the public humiliation of the sin of divorce. We were living in medieval times here. I didn’t even know people like this existed.
Every time I thought I made a friend my name would be sprawled on the bathroom stalls, kids would break into my locker to steal or damage my belongings, or call me names for being Hispanic and Catholic. Weren’t Catholic and Christian Reformed basically the same thing? Did kids actually pay attention in church, or was this all a show to appease their parentals. Ultimately I ended up alone, just like at home.
“So your parents got divorced then?” A girl in 7th grade had asked why my dad lived in Grand Rapids still. She was fishing for gossip on the new girl.
“They aren’t together, they were never married when they had me.” I answered unafraid, and unaware of the reaction to come. A long pause, followed by shock and discomfort on my classmate’s face.
“You know that’s a sin, right? You being born was a sin.” She said matter of factly. As if I had a choice in the matter, and wanted this for my life. Something that had nothing to do with me, that would now define me in my classmate’s eyes.
Even parents wouldn’t allow their kids to be friends with me due to my family “situation.” It seemed in this Puritan esque town, that was warrant for being burned at the stake. Society tells us we need friends. We need these relationships, especially as a child in order to grow up as fully functioning members of society. I eventually decided the only way to get what I wanted was to become someone else.
I ditched the glasses, and the tomboyish looks and mentality. I did my hair and makeup, and dressed the fucking part. I lost the music and the arts, and dove into sports. Shit that popular kids with friends do.
I realized I had a way with words, and used that to my advantage. I didn’t become a full on Regina George, but I became someone that people didn’t dare pick on again. I got so used to being admired by people pre move, that it felt good to regain that feeling. The only big difference was the praise before was for who I really was, and this seemed fake. Nonetheless, I took it all in.
High school was a game I happened to be good at. College showed me it wasn’t just beginners luck. In the back of my mind, I often thought of little K. I was curious what she would think of me, of how I grew. Of who I grew into. Would she be embarrassed of me?
She was a force to be reckoned with, she could make a stranger cry without saying one word. However, she had learned the importance of simple acts of kindness. She walked every street no matter what city, smiling at passerbys and giving a salutation. She wondered if it meant anything to these strangers, she hoped their days were a bit brighter because of it. She hoped she made an impact somehow.
She did this to feel like herself again, to not feel like the preteen who her peers saw as a sin. To not feel like the teenager spinning out of control , looking for attention in all the wrong places. To not feel like the actress she became. To just be K.
The pleasant ending to the story of baby me would be that my mother searched and found the little girl from the isle, and that I apologized with a smile and a wave.
The reality is that I swiped a box of Honey Smacks into the cart when Mother wasn’t looking. By the time we were in line, wedged between several other shoppers, she had no choice but to buy them. There would be hell to pay if she told the cashier to put them back. I’ve been addicted to Smack ever since, ahem those Honey Smacks.