I am a middle-aged man. If I sinned with a teenage girl and if I felt I needed to tell two nice old ladies at church about it, then how could I confess? I can't just blurt it out, no, better to start by saying "Teenage girls like me..." No, I'm scared, I'd rather start with, "I like the dead end roads in Calgary.
"They are so exotic compared to where we parked as teens back home. For one thing, the signs are in French, cul de sac, and the street opens to a keyhole shape with neat little shallow curbs..."
No, best to start with "In high school I role modeled off of a buddy a grade older than I"... I used to go to Jack Lee's place every week. I remember once seeing the fireworks as he broke up with his girl: as a ladies man he was as unpolished as I back then.
Where he excelled, I thought, was in being friendly. Along our school's hallowed halls he'd go waving and smiling and giving a cheery word to so many students. It wasn't until next year that I read Peyton Place and began to grasp how so many of us were troubled teens, each with our own story.
My senior high school was real nice. Not nearly as bad as Buffy's Sunnydale High, or the one in Mean Girls, perhaps because both of our junior high feeder schools had a drop out rate of about 50%: now, those schools were bad. Still, we had a vague hierarchy and I was, at best, an average Joe. In my junior year I started being nice like Jack.
And one quiet afternoon, after the school had emptied out, I was going down the corridor and I noticed, standing at his locker on the other side of the hall, a nice modest senior who, in a U.S. school, would be called "popular." He was rich: teammates called him "the native" because of his Hawaiian suntan. He was handsome. He was captain of our school's biggest sports team. I am tempted to lie and say he was also president of our student council, but that would be gilding the lily. We had probably never conversed.
I remember that as I walked along that day he slowly turned at his locker. I walked, he turned...he was shyly waiting for his "hello!" And at that moment, as I said "Hi!," I understood: we all have our needs. And if I am too shy to reach out to an upperclassman then I am in the wrong. My mantra: "Because I am afraid to love, you are alone."
It's been a long time since I attended a high school pep rally. Today "rallying" for my city spirit is a private silent responsibility. Nowadays, as a middle-aged man, I park at a cul de sac to walk a grassy path over to the Tim Hortons for a coffee. At the end of the cul de sac lives a nameless teenage girl. I sometimes see her entering her door, or playing badminton on the road with her dad. I wish her well; I love my city. And one quiet evening on the path the girl said "Hello"...and I was mute. Why? Was I surprised and shy? Or surly and senile? I would like our teens to expect that in this world they will like people and be liked in return. That evening, when I failed to say "hello," I both failed the girl and I sinned. I forgot my mantra: "Because I am afraid to love, you are alone..."
To the two old ladies at church I will say, "I sinned and I'm sorry." All I can do is try to do better next time. If I establish good habits now, if I habitually look for the good and show warmth then someday I won't be old and grumpy. Instead, like my pals at church, I will be old and kind.