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|Family Matters - Page 2|
That I was a tall girl tormented me. It wasn't my only problem, God knows; my hair was way too curly, and my mother wouldn't let me wear makeup or any outfit that wasn't two sizes too big. But being too tall was intractable. There was simply too much of me for any boy I liked—all of them shorter than I was by several inches, and none of whom would ask me to dance.
My friends, all of acceptable height, spent boy–girl parties flitting from one flirtation to another. On the sly, they'd trade stats: who danced with you, how many times, for fast or slow songs; where did he put his hands, did he touch your breasts or try to kiss you on the lips. And I'd stand by with a pathetic smile plastered on my face wanting to die, batting zero.
That's not entirely true. Usually near the end of the party, Tim Huntley, one of the few boys taller than I was, would walk up to me, peel me off the wall to which I'd been stuck, and dance with me. Even then I remember thinking I should one day thank his mother for raising him well. It wasn't much of a dance (he'd stand too far away for me to put my head on his shoulder), but at least I'd be moving my feet.
As soon as the song ended, he'd deposit me at my spot near the record player, where I could pretend to take an unusual interest in the albums that were playing. When the doorbell would ring upstairs, which meant the first weary father was there to pick up his daughter, everyone would groan, but I'd rejoice for the first time all night. In the car, I'd be grateful that my father was too tired to talk beyond asking if I'd had fun, and satisfied when I'd say, "Yes." Home, he'd go right to bed, and I'd sob for hours.
What was wrong with me? Why was there so much of me? I can still close my eyes and summon up the deep humiliation—both the public aspect, that I'd disappoint my family by remaining a childless and crushingly lonely spinster for the rest of my life, and the private shame, that I'd die without ever knowing what it meant to have a boy's arm around my waist, my head buried in his chest.
Aunt Rose's party was in the private back room of a dingy restaurant. Slowly, the clan gathered, its members dour, not knowing how to cut loose, however valiantly they wished they could. Even on their day off, they looked ground down and worn out from managing plumbing-supply stores, working in elementary schools, and doing other people's books.
Except for Phil and Anita. Holding hands, they greeted everyone, smiling broadly. As soon as the piano player struck his first chord, they headed for the dance floor. I stood with my parents, sister, and grandparents near the dais, watching them do a kind of lindy, thinking to myself that they looked so out of place they might have been left over from the last party, or early for the next.