6 minute read

Paula Sophia Schonauer, LCSW, continues a serial memoir. If you haven’t read the earlier parts of this series, follow the links at the bottom of this page.


“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”

Mother Teresa

I never did kiss Jenny, never held hands, never even hugged her. Our attraction to each other might have been a nice fantasy about a girl who had been nice to me, but it seemed like there was a possibility. Sometimes, a possibility can bring hope. Maybe a girl could really like me as someone more than a peer in school who is supposed to be nice, someone more than a friend, but in a romantic way. 

The last night at Mohican, the boys were in the cabin teasing Kevin about his romantic adventures during the week. He basked in the glory of envy and curiosity, smiling and blushing, too cute for his own good. I could see why girls found him irresistible. I envied Kevin for the validation he received from the other boys, a guy to be admired, masculinity assured even as he was still very much a boy. 

So, in the midst of the high jinx, I found myself saying, “I kissed a girl, too.”  

The boys paused in their mischievous merrymaking and looked at me. Marty, a boy from my school, volunteered, “Me too!” 

Marty was a tubby kid with thick black hair and a big, round face. He was already beginning to show the first signs of acne and had a slight mustache, more fuzz than hair, but it was visible, making him look older than he was.

I did not believe him, but I did not challenge him, hoping he would not challenge me. 

“Who?” a boy from Galion said, staring at me. He had short blond hair, a long face, and one of those smiles that betrayed a wisecracker. 

He knew who Jenny was and would be able to verify my account, but since we were leaving the next morning, I figured it was safe to say. I had little hope I would see Jenny again. Despite our smiles and stares, we had barely talked to each other. I didn’t even know her last name. 

“Jenny,” I said, trying to keep my voice from quaking. 

“Jenny who?” 

“Jenny…”

“Jenny Hayes?” 

“Yes.”

“No way,” he said. “No way.” He started laughing. “Jenny Jitters.”

“Jitters?” 

“Yeah,” the boy said, that mirthful smile spreading across his face. “She’ll give you the jitters.”

I felt more affinity with Jenny than I had before, but I was also a little embarrassed. It seemed without meaning to, I had been attracted to another outcast. However, I could not understand what was so repulsive about her. She was pretty, maybe not a classic kind of pretty like Marcia Brady or Leah, but cute and quiet, clean and nice. Maybe she was awkward like me or had to fight to get beyond an embarrassing moment that kept haunting her, labeling her as untouchable. 

The boys laughed at my awkward attempt to steal some of Kevin’s glory, and they ignored Marty all together. “Oh my God! Jenny Jitters?” 

Paula Sophia
Paula Sophia (provided)

Kevin had obviously kissed a girl who had the approval of the guys, or maybe they had assumed he had a romantic diversion with someone desirable, more the classic beauty. 

To deflect attention from myself, I asked Kevin, trying to suppress my defensiveness, “Who did you kiss?”

“Her name is Leah.”

I wished I hadn’t asked the question. Of course, he kissed Leah, a girl whose beauty was the epitome of desire for twelve-year-old boys: golden hair, sparkling smile, melodious laugh, a resemblance to several girls on television shows. 

“Leah from Redeemer?”

“Yes.”

I did not want to believe him, but I knew he was not telling a lie. Of course, he would be the one to kiss Leah, the most desirable guy at Camp Mohican having a romantic interlude with the most desirable girl. The special ones come together, leaving the scraps for everyone else. I was suddenly ashamed of my attraction to Jenny, but I could not take back what I said. 

The shame turned to sadness, a feeling of profound rejection. I still had deep feelings for Leah, ever since the day she had compared me to John Boy on The Waltons, one of the few times I had received a compliment from a peer at Redeemer. As hopeless as my attraction to Leah felt before Camp Mohican, it was even worse now that she had been kissed by someone else. 

It seemed I was doomed to be rejected by the pretty people, relegated to the scrapheap of humanity, unable to be among the brightest and best, and this consignment frightened me because I was sure only the most desirable people could go to heaven. All the depictions of heaven I had seen showed beautiful people, fair with perfect hair, straight teeth, slender, athletic builds, people who had been raised in strong families, acquainted with privilege, and secure in the love of their parents. 

My sadness surrendered to depression, and I sunk into a well of loneliness, a dark morass of self-pity, and I began to contemplate suicide. Somewhere in my religious education, I learned that suicide condemns people to hell no matter what. I cannot remember talking about suicide in explicit terms, but I somehow absorbed this teaching. Then, I began fantasizing about dying young, almost praying for a terminal illness or a tragic accident, better yet, a heroic death. 

Loneliness and depression are often accompanied by feelings of worthlessness. Overwhelmed with self-hatred, I began to feel irritable, and that irritability became a seething anger, a jealous rage. I resented girls, especially pretty ones, and the handsome guys they attracted. I concealed my loneliness and fear with anger, and my anger felt righteous. 

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Last Updated January 22, 2022, 12:38 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor