Readers of the New Haven Independent might recognize this post from 2006. Enjoy (again).
**** The Tragic Romance of Pickle and Weiner, (NHI March 7 2006)****
For forty-five minutes in sixth grade, my boyfriend was Brian Corasaniti. He was the son of the vice principal at the local high school and we were both of Italian heritage. (This is important because there were so few Italians in Vermont.) His nickname was Pickle because, in fifth grade, he referred to his mother as having a “pickle head” in front of Mr. Pedrin’s whole class. To this day, my friends and I still refer to Brian as Pickle. It was one of those nicknames that just stuck. It’s been fifteen years since we were in fifth grade. It was a bad year for nicknames.
My nickname, also garnered in fifth grade, was “Weiner.” This was all due to an advisory teacher with an unfortunate Boston accent who had a loud role-call, and to fifth graders’ proclivity for rhyming. “Gina” in Boston-ese sounds like “Geen-er.”? The wiz kids in my advisory, namely Katie LaPier, Audra Way, and Jenny Mindell, took to rhyming my Boston pronunciation with “wiener.” Like Brian, I was referred to throughout all of my school days as a phallic food, either as “Weiner” or “Ween.” Not the most attractive of nicknames, nor the easiest to avoid laughing at. Couple the nickname with braces, glasses, and an unbelievably inconsistent growth pattern during puberty, and you have such a painful picture of a young girl that it’s no wonder I’m so sensitive to my own students’ name calling.
So imagine being twelve years old and boy-crazy and trying to find a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day. Katie LaPier got asked out by Ravi Parikh, Laurie and Andy were dating, Kate Edder and Nick were dating. All on Valentine’s Day. I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted a boyfriend and a red carnation and whatever other charm comes along with having a new boyfriend on the most love-filled day of the entire year. I wanted it.
I was in a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that sixth grade year—I was Charlie. We had after-school rehearsals and Pickle happened to be staying after, too. Maybe he had Dungeons and Dragons club. I don’t know. But whatever the case, I saw Pickle as the most viable option for a boyfriend.
“Listen,” I told myself. “He comes from a good family. His dad’s the vice principal at the high school—I could be famous if I got connected that way. He’s good in math. He wears polo shirts. He seems like a reasonable guy. I think he’ll be my boyfriend.” The more I thought about it, the more I thought we’d make a great couple. He had his sights set on Syracuse University—clearly he was college bound and I liked that. I had been thinking Skidmore—because my mom went there—so we’d at least be in the same state. Things were looking pretty good for us in the long run. I was getting excited. We might have children that could have Italian names. I’d even be able to keep my initials if we got married.
So somewhere in the middle of rehearsing Acts Two and Three of “Charlie,” I popped upstairs to have a talk with Brian.
“So here’s the deal, Pickle,” I said. We were standing in the hallway outside of the library. “Will you go out with me? It’s Valentine’s Day.” He didn’t know I’d had our entire future planned out. And it was looking good, too.
And then he gave me an answer I wasn’t prepared for: “I don’t know. I have to ask my dad.”
First, let me back up and say I was breaking my own parents’ rules. I was NOT allowed to have a boyfriend until eighth grade. I was two years early here. But my rationale was this: If Pickle and I were going to get married, we would need these early years together to be able to tell that great story of how we met:
No, we weren’t high school sweethearts…we were middle school sweethearts! We both went against our parents’ orders and secretly dated for two full years before we announced to our parents, in September of eighth grade, that we’d already established a fully-functioning, healthy relationship, built on mutual trust and respect. Gina and Brian: a match made in the after-school hours of Browns River Middle School. I could almost see people’s eyes well up with tears of happiness and fascination. So he threw me for a loop when, in keeping with his Order of the World, he reminded me of Parental Permission.
But I’d had my mind set. “Brian,” I said, using his real name so he’d know I was serious. “Come on. It’s Valentine’s Day. You don’t really need your dad’s permission. You’re in sixth grade. You can make your own decisions.”
“I don’t know,” he hesitated.
For twenty minutes I convinced him that we should be boyfriend and girlfriend.
I think maybe in the end we agreed and shook hands or something. Brian went back to D&D, and I went and told everyone I knew: Tracy Draper and my best friend Kristie. The reaction, across the board, was: “What?!” followed by a peal of laughter. This did nothing for my sense of accomplishment or self-worth.
Weiner and Pickle were a couple. I could just hear the relish and hotdog jokes that would follow us for the next six years and well into our marriage. I spent the next forty-five minutes in the bathroom with Tracy, trying to figure out what I’d just done and a way to undo it. I sat on the white sink in the yellow and tan tiled room in a state of panic. I had to end it. It would be torture for both of us.
The most humanitarian thing I could think of was to do a quick break-up. Make it fast, make it painless. Don’t draw it out. I could write a note and give it to Tracy to give to Pickle. I could also just go up and talk to him. We’d made something like a business agreement before, so we might as well just agree to end it, mutually and friendly. I didn’t like messy break-ups.
In the end—literally forty-five minutes later—our relationship was over. I wasn’t proud. And I think Brian was more indifferent than anything. But it was over, and I was back to being a single girl just trying to make it in the world. My rose-colored glasses had been removed. And the world was a hard, harsh place, full of criticism and conformity.
I don’t know what made me think of this today, other than the fact that I work in a high school and am reminded every day of my own awkwardness when I see my kids. And there has been nothing in my life that has been more awkward than those forty-five minutes spent in my BRMS first floor bathroom, debating how to end it with Pickle, even though our future together looked so grand.