By the time I reached Bowdoin College in 1978 at age 18, my brain had pretty much caught up to the other kids and it was ready to learn. But it hadn’t mastered what it was supposed to have learned in High School. Catching up was needed and just as Mrs. Gilman in 1st grade had taken special interest in me, new mentors, in the form of attentive Professors, showed up. In my first English class at Bowdoin, I wrote a paper on Beowolf. The Professor told me that I had no idea how to write but that he was going to teach me. And teach me he did. My religion professor saw me as some kind of heir to the philosophical lineage that stretched from Hegel to him and in 1979 to me. He actually said that out loud in front of the entire Religion 101 class. Weird, and kind of thrilling. My Chemistry professors took me into their research labs and I got to do real science. Academics, which had been so hard in Longmeadow, were now really easy. My roommates would pull all nighters before exams. I would just go to bed confident that I knew the material. Without much work, I got perfect grades in every class. And best of all, there was no mandatory gym classes at Bowdoin.
At Bowdoin, I learned something really really important and it wasn’t how to write about Beowolf. I learned the secret of how to never be humiliated again. Do you want to know the secret? That secret could be summed up in one word… Success…. I was Scarlett O’Hara, kneeling in the dirt at Tara, looking up, and shouting “As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again.” OK, I was a teenage Jewish boy, probably with Jew Fro, kneeling on a manicured lawn, at a prestigious liberal arts college, whispering silently to myself, “I will never be humiliated again. I will be successful.” And I was.
After four years of academic success at Bowdoin, the question arose, “what next?” “how would I continue ‘success’ after college?” My roommates were applying to medical school. I knew that doctors were successful people. So I applied to medical school too and was accepted to Stanford. At Stanford, I was again blessed with mentors, but there, the mentors were not my Professors. They were the other students. My new friends at Stanford showed me another way to be successful, recreational success. My new friends were masters of recreation. They ran, they biked, they climbed mountains, they skied. Some were even thriving vegetarians. At Bowdoin, we had talked about what we were studying. At Stanford, we talked about where we windsurfed and skied. So I became as a good an outdoor recreationalist as I was a student. Oh yeah. And I learned medicine too.
I was also achieving socially. I lived in a group household and was never wanting for friends and company. I was, however, still lagging behind in the arena of dating and romance. Everyone else was having sex and romance. At age 22, I wasn’t, and I never had. … never…. I had no idea how to approach a woman and I believed that if I did, I would be rejected.
And as I had experienced so many times before, mentors showed up, this time in the form of three remarkable women. Elizabeth was a medical school classmate of mine. When I was with Elizabeth, my heart would beat fast. I felt warm. I felt good being with her. We would go to the Stanford coffee house and talk for hours. I felt so good sitting across from her that I didn’t want to do anything to disrupt our connection. I didn’t even want to get up and go pee. This led to amazingly painful full bladders. I loved Elizabeth, but she was always dating other guys. Those full bladders turned out to have been unnecessary.
My second great love was Tina. Ironically, she was a friend of Elizabeth. Tina and I connected emotionally, intellectually and physically. I found out what I had been missing and I liked it. It was even better than I thought it would be. Finally, I was successful in the arena of love. Soon thereafter, I met the third of the three wise women, Rachel, who was also, ironically, a friend of Tina and Elizabeth’s.
I fell in love with Rachel when I was 27 years old. That was a long time ago and a lot has happened since then. It’s kind of hard to sum it up. Perhaps if this show is a smash hit, I can parlay it into a TV miniseries on HBO where my love life will be made clear, even to me, but only after 10 lucrative and successful seasons. Sound booth people… Christine…. I want my HBO theme song to be “Break on Through to the Other Side” by the Doors. I want Zac Ephron to play me, the young Zac Ephron, before he got too muscular.
Even though my HBO series hasn’t started, I can give away one line of the plot. I was as in love with Rachel as I ever have been with anyone else. We got married in 1990 when I was 30 years old. And shortly thereafter we moved to Seattle. And the successes continued. I was a young doctor building career and family. There was money, a dog, a kid, then another dog, then another kid, remodels, new cars, prestige, serving on Boards, trips to Whistler, singing in Church Choir! The humiliations of the past were distant memories and I was happy to forget them.
But a life dedicated to success and avoidance of humiliation had its downside… secrets….