When I was in middle school I used to regularly attend a “bible class.” Twice a week, we had about an hour of rather generic discussions at a priest’s house, after the music class that he taught (yes, I played the recorder, too). It was actually not bad at all, in contrast to the vacation bible school at the local church that my parents made me try at a younger age, where I absolutely refused to return after the first day. There was never any question of doubting the basic tenets (tenet, I suppose), and no one was discussing politics, as it was just whatever a group of pre-teens could relate to. And who could object to not lying or stealing or “being mean”?
One day, it so turned out that it was just me and a bunch of girls. None (I don’t even remember the exact number any more, but the possible total was never more than 3 or 4 in any case) of my friends had showed up. I was around 11 or 12. Girls were both weird and, occasionally, scary. It so happened that I was having some adolescent spat or the other with one of the girls present. I don’t know quite how the conversation got here, but at some point she declared quite confidently that I couldn’t find more than 5 people in class who “liked” me.
I had always been rather socially awkward, and in any case generally preferred a good book or movie to sports or things other people did together, so in the sense of not having more than 5 people who enjoyed regularly spending time with me, this wasn’t necessarily an outrageous proposition. And yet, it rankled. What did “like” mean, anyway? Surely I was liked. I decided to find out. I bet her she was wrong, went a few rounds of verbal football, and the next day, I went around the classroom asking people to sign a piece of paper saying they liked me.
Everybody signed, if I remember right. In some sense I suppose it’s hard not to, when someone is asking you to do something so ridiculous . Emboldened, I even took it to my teachers. I went into the staff room during the lunch break and passed around this little sheet. My science teacher – this I do remember perfectly – refused, saying she didn’t need to sign some paper to show that she “liked” me. I pushed a little, but not very much. After all, I had already surpassed the required number several times over.
At the end of the day, I went and showed this girl the paper. She grinned and said I had won the bet, in a way that I then took to mean sheepishness, but in retrospect could well have been some combination of amusement or scorn.
I remember feeling positively giddy with happiness for a few minutes, before I felt downright miserable.
This story has no point.