The tendency I had playing with others between 3 and 8 years old was to obsessively want to be better than them. I did not like to lose at anything. I was a perfectionist. Any time I found I was not the best or that I lost, I felt like I lost control and someone or something had to blamed and taken care of so I could be pronounced victor and perhaps metaphorically flick my satin edge at will for all time. The funny thing was that for all of my aggression and hypercompetitive spirit, I was extremely sensitive and fragile. So throughout much of my early childhood, if I lost or was not the best at anything in class or something else, I would quickly crumble into hysterical crying and temper tantrums. Again, not a great move to start an early social life. I think part of my extreme competitiveness was that I felt that I would also not be liked if I did not win. At an early age, I felt that the ultimate goal in life was to always win so that I could always be liked. And I did not have patience for anyone to get in my way of winning and being the best.
My ultra-competitiveness first became most obvious was when I was five years old in kindergarten. There was an Asian American kid in my class named Maku (pronounced mok-koo), who would score higher than me in games and tests. I was not happy about it. By some shrewd political instinct, or maybe I saw a similar strategy on some television show, I invited him to my house for a play date. My mom seemed pleased and surprised that I made a friend. So there we were, Maku and me, playing in the backyard of my house. It was fall and there were pinecones that had dropped from the nearby pine trees from our neighbors’ yards. Sensing Maku’s guard was down from having such a good time running around playing pretend and such, I asked him if he could pick up the pinecone behind him. As soon as he turned his back and bent over from me to pick it up, I pushed him and then jumped on top of him, and proceeded to beat on him. My mother watching from the kitchen window, stormed outside in horror and pulled me off of him, scolding me as both me and Maku cried. Maku obviously was surprised by my betrayal after such a great play date, while I tried to justify my actions saying, “He beats me at so many things. It’s not fair!” I never had another play date with Maku.
At my own birthday parties, I would throw tantrums if I did not win at the games at my own party. Yup I was THAT kid. A common tactic of mine to elicit sympathy from my parents if my tantrums and crying did not help me get my way was to stomp up the stairs really hard all the way to my room and then slam the door shut while I sat or sulked on my bed, hoping to eventually hear the calm footsteps of my mom or dad or both approaching and knocking on the door. Eventually it seemed that the tactic grew old and did not help in getting my way. My parents told me that I had to suck it up and accept that life is not fair and that the universe does not revolve around me. By the time I had an obvious absence seizure in front of my parents, and was put on Tegretol, I seemed to chill out a lot. Still, I often felt the specter of the five year old intense competitor and crybaby inside me linger during many confrontational moments throughout my adolescent and adult life.
Needless to say, my early tendency to cry and my desire to proudly stand out to be the best made me an easy target to get picked on. Even when I got my crying under control, in almost every new social circle I would get into, whether it was a new grade, class, club, or program, I would try to establish myself as a low key, relatively laid back cool kid that had potential to be considered popular. But at some point, my enthusiasm to prove myself as the smartest and most talented got the better of me and made me an easy target to be picked on as a nerd, especially by the time I got both glasses and braces. When I was not being ultra competitive I was a pretty mischievous fun guy to be around. It was just hard to show that part of me in the context of being intense in almost every other context of my life.
My mom did her best to curb my ego, especially when it came to demonstrating my talents in academics and arts. A common phrase she would say was, “You get too cocky and I’ll smack ya”. I remember getting spanked maybe once. My mom rarely raised a hand to me. If I acted out of hand or was being too mischievous while we did dishes, like making fun of somebody, or doing something annoying, her threat of throwing a glass of water on me was enough to make me behave. Either way, it didn’t take much to scare me. I was sensitive. One look from my mom was all it took to realize I had better shape up at something. Realizing that she had a point, that perhaps it’s better I be a better team player I started taking a different tactic around friends. Besides being overly sensitive and hypercompetitive pretty much seemed to leave me feeling lonely.
I started trying a different approach. I went the other way. I thought I’d be the submissive – the whipping boy. Being the submissive would hide my desires to be the best, and get people to count on my kindness and dependability. I tried going for a social makeover around the age of 8 with the kids on the block. Ethan was one of these kids,. His older brothers were somewhat bullies but had their nice moments at least towards me. The Dukers who lived next to Ethan’s house, were three girls, Tammy Sarah, and Ariella. Tammy was the middle kid and closest to our age. When Ethan, Tammy, me and other kids played Boxball (also called 4 square), frisbee, and tennis on Carlton terrace, I was often the one that chased after runaway balls down the hill. I tried becoming more of a cheerleader. This seemed to win me some points. I remember being pretty psyched when Tammy invited me over to watch television with her in the morning while Ethan went away on vacation with this family. That was the first time I ever saw “Back to The Future” with Michael J. Fox on VHS on her VCR. Because of the timing of watching that movie with my new approaches, I thought that maybe my time of becoming the hero, the popular kid, was right around the corner.
As soon as Ethan returned, I often felt that him and Tammy continued to plot against me. When we played hide and go seek, I would look for them outside while they went inside to watch television, leaving me outside searching for them for hours until I realized they played a trick on me. I would be so happy to have found them inside one of their houses after sincerely wondering where they were and asking their parents, that I would not call them out on the mean trick they played on me. I felt privileged enough that they allowed me to watch television with them and proud of myself that I did not cry about their meanness. Kids will be kids. If I were a South Park cartoon character, I would definitely have been Butters.
Table of Contents
Part I – My Material (Physically Having) History
- Chapter 1 – Race, Money, Fashion
- Chapter 2 – Plants, Pets, and Education
- Chapter 3 – Jobs
- Chapter 4 – Connections, Opportunities, Genetics
Part II – My Sensual (Feeling) History
- Chapter 5 – The Satin Edge
- Chapter 6 – Gifted, Hyper Competitive, and Overly Sensitive
- Chapter 7 – Puppy Love and Status
- Chapter 8 – Busy-ness as Salvation
- Chapter 9 – Karate and Self Image
- Chapter 10 – Homophobia and Musical Expression
- Chapter 11 – Digging a Pond, High School, and Music Camp
- Chapter 12 – Heterosexuality, Self Esteem, Avon Fashion
- Chapter 13 – The Opposite Game, College, and Sex
- Chapter 14 – Cruise Ships, Internet, and Control
- Chapter 15 – Saturn’s Return, Delayed Gratification, and Aging Dreams