We moved to Pennsylvania when I was 10. I was anxious to please everyone and worked hard at it. I poured myself into sports. I was 12 years old. In Seventh Grade, I changed to an all-boys school . We wore ties every day. My body was growing. I assumed I was good looking. But I didn’t know. Other than sports, I had little confidence. I was strong. I wanted to be noticed by girls. I liked girls. I couldn’t see it from a straight on view in the mirror, but my nose was growing. I began to hear comments like “You have a big nose.” The men in my family had big hooked noses.
The remarks got more creative. If I stated a strong opinion amongst my 7th grade friends, the comments changed to something like, “Oh.. ok, the Nose knows.” Well that hurt and I couldn’t figure out what to do with the feelings. So, I just took it as my friends having fun. Eighth grade came and went and big change was coming. It was the summer of 1960 and I was 13. The Everly Brothers were singing “Cathy’s Clown” on the radio. In the fall, I would begin 9th Grade at a new school, an old prestigious Private School in Philadelphia. My big concerns? “Would I make friends? Would I be liked? Was I attractive enough? Was I good enough?“ But for the moment, it was mid-summer. My life was ideal. My country club swim team reassembled with a very strong team. Our medley team was virtually unbeatable. Mike, the sarcastic one and Pete, the kind one, were tall and lanky and fast swimmers on the team. But life was good. Golf in the morning. Hanging around the pool in the afternoon. Debbie Hunter was there. I was smitten by her beauty but not her presence. She was snippy and cool, not really my type, but …. She was VERY attractive and she wore this great, fire-engine red speedo. And I looked .. and I tried not to look, but I looked. Debbie was a year or two older than me. On a long-forgotten mid-week day in the hot month of July, I rode my bike to the club golf course at 6:30. I played 18 holes with a friend feeling carefree. Looking good was important in my family, so I wore a trendy pink LaCoste collared shirt with madras, Bermuda shorts along with white socks and brown shiny golf shoes. We slurped an icey grape drink, took our golf clubs to the pro shop and headed to the swimming pool. It was a peaceful, and wonderful time. It was getting warm. I was feeling good about myself. I was hungry and went to the Swimming Pool Snack Bar to charge a hamburger and soda for lunch. I walked the 25 paces or so from the Snack Bar to the Swimming Pool locker room, which was directly underneath the pool. The locker-room had a strong Chlorine smell as the pump room and chemicals were nearby. It was the middle of summer. Routines were set. My teen friends showed up at different times and we horsed around in the pool. Sometimes we’d train, but mostly just goof off. I made the club’s under-14 swim team. I was the breaststroker on the medley team. Mr. Medica was our swim coach. He was always around. He was big and old and made the pool area feel safe. Debbie was there. She wasn’t much of a golfer but she was a good diver. She was practicing her diving off the high board. I was in and out of the pool and was standing up on the pool deck with my back to the main clubhouse. I was thinking good thoughts about Debbie and another girl named Jane, who was really nice and cute and in whom I was interested. The world was before me in that moment. Suddenly I heard one of guys at the pool who was behind me somewhere… yelling something across the pool. My back was turned to him. At first, I didn’t realize he was yelling at me… But then suddenly, like in a movie when the hero loses his hearing because a bomb goes off… and then the sounds begin to return to him. I suddenly heard the words he was yelling. EVERYONE at the pool heard the words. It was Mike Simmons yelling. He said for all to hear.. "Hey Eagle BEAK…. HEY EAGLE BEAK!" I finally turned around to look at him.
Through Story Exploration:
When I contemplated my story selection, this was one I kept coming back to. I really thought it was obviously about my nose and almost didn't pick it, but my spirit felt like there must be something more. And there was. These are a few of the lies I came to believe:
It's OK for friends to shame me for fun
I wouldn't have a chance of having a relationship with girls
I was unattractive
All the good things about me didn't matter
The Truth: As a thirteen year old with raging hormones, I thought I was simply attracted to Debbie physically. However, after exploring this story, I know that what I craved was a good and true desire for intimacy and relationship. Even at thirteen that’s all I wanted. Debbie was more mature than other kids. She was super confident in her own skin. I felt that relationships were unobtainable because I was not confident. I just wanted her to ‘see’ ME. Yes, I have the nose God gave me, but there was much more to me. In fact, my facilitator was surprised about this story of mine, because he noticed that my nose wasn't any bigger than anyone else's. These difficult young years led to me excelling in other areas. I was a very good student-athlete, class president in High School and a class officer in college. Those formative years increased my desire for healthy connection with others. I married a beautiful woman. I am a leader at our church and lead several ministry initiatives. My favorite is the new weekly men's group for men who struggle with isolation and feel like they don't fit in. They keep coming and coming so we started two more meetings in other parts of town! I guess, "the nose knows" that many others don't feel like they fit in!