After spending the vast majority of my middle school years in social obscurity, ninth grade offered me a second chance at popularity. To help symbolize the dawning of a new age, I decided to transform my image, which meant a new wardrobe and a new AOL screen-name. The wardrobe part was easy because Gap was having a sale on argyle sweater vests and I had white undershirts and khaki pants to spare. After all, whenever I watched the show “Dawson’s Creek,” sweater vests were what all the popular kids were wearing. As for my screen-name, I wanted to convey both my love of sports and my desire to be known as “Drew” rather than “Andrew” for the remainder of high school. The result? Balldrew.

So the week before classes started, I sent out a chain e-mail to all the members of my high school class notifying them of my screen-name change, and I “fell into the Gap.” Walking down the hallway on the first day of classes, I felt pretty damn good. That is, until a group of sophomore jocks crowded in front of me and one of them said, “Zack Morris called, He wants his clothes back.” Luckily, I was saved by the bell, but as I walked into my first class, some guy who had been picking on me since the sixth grade grabbed me from behind and spun me around. “Thanks for that e-mail,” he began sarcastically, “but I think I have a better idea for your new screen-name: Ballsack.” And so, for the next two years, I would be referred to, not as Drew, as I had intended, but rather the apparently catchier “Ballsack.”

Despite my unfortunate place in my high school’s social hierarchy, it could have been worse. While I was only getting turned down by girls whom I asked to school dances, a good friend of mine, Dave, was often unable to find a classmate to partner up with him during school projects, even though he was smart and offered to do all the work. But then, on Feb. 22, 2000, Dave’s mom partook in a seemingly meaningless act that would soon make her unpopular son one of the most popular guys in our grade – she ordered Cinemax.

Now, keep in mind, this was a different era; it was a time when Lance Bass was still a heterosexual sex symbol, when porn couldn’t be freely accessed online and when finding your dad’s Playboy from 1984 was a crowning achievement. For teenage guys like me, the soft-core porn on Cinemax, shown after midnight, was our best (and sometimes only) chance to see breasts. Furthermore, the sexual encounters, which I observed on “Cinemax After Dark,” provided me with the education that my abstinence-only sex-ed class failed to cover. The news of Dave’s newest addition to his cable box traveled fast and, suddenly, he went from a guy who couldn’t get a partner for the science fair to a guy whose house was the coolest spot in town. By the spring, Dave was hanging out with the popular kids and by the summer, he was even calling me “Ballsack.”

At the start of 10th grade, I figured that Dave and I were still friends, albeit, not the great friends we once were. After all, during the summer I had a standing invitation to stop by his house and hang out with the popular kids as they crammed into his basement to watch shows such as “Pleasure Cove” and “Lolita Drive.” That first weekend of 10th grade, however, our friendship took a turn for the worst.

On the first Friday night of the school year, I got my mom to drive me to Dave’s house. As I was getting out of her car, she handed me a bag and said, “I know how much you like sweater vests, so I thought I’d get you one as a start of the year present.”

“Thanks mom,” I answered insincerely. In reality, I hadn’t worn a sweater vest since my traumatizing first day of high school, but my mom didn’t know any better.

“Why don’t you wear it tonight?” my mom continued.

“Yeah right,” I answered with a snicker. Clearly hurt, my mom grabbed the bag from me and sadly let out a sigh.

“OK, OK, I’ll wear it,” I told her as cheerfully as possible. I put on the sweater vest, which was about two sizes too big, and walked toward the door. I figured that once I was in the house, I’d take it off. As my mom was pulling away from the driveway, Dave’s front door flew open and Dave appeared at the doorway.

“Listen,” Dave said. “I don’t think you can come over tonight.”

“Why the hell not?” I said angrily.

“I just think that it would be best for you to go.” Just then, two of Dave’s popular friends approached from behind me.

“Hey look, it’s Ballsack,” one of them began. “Better put on a jacket before you shrivel up in the cold.”

“Hey Dave,” he continued, “you’re not going to let this loser hang out with us, are you?”

“Hell no,” Dave replied decisively. Then, turning his attention toward me, he said, “Why don’t you go over to Screech’s house and watch ‘The Whores Whisperer’ with him?” With that, Dave and his two friends went inside his house and slammed the door behind them.

(Schwartz’s article will continue in next week’s issue.)

Schwartz is a Take Five Student.



How to survive Thanksgiving with your family

At family gatherings, chaos is not a question of if but when. So how can you survive it?

Hard work can’t beat talent… or can it?

Talent is not what most people think it is. The good news is that most of the people we think are talented are actually just really well-disciplined, and we can learn to do the same.

Burton’s chimneys are coming loose

Contractors have begun the work of removing Burton’s chimneys, causing six students to be temporarily relocated.