It’s all relative

When I was maybe 7, I had a friend named Jeffrey. He eventually moved next door, but at that time he and his family lived in an apartment down the street. We weren’t in the same grade, so it made sense in those early days that I wouldn’t be invited to his birthday party. Made sense to an adult, maybe, but not to a 7-year-old. Consequently, come party time, I lurked around Jeffrey’s apartment complex – hovering, listening for laughter, possibly peeping through windows, I can’t be sure. Finally, Jeffrey’s mother must have tired of trying to ignore me and invited me inside for birthday cake.


I’m probably 15 or 16, and I’m listening to a jazz combo at the local university with my friend David, because that’s how we roll. Somehow, I get wind that a girl I like – a girl not only out of my league but playing an entirely different sport – is hanging out right behind this very building! I should go talk to her. “You should totally go talk to her!” I’m totally going to talk to her! So I leave the jazz gig and make my way under the streetlights to where this girl is standing in a clump with her friends. I slink up to the periphery of the group, which gives no sign that it is going to open up to me then or in the foreseeable future. I manage at best a furtive “Hey,” but that’s it. After a few uncomfortable, unacknowledged minutes, I slink away, back to the jazz. This time I don’t even get cake.


In addition to jazz, in high school I also dabbled briefly in barbershop quartet. I attended violin camp every summer. I was very good at the clarinet. I did not play sports.


It was the night of some dance, Grade 11, something dress-up fancy, and a bunch of us decided to meet beforehand at my parents’ place. These weren’t my everyday friends but potentially new-and-improved friends. Mom and Dad were out. Did we raid the liquor cabinet? Get all crazy before the dance? We did not. Instead, I put on side one of Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold and urged my guests to listen – really listen! – to “Telegraph Road,” the album’s 14-minute opening dirge. Let’s sample some of the lyrics, shall we?

And the radio says
Tonight it’s gonna freeze
People coming home
From the factories
Six lanes of traffic
Three lanes moving slow…

Party on, Wayne.




In my second year of university, I applied for the position of residence assistant, with my only qualification being that I felt entitled to it. I didn’t get the job, nor, in retrospect, should I have. A few nights later, after completing a Century Club (a feat of drinking endurance and stupidity), I cornered the kid who got the job, called him all sorts of cruel, nasty names and then retired to my room. There, fueled by beer and self-pity, I wrenched a drawer out of my desk and flung it across the room at my wall mirror, movie-drama-style. I missed. I later had to pay for the damage to the plaster.


I started seeing this girl at university and we carried over into the summer, even though we lived about an hour apart. She came down for the weekend, and I knew then it wasn’t going to work out. After she went home, I broke up with her over the phone.


In the early nineties, I went through a bandana period.


The first time I attended the Jazz Fest in Montreal, I squeezed my way up to a kiosk to ask for an apple juice for our toddler. “Un jus de pomme,” I said to the pretty clerk, except I pronounced the S in “jus.” The girl smiled and said in English, “It’s just ‘ju.’”


As of 1997, I was still purchasing music exclusively on cassettes.


I once owned grey dress shoes, something my wife and her family never tire of mentioning.


So you see, children, when you think about it, I’m actually way cooler now than I used to be.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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45 Responses to It’s all relative

  1. Rose Red says:

    I went through a bandana period at about 16. I took a lot of crap for it

  2. Rose Red says:

    Oops, I’m sleepy and left that part out. No, I was 16 in ’79

  3. Reading this tripped off so many of my own awkward memories. Or as my adult brain spins it – “character-building moments”. Thanks? But hey – you can’t be a character without them.

  4. Teri says:

    Like Michelle, reading this awoke my own memories. Some I can laugh about and others I prefer to ignore rather than face. Thanks for more writing fodder for my own blog.

  5. pinklightsabre says:

    Oh man I loved this, loved to see you writing in a different style – not that I don’t love the normal style, but this was especially refreshing, intriguing. More! Dance, puppet!

  6. ksbeth says:

    especially with the outing of your barbershop quartet membership.

  7. I never was cool, never will be cool. My husband is an English engineer. My daughter is doomed.

  8. Jazz will always be your friend. Especially when girls will not.

    Same house party in the suburbs in Cleveland resulted in a knocked-over planter (dirt spread across the carpet) and a shattered ceramic bong. We think people were having sex in the bedroom but nobody would check.

    Do you know how I used to break up with girls? Just stopped calling them. They got the message. What a hero. What a man.

  9. shalilah2002 says:

    Did you think of yourself as a loser or want a be?

  10. Thanks, Ross. 🙂 I’ve certainly done similar things and worse things.

  11. Trent Lewin says:

    Ross, I think you’re cool. Nice vignettes through your life, I’m pretty sure we must have met up at a uni bar somewhere along the way, cause I could see myself hanging out with you. Incidentally, I have boxes of tapes that I made by recording songs off the radio. That’s right, mixed tapes made to myself. Oh, and Telegraph Road rules!

  12. Trent Lewin says:

    By the way, cake is overrated. So is Cake.

  13. Ned's Blog says:

    To some degree — and even my wife has mentioned this — I think we may have been separated at birth. Or maybe afterbirth (I think that’s supposed to be two words…). At least until the bandana thing. Now, I’m not so sure.

    Regardless, I really enjoyed these life vignettes, Ross. You were still cool then — just cooler now.

  14. I would like this twice if there was a button for that!

  15. List of X says:

    I think being decidedly uncool is the new cool, and the whole raison d’etre of the hipster movement. Also, they wear glasses and beard (usually male hipsters) and I think they also pretend to be Canadian. In other words, you might be way more cool than you think.

  16. Tez says:

    Take heart, many time I have tried to infiltrate a klatch of girls by sidling up to the group and hoping for an opening. It never worked. Those tribes repelled invaders of either sex with shoulders as strong as a rugby scrum. There are those of us who have earned our nerdish stripes and you are one of them. So arise Sir Ross, (who is so uncool you are cool) and wear your nerdishness with pride.

  17. You know, I came over here to check out your Emily King post and immediately got sucked in. That was a great piece of writing. You can tell me stories anytime. Now, what was I doing . . .

  18. The awkwardness of being around the ladies only disappeared for me once I turned 35…it was a long embarrassing road, it is good to see it was a road you traveled also.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I never had a problem being around girls. In fact, I preferred it much of the time — they smell better, look better, etc. It was just the ones I liked where things got ugly.

  19. Pingback: I prefer to think of them as “endearing” | Drinking Tips for Teens

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