I finally learned how to play poker just last month. I'm 34.
I did, however, learn how to tap into my grown-up rage at a very early age. Jeannie, the skinny blonde who worked the register while I dropped fries into a boiling grease vat in the back, was a local girl working for her own fun money. She wasn't in college though, she was in a gang. After a few blowjobs and the promise of future sex, I was lured into her violent circle of friends. Suddenly, and without initiation, I had become a Cue Dawg. I roamed the campus with a mixed group of guys and girls, mostly guys & mostly black. At night they would use their baritone voices to bark and howl like a pack of dogs and the first person to yell at us to shut-up would get their heads kicked in promptly.
I was at an unfair disadvantage. With the lingering promise of sex with Jeannie, all of my exit strategies were lost in a haze of hormones and I had no choice but to rally with the troops and accept my new found place as Jr. Cue Dawg in residence.
I never did have sex with Jeannie. It turns out she was having sex with Sean. He was very tall and possessed enough hatred and ill-will toward other humans that even the local newspaper had a few things to say about him from time to time. Jeannie quit McDonald's two months after I met her. And I found my painful way out of the only gang I was ever in.
And after just one year, I also found my way out of college. It turns out I leapt ahead of the other kids in the socially advanced department. I got pretty good at using my fists to boost my confidence during awkward conversations.
The weeks, months, years following college were every bit of a failure as college itself. I learned nothing. Well that's not entirely true, I did learn an important lesson about dating girls with Italian last names: don't. My newest girlfriend was also in a gang, her name was Laura Giorgano, but this time I managed to avoid being adopted in and instead I hung out with her a lot. At one point I upset her, it was over something simple and silly. I laughed it off, because, like I said, it was simple and silly. She took it personal. She broke up with me that day, and by noon the following day her entire gang was after me.
Many awkward conversations followed.
Now that I'm much older and the years of my youth are far behind me, I play very little Magic The Gathering and I long for a do-over at the whole college thing. I also tend to keep my arms at my side when engaging other humans, it lends for a much better interaction.
Oh, and since moving out to the west coast, I've managed to keep plenty of distance between me and the Bloods & Crips. It just works much better that way, really.