My Debate Partner

by Joel Young

Chapter 11

I Guess It Was Stupid

Philosophically, I agree with the old adage that, "Winning isn't everything." The older I get, the more wisdom I see in this saying. After all, for every winner, there are usually multiple losers. And feeling like a loser is never good for anyone. Philosophical beliefs aside, however, I have to admit that when I was sixteen and on a winning streak, it felt glorious!

During November and December of my junior year in High school, our varsity debate team cleaned up. We beat all of the local High schools and took first place in both the District and Regional competitions. My debate partner and boyfriend, David McAndrew, and I decided that we'd prepare for each debate by having plenty of sex in the days before a competition. Then, we'd go to bed early - and separately - the night before. That way, we reasoned, I'd have a shot at concentrating on the debate instead of dreaming about sex with him, and he'd be more able to withstand an unexpected challenge if his mind and body were rested. It was a crazy plan, really, but it seemed to work.

Our plan was tested the week of the Regional competition. David's parents had to go to California for a week, and David and I arranged for him to stay at my house. We shared my room and certainly followed through on the plenty of sex part of our plan. Going to bed early and separately was difficult the night before the competition itself, but I kept repeating the words of our coach, Mrs. Weber, in my mind: "Keep your personal affairs out of your team's tournament time." For the first time that week, I made David use the sleeping bag that he had brought with him.

With the win at Regionals, we were flying high. I was on top of the world. I had the man of my dreams telling me every day how much he loved me. I had fabulous sex anytime I wanted it. I was winning competition after competition, and our peers at school finally started giving the debate team some respect. We certainly weren't heroes like the Jocks, but considering the miserable record of our school's football team that year, there were those who wanted to support a winner, any winner - even a winning debate team.

After winning Regionals, we were invited to the State Competition to be held four days before Christmas in the State capital. The State Competition was on a Thursday, and it would end the debate season for the school year. The next day was Friday - the end of the first semester and the last day of school before Christmas break. There would be only a half day of classes in the morning, with a Christmas Choir Concert instead of third hour at the end of the morning. My parents and I were leaving immediately after school on Friday for a holiday trip to Acapulco, Mexico. I sort of wanted to go, but I tried to beg off. I didn't want to leave David.

Arguing with my parents was useless. There was no way my parents would let me stay home over Christmas by myself or with friends. We would be back from Mexico the day after New Year's, leaving me one day to get ready to go back to school. I consoled myself by planning to get the perfect tan with which to drive David crazy. Not that I thought that much about Mexico. I was too focused on debate.

I wanted to win State so badly. Despite all of the good things that had happened to me recently, I felt like I had to have that title. I tried to argue myself out of wanting it so bad. I told myself I was greedy and unappreciative of all that I have been given. I forced myself to repeat, "State doesn't matter that much. I don't have to win." But the closer it came to State, the more I wanted to win. Fortunately or unfortunately, David was the same way. Frequently, we would decide not to have sex just so we could spend more time at the library - afraid we'd miss finding the one piece of evidence that would put us over the top.

The week before State was not fun. David was drawing into himself, and I barely noticed. We spent hours together, but we had no personal time for us. I still melted into mush when I'd stare at his beauty, but the relationship had taken on a new focus. We had to work. We had to prepare. We had to win.

The Friday before the competition, I arrived home, alone, after school. I got myself a healthy snack of yogurt and an apple. I almost never looked at the mail when I got home because it was always for my parents. Recently, however, I'd started receiving recruitment materials from colleges. I decided to see if there was anything worthwhile to read in the mail while I had my snack. I went to the mailbox and saw my self-addressed envelope returned to me from the New Paradigms Newsletter. I opened the letter standing in the December cold on my porch.

Dear Mr. Young,

Thank you for your expression of interest in the New Paradigms Newsletter. We would be most happy to add you to our list of subscribers. We write our Newsletter for a very limited audience of the most forward-thinking economic philosophers in North America today. We publish only four times a year: February and March; October and November. Please remit our annual subscription fee of $185.00 in US currency if you wish to begin receiving our publication.

Very Truly Yours,
Edward Fayheid Smith Editor and Publisher

I was mad, and I spoke out loud. "Yeah, right. Like I'd spend $185.00 for your highbrow rag! Thanks for nothing, Eddie Smith." He had given me no help, not even a lousy photocopy of the one article I wanted to see. I went inside, threw the letter on the table with the rest of the mail, and I ate my snack.

I finally decided my New Paradigms Newsletter plan had been stupid in the first place. What did I really expect to find, anyway? The magic piece of evidence with which to win State? Proof that Kettering doctored up evidence? Not very likely on either count, I thought. I decided I might tell David about what I'd done, so I stashed the letter in my evidence case.

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