Sunday, July 29, 2007

Don’t You Forget About Me


I so didn’t want to go. I just loathed the thought. There are twenty blissful years separating me from high school – why in the name of all that is holy would I want to return? The reunion people tracked me down with the stealth and tenacity of a bloodhound on crack. Not only have I moved around a lot, I moved FIVE TIMES IN ONE YEAR, PEOPLE. How on earth did they find me?

I scoffed at the invitation. They wanted $106 out of me to revisit some old insecure feelings and eat some crap-ass dinner. Well they weren’t going to get it.

See, I spent junior high and part of high school at a very small private school. It was more like a family than school. It was easy to be involved in everything because there were so few of us. I was a cheerleader (shut up, bitches! Like it’s that hard to imagine!), I was in drama, I was in the glee club, and with the exception of the dreaded math or algebra class, I was pretty much a straight-A student.

Then, a few months into tenth grade, I decided I needed to get away from the tiny incestuous private school environment and explore the big bad world of public school. To spread my wings, as it were. I left my comfy little nest and all my friends and went to this huge public school where not only did I not know a soul, but I was starting when the school year had already started.

It was traumatic to say the least.

I was completely unaware of, and thus, completely unprepared for, the clique system. The way high school politics work. Who was popular and why. It was all very baffling to me, more than a little disconcerting, and I never really got the hang of it. Also frightening was being a kid with no money in a wealthy town who had previously worn a uniform to school every day. I didn’t know how to dress and didn’t have the money to buy the clothes even if I did. I couldn’t be a cheerleader at this school – the uniforms alone were way too expensive. But I didn’t have the confidence to even try out in the first place. It was like being in a foreign country and not speaking the language. I didn’t speak the language of High School.

I turned to the activities that had brought me joy at my old school – being involved in dance and drama. Fortunately these things were free and allowed me to express myself somewhat, but they didn’t do anything for my social status. I was a geek.

My grades began to slide since the private school I had attended did not teach a college-credited curriculum. We were not made to read Lord of the Flies or The Great Gatsby before tenth grade – we had Bible class. I was woefully behind and constantly struggling to catch up, while struggling to fit in somewhere. Even my beloved English class, that I had always aced and adored, became a chore of trying to keep my head above water since all the other kids knew what was going on and I didn’t. I hadn’t even read Hemingway. And forget about the math classes – I had to re-take both Algebra AND Geometry in summer school since my right brain just could not grasp the concept of either. I ran out of Chemistry with tears streaming down my face – it was all based in math and I knew I would fail. I dropped the class after only one day.

Then Terrie called me. We had Spanish II together in eleventh grade and now we live only a few blocks apart. Was I going to the reunion? Heyall naw, was my response.

Then I was contacted by another friend. Her name is Yolanda. She and I were BFFs in eighth grade and she later came to the big bad public high school where we later lost touch. She wanted to go to the reunion. I started to raise my eyebrows and pooch my lips out slightly in a “hmmmmm” expression at the thought.

Then I was contacted by another friend, Michelle. She was coming out from Boston for the reunion and was I going? I told her no. Then she offered to buy my ticket. Hmm. More pooched-out lips. I called Terrie and asked if she would agree to drive me there and give me beer money and let me take a cab home if it sucked (workin’ it, people). She agreed. And so I agreed to go.

So I washed my hair and put on a cute dress and filled my cute leopard print flask with vodka (because I am a bad girl like that), stashed it in my purse and headed to my 20-year friggin’ reunion.

And had the best time.

There were no weird social constructs this time. It was like a giant cocktail party where you vaguely know everyone, but it is a level playing field. I started to remember that there had been really good times in high school. There had been sweet, interesting people that had reached out a hand of friendship to me and I had forgotten them. Not everybody was shallow and concerned with being popular – some people had incredible talents and dreams that they later explored in life and it showed on their faces. There had been boys that liked me for me, not for my status, and I had liked them. I was a different girl back then, but I felt like I got to reconnect with that girl and heal some of her old hurts. And it felt good.

It was also some of the best people watching, like, EVER. It is interesting to see how people behave in such a strange context as a reunion. I had kinda been looking forward to cattily trashing my mental image of the cheerleader who had grown old and fat and had six kids, but it was not to be that night: all the women in my class looked incredible. Stunning, really. Michelle pointed out one woman to me in a beautiful floor length backless cocktail gown with jewels around the edges. I didn’t remember her from high school, but according to Michelle, this same woman had a kid about to go into college. WTF??? Truly beautiful girls were in my class, and they were even more beautiful now.

To add to my enjoyment, I happened to know the DJ from acting class long ago, and got to choose some songs. Lookout Weekend by Debbie Deb, Panama by Van Halen. Oh yeah, it was ON and the dance floor got packed.

We all left that place with smiles on our faces. I’m so glad I went. But still really happy high school is over.

It just wasn’t my thing.

2 comments:

M said...

Hey Jennie, this is Missy, the girl that posed for a picture with you to send to Michael Sharpe. I loved your commentary on your feelings about going to the reunion - they echoed mine to an extent. I too had a great time and was relieved to see that social lines and clique barriers had disappeared. I am glad you had a good time!

Missy (Walker), class of '87
PS: love the name tag!

Valley Girl said...

Missy! You doll! It was so nice getting to hang out with you a bit. E-mail me the photo if you can!