My 20 year high school reunion was this weekend; an event to which I had looked forward for a year or so. I also viewed the impending gala with dread; to a certain degree my enthusiasm was equivalent to first day of work jitters. The evening began well enough, I suppose. “Wow, You’ve changed!” “Where do you live?” “How many kids do you have? and “What do you do now?” But it quickly disintegrated into an evening of drunken hedonistic debauchery that illuminated two things for me. One was that forty year old drunk white people can’t dance. Second, we are not remotely photogenic or attractive after about ten p.m.
My high school years were awesome awkward torturous. They occasionally bordered on the brink of fun, but were filled with countless moments(and hours, and days and months) of harrowing teenage angst. I firmly believe anyone who says they didn’t suffer from such angst at one point or another are either lying or never actually attended high school.
Before I go further, let me first clarify a few things. First of all, I was nearly six feet tall in high school. I still am, of course, and although my height has served me well in adulthood, in high school I was not the most sought after date, in fact, I wasn’t “sought after” at all. The scrawny, height challenged boys who hadn’t hit their growth spurts would have rather kissed another guy on the football field during the homecoming halftime than go to prom with a gal who towered several inches over them. Couple my gargantuan height with the fact that I was a painfully shy and fat teenager with glasses and we have set the stage for an angst ridden, painful teenage existence that only four years of high school can provide. I’m no longer fat, and haven’t been for years, but some of my former classmates are(thank God for you, Facebook!), so that’s a bit of poetic justice and favorable karma tossed my way.
Don’t get me wrong– I was smart, made good grades, and was surrounded by a small, yet great circle of friends. My two best friends were downright beautiful and outgoing, which, of course, made me the fat, ugly friend who helped them get ready for dates and provided a shoulder to cry on when a guy broke their hearts. What’s important to us in high school? Dating, of course. So even though I won accolades for various extra curricular activities, made good grades, and had good friends, I just wanted the guy I had a crush on to ask me on a date.
Ok, where was I? Oh, yes…Prom. In the late eighties and early nineties, girls wore the baby blue or pink prom dresses that, once donned, meant you couldn’t sit down again for the rest of the night, not like a normal person anyway. Navigating one’s movements in these Appalachian looking ball gowns was a feat in and of itself. The girl’s date was usually a guy who’s sole purpose in attending said event was to wrestle said young lady out of the dress and score, perhaps for the first time. And to think I agonized over not attending the mega social event of my high school years!
That’s right, I didn’t attend my prom, nor did I attend my high school graduation. Graduation took place the same weekend I attended a national speech tournament in Chicago. I’m thankful for the experience, but regret not wearing the cap, gown, and mortar board and walking the graduation line with my peers. Perhaps, on some level I didn’t care how high school ended, as long as it ended. My senior prom was another story. No one asked me to go. So, I did the next most humiliating thing. I signed up to check in shoes! (Our gym floor had been refinished, and the administration opted for a shoe free prom.) Yep, I was the loser handlin’ the shoes, ya’ll!
I know, it’s so sad it’s hysterically funny. Incidentally, my husband said he’d rather do ANOTHER tour in Iraq than attend HIS own high school reunion, and advised me not to admit I was the shoe checker of my high school prom. But self deprecating humor is my modus operandi. But you know what? I didn’t care. Although I truly wanted a date and was not remotely happy with the unenviable plight of the Ugly-Fat-Shoe-Checker, at eighteen I did the unthinkable, the least desirable job and never once felt sorry for myself. Self pity was not in my character, although that attribute meant nothing to me at the time. Along with my height, that trait has also served me well.
However, I was not a good shoe checker. I lost a pair of shoes. Keep in mind, the shoes in question were either expensive for the wearer, borrowed, or perhaps rented(do they rent prom shoes? Heck, I don’t know). Anyway, those shoes happened to belong to our foreign exchange student. Yep, Hector Guerra went home sans shoes! I remember the look of disbelief when, after looking frantically, I failed to produce his shoes. There was a pair left, however. They were probably a size eight; rather small for a guy, and way too small for Hector. Heaven only knows what aspiring clown left with Hector’s shoes. Yep, I led an “always the shoe checker, never the prom date” sort of existence.
Ironically, I turned out ok, can you believe it? I actually went to college(which at times seemed just an extension of high school), married a great man, had a child and lead a wonderful, productive existence in the suburbs. How I didn’t end up in weekly tear-filled therapy sessions with long litanies of high school outrages is beyond me. There is no Rosetta Stone for overcoming the ineptitude and discomfiture of high school, but perhaps for some high school itself was the preparatory Rosetta Stone for adulthood.
So we donned our name tags…
Hello, My name is Mary, and I survived high school.
“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others, that’s all.”~Andrew, The Breakfast Club