As of late, I’ve been out of touch. Anytime I haven’t been at work, I’ve have been indulging my lazy side -- watching movies, reading books and luxuriating in glorious air conditioning. (Summers in New Jersey are notoriously humid. The air is so thick you can practically chew it.)
This time of the year also makes me think of new beginnings. Having attended school 21 of my 27 years on this planet, I’m pretty conditioned to think September is the start of the year.
Senior Year: 1993-1994
A little over a decade ago, this week, I would have been preparing to begin my senior year of high school.
I haven’t really blogged much about my high school experience. It just never occurred to me. In looking back, most people tend view their high school experience with either absolute pleasure or dread. I guess I’m in the minority, as high school for me was, dare I say, mediocre.
However, as ten-year reunion time draws near, I find myself becoming more reflective.
The academics didn’t thrill me. Most of high school was spent doing the next evening’s homework under my desk so I didn’t have to bring anything home. (An extra-curricular activities Wunderkind, I didn’t want schoolwork to get in the way.) I remember algebra tests always feeling a little uncomfortable to me because I was so used to figuring out problems on my lap.
Gym & Health
Gym and health were the only subjects that caused me difficulty. Born with the grace and agility of a pregnant rhinoceros, I had to rely on sheer cunning and creativity to pull me through. A veteran theater actress and frequent costume changer, I could throw on my gym clothes -- sneakers and all -- in two minutes flat. (To adolescent women, appearance is everything. I think the teacher respected my non-fussy approach.) Also, I was very adept at striking athletic-looking poses when necessary. Here was the strategy: whenever a gym teacher would glance my way, I would do my patented “I’m Struggling So Hard with This Athletic Activity” grimace and wipe invisible beads of “sweat” from my furrowed brow. Worked every time.
Health, a twice-a-week ordeal, posed its own set of unique challenges. Health class, in my day, focused on education surrounding sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV. The health teachers, led by a forward-thinking, highly intelligent department chair, were trying out a new curriculum. Statistics indicated that students failed to practice safe sex because they did not feel comfortable enough to ask personal questions. Therefore, they did not get the health-related information they desperately needed. The teachers in my district wanted to combat this problem by creating a classroom environment where students felt comfortable. As such, students were permitted to speak freely –- very freely.
I would inevitably be put in a class with students who relished the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use profanity in front of a teacher.
Classmate: So, if I stick my c*ck up some girl’s a*s, will she get pregnant?
Teacher: You’re asking about the possibility of pregnancy resulting from anal sex, correct?
Classmate: Yeah, if I do some girl up the butt --
Teacher: No, pregnancy is not a possibility. However, sexually transmitted diseases are an issue, so you should –-
Classmate: So buttf*cking is bad, right?
Teacher: (Flustered) Well, yes -- but no, you have to use protection. (Pause) Now class, please turn your attention to screen. Notice there are several forms of contraception. These can also be used –- Yes, someone has another question? You, in the back, what would you like to know?
Another Classmate: You ever heard of “tossing the salad?”
This would go on for hours on end.
The Dreaded Lunch Hour
Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy lunch that much either.
I attended a large high school in suburban New Jersey. At the time, this ranch-style behemoth of a building was home to close to 3,000 students. (My guess is that it houses even more people now.)
Due to its size and reputation for rowdy students, everything – down to the slightest movement - was an exercise in crowd control. We were herded everywhere. Freedom wasn’t an option. Worst of all, every day you were forced to endure the high school equivalent of a “steel cage death match”: lunch hour in the cafeteria.
This was when/where the social groups were most visible. There were the “burnouts.” (They smoked pot and wore faded Nirvana t-shirts. In retrospect, I should have hung with these folks. They were probably pretty fun.) There were the “nerds.” (They were a quiet group, as they did a bunch of homework at the table.) I tended to jump between two tables – the “drama geeks” and the “band geeks.” Although I never officially played in the marching band, I talked the talk, so I had the “band cred.” (Yes. It was as lame as it sounds.)
Back in the day, cheerleaders and athletes dominated the social scene. (Surprised? I think not.) As such, they had the choice tables – the ones nearest the ice cream and pretzel stand.
The cheerleaders, in particular, always caught my attention. I was never envious of them, so much as entranced. As they sipped their Diet Cokes, they would gesture enthusiastically with their acrylic nails. Then, they would let out tinkily little laughs as their perfectly hair-sprayed spiral curls swayed gently in the breeze from the kitchen exhaust fans.
I always wondered how they remained so well groomed. I could barely find time in the morning to throw on mascara and mist myself with Luv’s Baby Soft. I secretly wished someone would whisk me away to “Cheerleader Land,” where I would have the time to get an electric purple pedicure, complete with airbrushing and tiny nail sparkles. (You have to remember; we’re talking about 1994!)
Graduation was no less unspectacular. I didn’t buy anything new to wear. We didn’t throw a big, lavish party.
Nevertheless, I had my supporters. Mom and dad showed up along with both my grandmothers. All of them, dressed to the nines, sat patiently in the boiling sun on the football field bleachers as the names were called.
As my 9th English teacher handed me my fakey diploma (All students received the real diploma post ceremony, after the school double-checked that all necessary book fines had been collected), I just remember thinking, “Well, at least I’m done with this crap” and trotted off into the Jersey sunset.
At the end of the day, I got a teeny diploma and my grandmother got heat exhaustion. (Thankfully, many icy towels and a couple of cold drinks later, she was right as rain.)
So, here’s the big question: Will I go to reunion?
I’d love to find out if the guys from health class got crabs. I’m curious to see if the cheerleaders switched from Diet Coke to Twinkies. And, if I see my old gym teacher, I might even flash him a pose – for old time’s sake.
I’ll keep you posted.