Sunday, August 21, 2011

High School: Does it EVER leave us?

I went to my High School reunion in 2009, and Pat's in 2010 more as a curiosity than anything else. I have, for the most part, kept in touch with the friends I've wanted in my life since graduation that I've wanted to keep in touch with. Yes, a few fell through the cracks of the busy nature of becoming an adult, so contact via this rite of passage was wonderful.

I had a love/hate relationship with High School. I've always enjoyed being a student of anything, and relished learning. The social aspect of school is where the "hate" came in. I got caught in the trappings of adolescence of simply wanting to be liked. Being popular mattered to me, although I wasn't destined to achieve it. I went to a High School that was zoned for more wealthy families. We were not one of those families. The labels on your clothes mattered. We shopped at K-Mart. I got ribbed for this. I was too immature to realize such things don't matter in life, and didn't see that I was living the monetary life that my parents could provide, as were the "rich kids". THEY didn't earn jack shit. They were given what they had, as I was, and as an adult we can reason and rationalize that these things shouldn't matter to teenagers. Still? They do. I felt it. I felt inferior because I never took skiing vacations and that the ONLY pair of "Guess" jeans I owned came from an "irregular" resale store. I wore those jeans until they, literally, fell off me in tattered shreds years later in college.

I was an artistic student, diving in to the creative side of my being. I took art classes, was on Speech Team, wrote for the News Staff and took part in Yearbook my Senior year. ANYTHING creative and I was there. That doesn't always mark one to be "cool". I never clicked with any clique. I had friends, but longed for more. I was the quintessential dork wishing secretly to be the Cheerleader. I pretended not to care, but at times my desire to be part of the "in" crowd led me to be rude and sometimes bitchy to people very much in the same boat I was in who were just trying to be my friend. I wasn't always kind to everyone.

I know now, at 40, there might be people who cringe at my name because of who I was or how I acted at 17. I can live with that, because it would be very valid. We want to think people will give us the chance to prove we've grown up, but we also have to be accepting that our actions affect people and that time doesn't always wash it away.

I can look back on my years in High School with cringing regret and laughter, a feeling of "Man I was such a dork!" and hope... people would just see past that version of me to the "Me" I have grown into.

I also know that even now, at 40, there are names and faces of people back then who still make me wince. The "Mean Girls" who saw fit to whisper behind my back at my 'generic' clothing left a mark. The boys who decided I wasn't of the right social class to bother to date or give me a chance? I still remember that shit. I would never hold it against someone now, if their approach was true and honest, and they showed me that they too were caught in the whirlwind of stupid that encompasses adolescence, and that they too have left it behind.

As a nurse aide, I came into contact with some of my old tormentors. I cared for the grandmother of several girls who were TOTAL BITCHES to me when we were kids. They berated me for being an art geek. They made fun of me. They laughed at me, at times in their coven of the Beautiful Ones as I walked down the halls or just in passing alone. And as adults? They saw me as the one wiping the ass of their dying loved one and were gracious to have me around. There was little to no hint of the high school bullshit that swirled around us all as children.

As a photographer, before comedy, I encountered a former classmate who didn't recognize me right away. I recognized her. She hadn't aged, and still had the air of privilege and poise she had carried so well at 16. She was gracious and kind and pleased with my work.... until I LITERALLY saw the light go off in her eyes. That, "I know this woman.... I know who she is!" recognition, and her entire demeanor changed around me. She got snooty, stuffy, and although moments before had been singing my praises as a photographer was now overly critical of my work. I felt bad for her. I pitied her in my mind that such levels of High School Hierarchy could still exist in her head all these years later. Somehow, me being a part-time working Mom at a portrait studio, made me "less" to her, just as I was to her when we were teenagers because I was the poor daughter of a waitress.

Still, it sticks with us. I know of two girls -- sisters -- that would have to do a mighty strong dance to prove to me they aren't the epitome of Evil. They tortured me in our teen years. They targeted me and were ruthless in their game of just being MEAN. They had the money (of their parents) and the beautiful home (of their parents) and saw fit to pick on me or at me when EVER the mood struck them. They targeted me in the 8th grade and kept their game of "Fuck with Katrina" running right up to Graduation. If I had to dissect it all now, I understand it: In spite of their head-start in genetics and breeding? They were ugly inside and out. Money couldn't buy them personality. It couldn't buy them beauty. Every time one of them would "crush" on some guy? Ironically that guy would be crushing on ME. I never did anything to make it happen. It was just horrific bad luck on all parts. It was fuel for them to start rumors about me starting rumors about others, and because of who they were -- the richy kids -- people believed them. Through their torment I almost got my ass kicked because of shit they started. Threatening phone calls. Stupid adolescent crap. I haven't seen them since we were 18. They didn't attend the reunion. I've never sought them out on social sites. I'd love to ask them, now, "What the FUCK was it about me that made you so damn angry?"

As I encounter people now who I knew then, I try VERY HARD not to project ANY opinion -- good or bad -- on the adult they are NOW from the kid they were through the trenches. I'm not the same. I'd LOVE the chance to get to know people I didn't back then. I want to give people the same chance I hope they'll give me.

Some people?
They are just shitheads. Doesn't matter how old they are. They were pieces of shit at 16 because that's just who they were destined to be their entire lives.

When some mean girl from "back then" recognizes my husband and I in public as former classmates and pushes me out of the way, LITERALLY pushes past me, to shove her breasts in my husband's face and flirt? Acting like the same little cunt she was 20 years ago? It's easy in that brief encounter to see some people just don't grow up. Might I BE a little super sensitive? Sure. That's the part I'll carry with me, wondering if people see past the geeky art student with the K-mart clothing who could never get herself quite right in the social scheme of things or if people see me NOW..... the geeky dork who takes pride in the fact that I don't pay full price for anything and shops at Wal-Mart because I don't give a fuck and know my $4 t-shirt doesn't say dick about what a wonderful friend, mother, wife, and human I am. *snicker*

People should realize though.... if you treated someone like a bag of dog shit 20 years ago? Chances are they never forgot it. And if you make a choice to act that way NOW, 20 years later? It's settled: You were born a douchebag and you will always BE a douchebag. At least to me. I'll give people a second chance. Maybe a 3rd or 4th one. But if your record shows you're just a pissy piece of shit to other humans? Don't be surprised if that's how people see you, if that's how people remember you then, and see you now.


  1. Such a hard lesson, learning that, despite your own life changes, and the fact that you are so willing to provide the benefit of the doubt, there are people who are just plain shitheads through and through. It flies in the face of the logic you've (I've) learned about life.

    The stuff you talk about applies in the dating world too. At 20, I would have gladly hit on the prettiest girl out there (and actually did, and married her) without any thought. Because at that age you just don't *think*. You don't have enough life experience which would allow you even a smidgen of wisdom. Well maybe a smidgen: I did have cold feet at the altar, and wanted to run the other way - and I knew even then that it wasn't momentary "wedding jitters". Anyway.....later on in life, you begin to realize "all that is gold does not glitter". When dating, you look carefully for the inner beauty. There are so many gorgeous people who are completely and blackly ugly on the inside. Ugh.

    I can't even imagine how you refrained from clocking some of those women who tried to hit on your husband while in your presence. Must have some mad tolerance skills there, lady. :)

  2. The chick that pulled that stuff did so at my son's school, as our kids were in the same class. School function, not wanting to embarrass my son, I just kept my mouth shut. Her action was subtle -- enough that only women, I think, would even pick UP on it. In that one swift gesture of basically SHOVING me aside to flutter at my husband who she knew in school as well, along with the quick look in her eyes, she was saying in her "Mean Girl Never Left Her" attitude: I thought I was better than you THEN, and I STILL THINK IT, you poor ass piece of shit...." And like the chick at the photography studio? I pity this woman. However, I will not give another chance for that dig to be given. I'm not a glutton for this kind of stupidity. I know who to avoid for the simple act of keeping peace.

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  4. I have had to have waayy to many "Mean Girls" talks with my daughters, already. I started prepping them for it as soon as I thought they could understand. I have even confronted a couple in my neighborhood.
    My oldest has such a hard time understanding why someone would be mean, just for the sake of being mean. I have struggled to explain it, but just try to let her know that it always about their insecurities/issues, not her.

    However, that is fine in theory, but hard for a child to process while they are being treated like shit for no reason.
    I just hope I will do enough to insure that none of my girls is ever The Mean One!!

  5. I was popular AND secretly tormented at the same times. My close group of friends would have never said or done anything hurtful, but there were the Mean Girls, outside of the group, who tormented me about my speech and made comments about my hair being dirty, which it never was. My hair was really long and thick, and it would still be wet from the night before's washing when I got to school.
    Looking back now,I think it was jealousy that drove them. I was an easy target because I would hide and not fight back.
    Last night was our reunion and we all still hung with our groups, intermingling occasionally. My biggest tormenter wasn't there. Believe me, I celebrated when I learned that she wasn't coming. The others spoke and nodded. I can be civil, I guess. But I'm not very good at forgiveness.