"True terror is to wake up one morning and find your high school class is running the country. "
HANK: Was high school the best time of your life? Or would you rather forget it? I'm pretty glad it's in my rear view.
I just went back to my home town for an event honoring alums of Pike High School, my alma mater. It was lovely, because I was delighted to be an honoree. But traumatic, because I had to give a speech about it. And that meant I had to think about high school. And my memories of those years--although I can still sing the Red Devils fight song--are not full of heart-warming nostalgia.
Frankly, an unworthy thought crossed my mind. I considered beginning my speech: Thank you for inducting me in to the Pike Hall of Fame. I would like to ask, however, where were you all when I needed a date for the prom? (Can you believe I still thought about that? FORTY years later?)
I discarded that idea, and went with genuine gratitude. I did learn a lot in high school: to love Shakespeare, the fun of analytical thinking, how to drive, and that I should not take any more math. Honor Society, yes. Prom date, no.
And wow. Being one hundred per cent uncool for 4 years was a tough thing. I admitted, in my speech, that I had sneaked into every language club yearbook photo, even though I did not take Latin or Spanish. (You can see what a rebel I was.)
I also admitted that I had not actually attended every phys ed class, and that moreover, I still have dreams that I was not allowed to graduate as a result. And I apologized for how often I got sent home for wearing short skirts. (I had figured if they didn't like me in Indianapolis, they would love me in Liverpool, and I dressed accordingly.)
It turned out fine. of course. And looking back, it's likely that those 4 years of nerd-dom were actually beneficial. I was reading instead of partying, much as I was bitterly sad about it at the time. So, thanks, Pike High School. Turns out, it was a wonderful four years. I just didn't know it at the time. Did you love high school? How did it change you?
JAN: It's not that I have bad memories of high school, its mostly that I have no memories of high school. In our town, CLifton, New Jersey, high school didn't start until tenth grade and by then, apathy was big. It was totally uncool to take part in any school event, even the prom, and in our year book under Who's Who. My class wrote "Who cares?"
One of my major goals in high school was to skip phys ed so I could smoke cigarettes in the bathroom. (note from Hank: this photo is not Jan!) Imagine my surprise, to find out much later in life that I really was pretty athletic and actually would have enjoyed all those team sports I was eschewing.
I was so not into highschool that I figured out a way to skip my senior year and go straight to college. (which back then, was easier than you might think). The great thing about that was I got to go to college with my older brother, and I wouldn't change that for the world (especially since I married one of his college room-mates,)But the sad part is that I missed all that bonding that goes on in the senior year and never felt a "part" of high school. I did go back for a reunion though, and realized that I have a lot of really good memories with the kids I went to junior high with. Back before I was "too cool" to participate!
ROSEMARY: I actually said "Oh, no" out loud when I saw the heading on this blog. Please don't make me relive high school, it was bad enough the first time around. It's a wonder I graduated and with pretty decent marks (I think) since all I remember doing was hanging our with friends, smoking, and going to parties. I travelled with a pack of 30-50 kids....wait a minute..this doesn't sound so bad..
HALLIE: I do think that the reason that Hank is such a thoroughly NICE person (really, just as nice as she seems) is because of that traumatic high school experience. Sheesh, Jan, sounds like a different century not merely a different decade when you were in school.
I went (don't groan) to Beverly Hills High School. Back in the days when it was just another high school (except that it had an oil well on the football field and a gym with a pool that had a baskeball court that could be rolled out over it...maybe not so typical). Classmates were Richard (Ricky back then; he was in all the plays ) Dreyfuss and Albert Brooks (Einstein back then and class clown). Needless to say they were not my buddies.
I know this will surprise many, but I was not a cheerleader or a flag girl. I did a brief stint, marching about on the Drill Team wearing a smelly orange felt outfit and white boots with tassels. Adorable though I was, I never got asked out on a single date. Did not hang out with a 'crowd' or even a best friend. In short it was excruciating. I could have ended up a serial killer.
I went to one reunion, my 25th. Me to one of the once popular and now blonde: "So what are you doing now?" Her answer: "I'm into horses and avocadoes." O-kaaaay.
ROBERTA: Oh high school was so mixed for me too! Of course I was an overachiever in every way. Socially? Just not cool. And you had to be cool to be chosen as a cheerleader, which was of course every girl’s dream. A boyfriend and cheerleading—that’s what I wanted. I made up for the lack by trying out for plays (bit parts, not much talent), singing in the chorale (ditto, lots of enthusiasm but not much talent,) editing the yearbook, and running for treasurer of the student council. During campaign season, we made huge banners that read “Bobbie kisses babies!”
Whatever effect they might have had, I did win the election. Then stashed the accounts ledger in my locker, where it stayed until the end of year. I panicked when I realized I had to try to remember and reproduce all the entries I should have been making. (My husband pays the bills for now…)
But the most interesting thing about my high school was our all-girl bagpipe band—the only one in the country, complete with kilts, drummers, tons of marching bagpipers, and the Highlander dancers. I tried out for that dance troupe and spent the last couple years dancing with swords at the football games. (NOTE from Hank: This photo is not Roberta.)
I dug out a short story I wrote eight years ago (the first incarnation of Dr. Rebecca Butterman) that featured the Highlander dancers: http://www.robertaisleib.com/golf/piper.htm
Ps I never had a date for the damn prom either. The kids do it right these days, often attending with a group of friends. I wonder if they’ll end up less traumatized? But then what will they write???
pps Oh hooray, I found a youtube video for you of the bagpipe band. If you make it as far as the dancers, that is NOT what we wore! We danced wearing kilts and all the traditional accoutrements...
HANK: Wow, what I didn't know about my own blog sisters! I NEED to see Hallie in the drill team outfit, "Bobbie" in her kilt. ( I was a majorette, briefly, but the band director put me in the middle of the back row because I was so bad. I DO wish I still had my white boots.) And what does 'Bobbie Kisses Babies' even mean?
So--how about you in high school? Time to tell all! And come back Wednesday--I'll tell you the worst thing that happened to me. Then we can see if your stories are worse.
Going to watch the You Tube video now...
Going to watch the You Tube video now...