Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On Invitations

"Clothes Make the…"
A high school horror story

Okay, nobody died. So how horrible can it really be? But in high school, where real life and death situations are (we hope) rare, there are other kinds of moments that can be fairly be described as horror stories.
I was—a junior, I think. And we lived in suburban Indianapolis, exurbs, they called it. My parents said they moved far from the city because they didn’t want us kids to go to a "clique-ish" (cf Ruth’s comment) "north side" school where it was all about clothes and money. So we went to a very rural school. Where it was basically all about cows. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and it isn’t even exactly true. But it felt like it, to a kid like me who longed to be cool and chic and accepted by the north side crowd.
So anyway, my step-dad was a lawyer, and had some big-shot clients. One of whose daughters was having a "sweet sixteen" party. In May, I think it was. And of course she was a north-sider, and went to the cool school. But because our parents knew each other, the daughter (we’ll call her Jane) was ordered to invite me to the party. Part of me wanted to go, because maybe they’d somehow realize I was one of them. But most of me didn’t want to go, because I knew, actually, it would be horrible.

Of course, my parents made me go.

The key here was the invitation, which arrived in the mail. I can’t remember how it was phrased or presented, but the gist of it was girls should dress as boys and boys dress as girls. Ack, I hear you saying, and yes, indeed. But it was 1966 and times were different. Somehow this was thought not to be icky and fraught, but wacky and funny.

I pleaded not to go.
So the night of the party came, and I put on penny loafers, and madras shorts and an oxford button-down shirt, and a tie. And even though today, a 16 year old girl could wear that and be adorable, trust me, I wasn’t.
So I arrive in this get up---Jane opens the door. In a skirt and a circle pin and a little gros-grain trimmed cardigan. And she says—oh, didn’t anyone tell you? We decided not to have the dress up party.

I won’t tell the rest. Okay, it’s not Carrie. And I know it all turned out fine, forty years later. High school. Goodbye and good riddance. (Except for my English teacher. Hi Mr. Thornburg. Luv ya 4-ever.)

Did you have pivotal high school moments? Good or bad? Gym class stories accepted!


  1. Very funny story! That sounds like something out of Bridget Jones, when she shows up at the costume party in the Playboy Bunny outfit, and everyone else is dressed conservatively! Loved that scene.


    Kathryn Lilley

    DYING TO BE THIN, an IMBA Bestseller (Obsidian)
    Coming in October, A KILLER WORKOUT
    Killer Hobbies blog (Fridays):

  2. Oh, Kathryn! You're so right! Hilarious. Unless you're the one in the bunny suit.

  3. My parents decided to host a murder mystery dinner party for their friends. I got to play the French Maid and wear the little outfit (I was sixteen and very conscious of my thick thighs) and my boyfriend, whom my folks affectionately referred to as Stupid, was chosen to play the corpse.
    "What's he supposed to do?" I asked my dear old mom as I attempted to pull down the short maid's skirt.
    My mother shrugged. "Tell him to act natural." In other words, stupid.

    My boyfriend overheard of course.

    "Too bad," my mother said after we late broke up. "He was so rich."

  4. That's the funniest ever. Hilarious. Ever find out what happened to stupid, er, the corpse?

    Moms. Gotta love 'em.

  5. I thought of Bridget Jones, too. Plus, Legally Blonde.

    For a real-life insecure teenage girl, that's a torture more appropriate for a circle of hell.

    Truly, living well is the best revenge. I sometimes wonder if those perpetrators of such high school hijinks are enjoying life now, let alone getting to live out any of their dreams.

    Yeah, jb. Inquiring minds want to know. :) What became of "Stupid?"

  6. I moved to Little Rock, Ark. from Peoria, Illinois, in the 60s. I rode my bike everywhere. It was tres uncool. But I had my chance. I sat next to XXXXX, the cool teen girl at Forest Heights Junior High School, one day. "What kind of mouton do you have?" she asked.

    I asked back what anyone would have, I think. "What's a mouton?"

    My fate was sealed. Moutons were what we would now call fake furs, I think. Chubby things. Who knew?

  7. A MOUTON??? Yikes. Let's call her.

    Or wait, let's call her and say her refrigerator is running.

  8. Mouton is a processed sheep or lambskin product. Generally worn with white lipstick and patterned stockings or tights. By "cool girls." They were not known to improve ACT scores.

  9. Stupid is still rich and owns his own business. I'm sure he's hocking moutons to Paris Hilton's set!

  10. Hank, that must have been a truly agonizing moment...

    Here was one of my worst: I was horribly, horribly shy with boys but I finally got asked on a date by someone in my sister's class, the year above. In fact, he was the VICE PRESIDENT of the class. We went--somewhere, I don't even remember--and I could not think of ONE THING TO SAY. I'm serious. It was a silent night. I was in agony by the time he dropped me off at home, but helpless to save myself. Trust me when I say he never asked me out again.

    whew, glad we survived those days!

  11. And the guilt mounts for me... Now, I'm recalling how in my junior year I was asked to the senior prom and days (!) before it, I chickened out. Wonder if he found another date on such short notice.

    Maybe I'll call him after I call my old math teacher Mrs. Linn.


  12. I'm writing from the really old side, to tell you that all is forgiven by the time of your 50th reunion. The cliques are all evened out and you'll be invited to sit with the very coolest kids, the ones who would just giggle when you walked by in the 50s.
    {oops, I guess that was just my experience}

    Camille/Margaret Grace
    "Murder in Miniature"