In high school he was smart and funny and kind but never really stood out in a crowd. Now, you'd instantly recognize his name. Our parents were better friends than we were; he didn't sign my yearbook.
He played basketball and he was good and tall (my favorite basketball coach's quote: "You can't teach height.") and recruited to play D-I ball, but, after all, it was Marin basketball we'd seen him play. Not exactly The Bronx. Now he's playing right field in the Majors.
She was literary editor of the yearbook, and as she inscribed in mine, .."there's always a certain person who we like to talk about." Now she's married to that certain person and her books are in Barnes and Noble next to Tolstoy and Twain.
Some I expected to do well - the valedictorian who went on to be an editor of the Harvard Law Review, the hotel magnate's sons who run companies and produce movies. There's comfort in the knowledge that those I expected to succeed have done so.
But who we are as adults often bears little resemblance to who we were in high school...... at least a lot of us hope so, don't we?
Wondering where I'm going with this? My friends and I seem to be attending our 40th high school reunions this fall. Artess asked me to write about it, and that involved thinking about it, and that led to butterflies in my stomach and the inclination to take an Ativan. Yes, as one of these reuning friends opined on her Facebook page, everyone seems to be taking anti-anxiety medicine these days. I wouldn't be surprised if these reunions were the underlying cause.
Who I was then is some part of who I am now, but I like to think that I've changed enough that people will be surprised. Or maybe they saw the wonderfulness that is me right now back then. I'll never know unless I ask, and how, exactly, would I phrase that question? "Am I as much of a dork as an adult as you perceived me to be when I was 16?" I don't think I want to go there.
Looking through my yearbook has caused my stomach to drop any number of times. I had forgotten the number of people who intimidated me in high school. Are the bitches still bitches? If I didn't have My True Friend I don't know if I could go. All of a sudden, I understand the Big Cuter's need for a wing-man..... and I am really really glad that I've got one.
I think I always liked myself, but I know I knew I was clueless. I walked around wondering why everyone else knew what to do and I didn't. My True Friend tells me that the cool kids didn't think they were all that cool, and that makes me wonder what my life would have been like if I'd been privy to that knowledge at the time.
Would I have found different friends? Without the fear of rejection, might I have found the courage to approach the unapproachable ones? Had I known that they were as fearful as I, would it have made a difference?
I'm flashing to Back to the Future and Marty fixing his parents' lives. My current reality is quite lovely, thank you, and I wouldn't change most of it. Would I be the same adult if my high school years had been more comfortable? Did I need the angst to temper my soul? Right now, I'm fine with the way things were and the way things are. But I think that if you'd asked me this question in 1967, I'd probably have had a very different answer.
I like to think that the swagger I have now has been well-earned in the trenches of not-quite-as-cool-as-I'd-like-to-be. I still want to be friends with "the cool kids", but my definition of cool has changed. The ones who walk around with attitude, who know that they are wonderful and that everyone wants to be just like them, the ones whose eyes gloss over as I walk into a room because I'm not one of us - they used to intimidate me and now they make me laugh. Does she really think that she can judge me because of my outfit? I'm comfortable and my clothes are functional and they fit........ so shut up! Does she think it's ok to ignore me when I come into a room? What in the world makes her think I would want to talk to her? Her little world doesn't include me and I don't care.
Ok, maybe I care just a little..... we all want to be loved, after all. But the social layering of high school is in the past, as far as I am concerned. I don't care if others think my dorky friends are dorky - they are and they embrace themselves and I hug them right back. I'm not worried about ruining my reputation by hanging out with the uncool. I'm the arbiter of cool for myself these days, and it feels great.
Did anybody get the literary reference in the title? Mary McCarthy's The Group was a big deal in my formative decade - racy and forbidden and an intimate look at girl friends before Hey, Girlfriend became de rigeur. I think I'll get it out of the library and read it again.