High school sucks. That’s my conclusion after a lifetime of not only going to high school myself, but also watching other people go to high school.
Our popular culture would have you believe that high school doesn’t suck, but that it’s a glorious time because you are a teenager and you have your whole life ahead of you. Perhaps some people have that experience, but I’ve never met any of them.
For most of us, adolescence is a time of confusion, intense emotions, and bodies that do things without telling us first. We don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing or what we’re supposed to be feeling, but we’re pretty sure we’re doing it wrong.
(It has taken me decades to realize that even the people who look like they’re doing it right feel like they’re doing it wrong. I wish I knew that at the time.)
My high school experience was more intense than most. First of all, because it happened to me, and that makes it extra-important. But also, because I went to a boarding school hundreds of miles away from my family and hometown friends. So imagine everything about your own high school, and then imagine sleeping over at night, and not being able to leave on the weekends.
And now imagine it is only people of your own gender.
So, I went to an all-girls school. There was a boys school run by the same outfit, and by my junior year, I had a few classes there, but basically, I was in an environment where my natural dorkiness and shyness was allowed to ripen and blossom. Really, after a freshman and sophomore year at the Girls’ School, it’s a wonder I didn’t collapse into a sweat puddle every time I went to the Boys School.
I’m spending the weekend with these people. It’s my 40th reunion. I’m so excited.
One of my New York friends asked why I was going if I had such a terrible time. Am I lying about what it was like? Am I just a big drama queen? (No and yes, and what’s your point.) I’m going because no one understands me like these folks do.
My high school friends know what it means to go on “bush patrol,” which is not as much fun as it sounds (because it’s the grown-ups looking in the woods at night to see if anyone is out of their room against the rules), and what it’s like to eat an elephant scab (a breaded veal cutlet). They know that being “on socials” is no fun (because it means you can’t leave campus for any reason), and what sturds are (sturdy tie-shoes, which were required for the uniform).
We’ll spend the weekend looking at pictures of the kids and grandkids. We’ll dance to oldies. There’s a croquet game Saturday afternoon, and only for these people would I purchase and wear pure white clothes, which I will spill on and which will make me look even larger than I normally do.
We’ll remember our classmates who couldn’t join us because they live too far away. And we’ll raise a glass to those that couldn’t be with us because they didn’t live long enough. Not that any of us do.
High school may be the suckiest time of your life, but it may be the time that leaves the deepest impression.
Media Goddess Martha Thomases started her media goddess career as a columnist for the Kent News.